Flash Fiction: Juniper

Note: This is something a bit different for this space. I have mentioned that I write in the past, and this week, I decided to write somewhat on one of Chuck Wendig’s Friday Flash Fiction prompts. No bets as to whether this will become a regular thing, but here is my offering.

“Juniper”

There may be a few things in the world a nice cup of tea cannot cure, and this was one of them. That special sort of painful that is waiting for inevitable bad news required something a bit stronger. Besides, a cup of tea would only transport her back to that chair by his bedside, waiting and watching. Listening for his breath and wondering if this would be the moment it stopped. Sipping a cup of tea in the cold silence of a room where an uninvited presence clung to her shoulder, leaning in to see if it was time for him to make himself known. That room where she marked the time by how cold her tea had gotten.

So she went to the cabinet and pulled down the bottle that she had bought ages ago. She never touched the stuff now, but somehow it seemed appropriate. She opened it and inhaled. The sharp tang of alcohol, and earth, and trees, and juniper. It smelled of bad decisions in college, and parties at Christmas, and a hundred other small things. So many memories in this bottle. But not that one.

It would do.

She went to the fridge and found a bottle of tonic pushed way back from a party she’d had that she couldn’t remember. As she cracked it open, it hissed. It hissed at her, asking why she wasn’t still there. Why did she leave? She didn’t really have to leave, did she? Why was she here and not there?

Quiet, she told the tonic water, as she topped her glass off. She didn’t have a lime, but it didn’t really matter. She had had to leave. She couldn’t put her life on hold just because his was ending. And he had wanted it for her, as he watched her grow up. He had wanted her to have this life, this life of busyness and travel. Even if it meant she couldn’t be there up until the end.

She had spent a month by that bed, dammit, why couldn’t she forgive herself this.

And yet, sleep still eluded her. Those cups of tea taunted her. She turned to her glass, the first drink she’d allowed herself through this whole ordeal. The first since a half a glass of beer, shared with him after he’d finished his last round of chemotherapy. She took a sip and pulled a face at the familiar-yet-unfamiliar tang of pine that touched her tongue. The second sip was easier. She sat for a long time with her drink and her memories, sorting through them all, and trying to file them away.

And then the phone rang.

Shop Review: Beautibi

This is somewhat out of the ordinary for me, but I wanted to say a few words about a few recent purchases I made from the shop Beautibi. You see, usually when I make an order, I include a disclaimer saying that not only was I not compensated for the review, but it’s likely the company doesn’t even know about my blog or my review. But in this case, it’s possible Jen from Beautibi will see this review because we actually interact often enough that she’ll probably see this. Suffice to say that I haven’t been financially compensated and both of these orders were paid for by me.

Anyway, a little while ago, Jude at Fifty Shades of Snail posted about a giveaway of a Beautibi aNEW box. Now, I’m not big on beauty boxes, and I didn’t want to enter the giveaway, but looking at the box, it intrigued me. First of all, it included the Wishing U biocellulose masks, which are supposed to act like a hydrocolloid patch for your whole face, while also providing moisture and anti-aging benefits. Then, it included some travel-sized stuff from some brands that intrigued me. Including hair care. You guys, I love hair care! And the hair care is made with peat extract, which is just so appropriate for my upcoming Scottish honeymoon.

Finally, the thing that sold me was that, while the original box came with a full-sized BB, CC, or primer cream, Beautibi decided to offer the option of switching out color cosmetics for a peeling cream. I’ve never used a peeling gel or cream and I’ve been curious. So I decided to treat myself.

And then, seconds after submitting my order, I get an email: “Welcome to Beautibi, take 10% off your first order.” Oh. Well. Um. I just placed my first order, so how does this work?

So I went out on a limb and emailed them to ask if they could retroactively apply the discount. Well, not only did they respond and agree, they actually processed the refund so quickly, it came to me before the response that they were going to do that. No fuss. No muss. And since then, I’ve had some lovely interactions on Twitter and Instagram with them as well.

Well, after that lovely experience, I decided to splurge again and order during their St. Patrick’s Day sale. Beautibi has some brands that I don’t see everywhere, so I tried a brand of rubber masks that were new to me, as well as some garden-themed sheet masks, and an artisan perfume. It came packaged with the same lovely attention to detail, with speed that impressed even my Amazon-addicted self, and the same packet of whimsical confetti.

Beautibi is also nice because they carry a lot of Taiwanese brands, which are a bit less well-known than their Korean and Japanese sisters. I’ve been a fan of Taiwanese LoveMore masks for a while and I find the brands at Beautibi often walk a delicate line between being natural-leaning but without sacrificing science-led, effective ingredients. And the company often lists the pH of products, which is helpful for me.

I do believe Beautibi will have a longtime customer in me, next time I’m in need of a beauty pick-me-up.

Update: While this review was written with no ulterior motive, and the links in the main body of the review have not changed, I have since generated a Beautibi referral link. If you would like to support the blog, and get $5 off your first purchase, click here.

Blossom Viewing

Last week, I bemoaned the creeping entrance of spring and lack of flowering trees. This week, the local flora decided to prove that they were not entirely beaten. Sunday, our local cherry trees reached official “peak bloom” and Monday, after a gloomy morning gave way to a gloriously sunny afternoon, I decided to take a little walk and view the blossoms.

I made my way down to the sidewalk that winds around the Tidal Basin and watched as a relatively scant group of tourists took photos and just generally enjoyed the beautiful setting. All around me, trees had burst into bloom, with only subtle reminders of the departed early brethren who were lost in our late snowstorm. The remaining blossoms still made a lovely picture, and so I took a few.

The cherry blossoms against the blue-green of the water and the azure blue of the sky reminded me of old paintings. Gnarled branches punctuated with pink and white stood against their backdrop like impressionist almond blossoms .

Of course, I gave in to the temptation to take selfies in the blossoms, but the bright sunlight meant that few of them turned out well. I tended to have that little worried crinkle between my eyebrows as I tried to withstand the brightness of the day.

But all in all, the day left me warmed, relaxed, and with a renewed sense of peace after seeing the beautiful reminders that no matter how long the winter, spring will come eventually. And it has left me in the mood for cherry blossoms in everything. Perhaps I shall go on a quest later for some sakura sweets.

Hair Musings: Multi-Masking Technique for Washing Long Hair

A couple months ago, I wrote a review for some of the Hair is Fabric line from Deciem. In it, I mentioned that, despite the cleansing conditioners ultimately not working out for me, I felt like I was shedding/losing less hair in the shower when I used them. I’m almost certain that the main reason for this is the fact that they are a single-step product, so I only have to apply product and rinse my hair once, rather than twice. Because I have long, thick hair, I shed great clumps of hair every time I wash it, even though I’m not actually losing hair in an abnormal way. Anything I can do to minimize hair fall is not only easier on my peace of mind, but kinder to Fiancé when he uses the shower after me and I’ve forgotten to clean out the drain.

But I mentioned that the HIF cleansing conditioners were not the right fit for my particular hair. And that got me thinking: if my scalp and length require different things from products, why would I think that a single product could treat both of them? Of course, my normal washing routine is to shampoo my scalp and then condition my length. But I really try to keep shampoo mostly off my length and conditioner off my scalp. So what if I used them at the same time, like the HIF product, but with two different products?

It’s a bit like multi-masking for your face: If you have an oily T-zone and dry cheeks, you use a clay mask on the oily bits and a hydrating mask on the dry bits. Everyone is happy. So lately, I’ve been experimenting with applying shampoo on my scalp, a thick conditioner on my length, both at the same time, and then twisting it up and letting it sit while I finish my shower and rinsing both out at the same time. I actually find that I like the HIF Intensive Detox for the scalp portion of this because it’s a thick, concentrated formula that doesn’t drip down my length as I’m applying it, but I apply a rich conditioning mask like my current favorite Klorane Mask with Desert Date to my length before letting it sit. That way, I don’t have to worry about conditioner getting on my scalp when I pin it up and making my shed worse, and the conditioner will protect the length from the bits of scalp cleanser that might run down the length when I rinse.

A note on technique: Because I find it difficult to access some parts of my scalp when washing normally, I have a particular way of applying shampoo to my scalp. First, I apply a little to my hairline. Then, I flip my head upside down to apply shampoo to the rest of my scalp. My hair falls away from the scalp, leaving the inner parts a bit more accessible. Then, I flip back up, rinse my hands, gently squeeze some of the excess moisture from my length, and apply conditioner to the length (from the ears down). Then, I twist the whole thing up and secure it with an acrylic hair fork and let it sit while I wash the rest of me.

I find that when I rinse, my scalp feels clean and calm, my length feels moisturized and slick, and I still lose less hair than when I do it in two steps. I even tried skipping my usual leave-in treatment this weekend and found that my ends stayed nice and soft.

Another benefit is that rinsing my hair actually takes the most time of any part of my hair routine in the shower. I have a lot of thick hair and I need to rinse it carefully and for a long time to ensure I haven’t missed a pocket of shampoo and conditioner. By rinsing only once, I’m effectively cutting this time in half. And with as much hair as I have, anything that cuts down on my wash time is a plus.

So I’m intrigued with this and will continue experimenting. I want to see if different kinds of shampoo are better or worse. Right now, my main issue is that regular shampoo tends to drip away from my scalp, and regular conditioner isn’t thick enough to cling to the ends and withstand the shampoo running down. But I also worry about clashing scents. But for now, the idea is promising.

Becoming Eliza

This evening, I am looking forward to the opening of a truly special theater project to me. For the past three months, I’ve been working on the role of Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion, a role made all the more special by the fact that I will likely be taking a break from stage acting for a while after closing, and the fact that the director is a dear friend of mine and one of the first directors I ever worked with when I started acting again in this area.

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Eliza is also just a fantastic role in a classic play. She’s an early feminist figure, but from a time when feminism often just meant you didn’t beat your wife. Shaw uses the play to not only make some pretty strong feminist statements, but also to dissect the conflict among the classes in early 20th-century London. Eliza’s father, Alfred Doolittle, is actually my favorite character because he has these extended and eloquent speeches about the plight of the working man, not only because of his poverty, but how he must live up to middle-class ideals in order to get any help from his “betters.” The interplay between the poor characters and the wealthier characters, as well as between the lower- and upper- class characters paint a complex picture of social struggle at all levels. In fact, the play is rather skillful at illustrating the concept of privilege and how it can prevent a person from seeing the real harm they might be doing to another.

But apart from social commentary, Eliza is a character who both has to grow as a person, changing her speech and demeanor, as well as maintain a spark of defiance that led her to Higgins and his lessons in the first place. The first part is work. The second part is difficult.

The first part starts with the fact that, apart from Higgins, Eliza has the most lines in the play. And when presenting a playwright with Shaw’s stature, one must do one’s best to be letter-perfect. After all, I did not write this play, and I ought to recite the lines that are there. I’ve been spending time in private study with my script nearly every day since beginning the show, and hope to go into opening night with that strong foundation.

Then, there is the vocal level. Eliza presents a particular challenge to me because neither of her dialects are ones to which I have any natural claim. As an American, I hope I’ve been able to develop a decent Received Pronunciation (RP) British dialect, but even that is only half the battle. The new challenge in this was learning the cockney dialect, particularly a cockney dialect that is not much used anymore. To learn RP, I can watch the BBC at length, but there are no modern examples of the cockney dialect, as Eliza would have spoken it. The closest examples come from modern historical dramas, like Call the Midwife. And then, because I am presenting this on stage to an American audience, I have to learn my cockney well enough to know where I can and ought to tone it down to avoid Eliza becoming completely unintelligible.

Finally, Eliza must physically transform. Oh, I am not talking about the costumes and the makeup, although those whose job it is to see to those have performed admirably. I mean the transformation of her demeanor and bearing. Despite her underlying steely resolve, Eliza begins the play as a woman who both knows the brutality of a life of poverty and also lacks any training on how to carry herself like a lady. She must be fearful, despite her natural personal fortitude, and she must carry herself like someone who’s never been taught to stand up straight. The dancer in me bemoans the sloppy posture necessary to play Eliza in the first part of the play, but I persevered and was rewarded with a visible transformation and a sore lower back. After her transformation, I was able to revert to my natural state of upright, dancer’s posture with relish.

And so I go on the stage tonight with the weight of three months of rehearsal and a century of history weighing on my back, only to shake it off and finish the play standing upright: “a tower of strength, a consort battleship.”

Signs of Spring

It has been a strange season this year. Winter was, for the most part, mild and uneventful, other than one or two exciting days. But we managed to have quite a few weeks of unseasonably mild temperature. Followed by a snowstorm the week that we thought we would be gearing up for springtime.

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In my city, we celebrate the cherry blossoms, and so the beginning of spring is always marked with glee by local merchants, and by the tourists who come every year to see the blossoms. But our teasing warm spell and subsequent snowstorm brought the blossoms out early, only to freeze them on the branch. So we lack the profusion of pink and white flowers to mark the celebration and need to make do with the cherry blossom decals that pop up all over town. It’s a bit of a forced cheery sight, but reminds one of spring.

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This year’s spring is going to be a bit more subtle, a bit of a slow crawl out of grey, chilly days and towards brighter, warmer ones. A hint of green as the leaves bud on the trees. A flash of pink or violet as small flowers that resisted the early warmth crawl out of garden beds and lawns. And it is looking for these tiny creeping steps towards spring that keeps my spirits up through grey days, freak snowstorms, and chilly evenings. I yearn to wear short, floral dresses, no stockings, and sandals, but I have to cover over everything to keep warm still.

You see, technically, spring came on Monday. But it still doesn’t feel like spring, either meteorologically or emotionally to me yet. I’ve found myself mired in the quagmire of winter thoughts, bundling myself up in blankets and resorting to comforting food whenever I have the chance. Piling on down at night, and even sleeping in socks when necessary. I need a warm day and some sunshine to pull me out of this funk. I need some real springtime.

And now, the signs are there. We just need the rest of spring to join them.

Beauty Review: The Gold Standard

I am going to start by saying that I know I am not doing anything ground-breaking by reviewing Stratia’s Liquid Gold. But I wanted to share my experiences with it, because I have tried a few ceramide products. But the bottom line is that I really like this product and I don’t see myself finding a replacement any time soon.

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Because I haven’t talked about my skincare routine for a while, here are the cliffs notes: I have combination dehydrated skin that I’m coming to realize is actually a bit sensitive. My skin hates soap, heavy plant butters, coconut oil, and cinnamon, and it loves low-pH cleansers, light hydration, high-linoleic oils, and ceramides. I started out with CeraVe PM as my ceramide fix, and later moved on to Rosette Ceramide Gel and finally CeraVe Baby Moisturizing Cream.

And then I decided to use Liquid Gold. At the time, the product mostly replaced three products in my routine: a niacinamide serum, a facial oil, and a ceramide cream. I’ve actually found myself reaching for my beloved Herbivore Phoenix oil less and less because Liquid Gold has the lovely nourishing plant oils, along with a healthy dose of niacinamide, hydration, and ceramides.

The cream itself is a lovely golden yellow color and has no discernible scent, other than the natural scent of the oils, which some people think smell fishy, but I just smell oil. It’s a creamy emulsion consistency, like a loose custard, which I find delightful, particularly together with the vivid color. Cosmetically, it is a joy to use. The sturdy, frosted-glass bottle looks lovely on my vanity, is distinctive enough that I can send Fiancé into the other room to get it for me with a 100% success rate, and the pump dispenses the perfect amount for the morning. In the evening, I use two pumps, although I sometimes add a thicker occlusive on top.

I use this product as either my last step in the morning before I put on sunscreen and makeup or as my last step in the evening, possibly before an occlusive or sleeping mask. When the air is not very dry, or when I’ve just used a sheet mask, I sometimes find it enough on its own. It applies smoothly, and leaves a satiny finish to my skin. There is a very slightly amount of stick, but just enough that my skin feels moist. It really does feel a bit like fresh mochi when I touch it!

Since I started using this product, the improvements to my skin have been subtle. Of course, from the first night I tried it, I woke up to glowing skin the next morning. But I’ve already made great strides by removing pore-clogging ingredients, switching to a low-pH cleanser, and adding layers of light hydration. That said, I still had some residual breakouts along my jawline, particularly around my time of the month. Well, last month, my monthly visitor was late, and because of that, and the fact that I hadn’t gotten even one spot convinced me that I was expecting. I mean, my skin was glowing. Of course, it was a false alarm, but the only thing that I had started recently enough to be the “culprit” would be this lovely healing emulsion.

If you are in the market for a light, hydrating and emollient, ceramide moisturizer, I suggest you take a look at Stratia Liquid Gold. It is worth at least a look, although it does contain some ingredients that give others pause. But I have found it to have made a great positive difference in my skin.

NB: I was not compensated in any way for this review or provided the product for review. I paid for this product with my own money.

How to Make an Heirloom

When I was a little girl, I used to go over to my grandmother’s when I was sick on a school day. She made the most amazing blanket forts, using her handmade afghans. I remember actually disliking these blankets, with their uneven crochet fabric, the air coming through the holes in the knit and chilling me despite having a blanket on. But now, looking back, I’m embarrassed that I never asked my grandmother to teach me how to make afghans of my own.

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I learned how to crochet by watching videos on the internet one summer when I was bored and moderately depressed, living alone in the wake of a divorce and the death of my father. I had a couple of balls of yarn and a plastic crochet hook that I found in my sister’s room at my mother’s house one weekend, so over a few days at home alone in my apartment, I decided to teach myself to crochet. I managed to create a lumpy, purple scarf, and then snapped the plastic crochet hook because I’ve always held things too tightly in my hands. Just ask all the crayons I used as a child.

From there, I bought myself a new crochet hook and some more yarn. Before I knew it, I was hooked. I gave myself nerve damage in one hand come December when I decided to crochet all my holiday gifts. I joined Ravelry. And I managed to become good friends with a woman whose collection of yarn outstrips my collection of lipsticks (and her lipstick collection rivals mine; we are friends for a reason).

So when I started planning my wedding outfit, I realized that I should probably find some way to work my own handiwork into the mix. I decided on a crochet shawl to throw over my shoulders to guard against the potential chill of a spring morning. I decided on a color (a spearmint green to coordinate with the mint green of my dress), ordered my yarn (fingering weight wool), and got to work.

Like all my crochet projects, this one grows in fits and spurts. Weekends where we spend long hours sitting at home, I find it grows more. It grows when I sit off to one side at rehearsals, although that has stopped somewhat since I need to memorize my lines. It grows when I watch television, and very occasionally when I feel particularly motivated at work. I can carry my project in a zip-top bag, which I can throw into my purse with my packed lunch, script, and pencils, trusting that the plastic will protect it.

For, you see, this isn’t just a shawl. It’s not just an accessory for my wedding. I hope it will be an heirloom, like those handmade blankets my grandmother gave to all her children. Perhaps, one day, I will have a daughter of my own to whom to pass this shawl. Or a son; I wouldn’t judge. Or perhaps the shawl will serve no other purpose but to sit on my shoulders when I am old, but it will bring back memories of all the love that went into it.

But until then, I will watch my little heirloom grow, day by day, until it has its chance to shine in a couple months.

Welcome, Fifty Shades of Snail Readers!

Hello and welcome! You may have found this blog today through my guest post on Fifty Shades of Snail. I’m so grateful to Jude for working with me and I hope you’ll take a second to look around and get to know me.

First of all, ceci n’est pas un <<beauty blog>>. It may look like a beauty blog, but though I write often about beauty and skin care, the blog as a whole is more eclectic and varied. See my “About” page for details.

If you’re interested in my thoughts about beauty and skin care, you could take a look at my current hair care routine, or my basic makeup routine. I haven’t updated my skin care routine post in a long time, but in the meantime, take a look at my skin care routine for when life gets hectic. Also, if you, like me, find the current offerings of cleansing balms on the market lacking, check out my homemade emulsifying cleansing balm.

Other than that, I like to blog about tea. I’m a great drinker and lover of teas, and you will often find my thoughts about some new tea or other. I also post mini-reviews of teas I’m enjoying on my Instagram page. You may also find the occasional blog or Instagram post about my cat, TweedCat.

While I am not exactly a vintage blogger, I take a lot of my personal style from vintage fashion, and I like to pass the time in old-fashioned ways, by crocheting or by cooking and baking or even by brewing my own mead and hard cider. And I also talk about life in general. I’m thirty-four years old and recently wrote a two-part musing about looking and acting one’s age, something that I’m sure Asian beauty enthusiasts consider as the glow confuses people.

Whatever your interests, welcome!

Why I No Longer Seek out “Natural” Beauty Products

In November of 2015, about sixteen months ago, my morning routine was featured on the (apparently now-defunct) natural beauty blog “No More Dirty Looks.” At the time, I was using a heavily-DIY, all-natural routine, focusing on avoiding chemicals like parabens. Since then, I’ve obviously changed my tune and started using more man-made (and woman-made!) ingredients and products and stopped avoiding ingredients like parabens in favor of science-based ingredients. So I thought I’d use this post to talk a little bit about why I made the switch and why I no longer think it’s necessary to avoid the so-called “toxic” chemicals in our beauty products.

First, a little bit about my own personal story. I found natural/organic beauty through the organic and traditional foods movement. Several years ago, I decided to drastically overhaul how I ate in order to see if it would help my frequent migraine headaches. The good news is that it did! The bad news is that it meant making from scratch pretty much every scrap of food that went into my body. That’s a daunting task, and I did it with the help of food bloggers in the “real food” movement. And while I was busy putting only minimally-processed, organic food into my body, I started reading about how we also get exposed to “toxic chemicals” through the personal care products we use. Around the same time, I had a massive breakout of hives over my entire body for 36 hours. I tracked down the possible culprits and decided that the artificial fragrance had caused my reaction. So I started switching to an all-natural regimen of personal care.

At my crunchiest, I used homemade soap, apple cider vinegar, and organic oils to care for my face, body, and hair. I used crystal deodorant. I ate up articles by bloggers claiming to have found a scientific basis for avoiding parabens, phthalates, sulfates, fragrances, and a whole host of other ingredients. When I couldn’t use something made myself, I found the simplest, least-preserved brand at the organic market that I could. I even washed my hair with mud for a while. And I kept this up for years.

Finally, I realized that highly-alkaline soaps were not doing my skin or hair any favors. I think the first step was admitting that washing my hair with soap left it paradoxically greasy and dry. My hairdresser would refuse to touch my hair until he’d washed it with salon shampoo. And I was breaking out. I went from being a teenager and early-20-something with enviable skin to a spotty 30-something.

In a fit of pique, I became so frustrated with how my skin reacted to everything that I just stopped using anything at all but plain water on my face. That was when I started noticing that my skin was actually dry. I started doing different research, looking up hydrating skin, and eventually found the Skincare Addiction and Asian Beauty subreddits. There, I learned that I had probably dehydrated my skin from years of using alkaline cleansing products and only oils to moisturize. And a light bulb went on.

But in order to fully break away from my crunchy leanings, I had to convince myself that these chemicals I’d been avoiding for years were actually safe. Once I finally did, I felt embarrassed because the preponderance of scientific evidence is in favor of the safety of approved cosmetics ingredients, and I have a scientific background myself. Refusing to trust these researchers is akin to refusing to trust the science that claims vaccines are safe and necessary or that human-driven climate change is a major factor in our environment. If I trusted the science in one place, I needed to learn to trust the science in this place.

Of course, there are bloggers with science backgrounds doing the good work of trying to counter the scare-mongering people who perpetuate this fear of “chemicals.” And that really helped. But I also did my own looking around. And even now, when I find myself falling into old habits of worrying about a skin care ingredient, I do a search and try to limit myself to scientific publications. And since I know a little bit about scientific publication, I try to look up the journals these things are published in, to ensure I’m getting good sources.

But that’s not to say I’ve completely abandoned everything I gained from being an organic beauty aficionado. I still use natural oils on my face. I still DIY my own products, when I can’t find a commercial product that I like. And I still am wary of fragrance in skin care. I’m still aware of my ingredients, but I know that I could have a problem from any ingredient, not just the ones with unfamiliar chemical names.

And that’s the real crux of why I no longer consider myself a natural skin care person. I’ve found some natural ingredients that cause me much worse problems than any scary-sounding chemical ever has. As an example, I’m going to go back to that story about breaking out in hives. I noticed that the initial reaction happened in the exact pattern that I use when putting soap on my body. I looked at the bar of soap I was using and, sure enough, “fragrance” was one of the ingredients. Now, I’m friends with the lady who makes the soap, so I shot her a quick email. She verified that, yes, she used artificial sandalwood fragrance because of cost and environmental concerns with sandalwood oil. Well, I thought to myself, that must be the problem!

There was a jasmine perfume she sold that I loved, so when I was done “detoxing,” I added that back in first, to make sure it didn’t cause a problem. And it didn’t. Oh well, I thought, the jasmine fragrance oil and the sandalwood fragrance oil must have different constituents. But then, I started making my own soaps and she shared her fragrance supplier’s website with me. Well, knowing that the sandalwood fragrance made me react and the jasmine didn’t, I figured I could go to the data sheets for each fragrance and look at what different components they had.

And they had exactly the same fragrant compounds in them. From a chemical standpoint, there wasn’t a difference. So if I had reacted to one, why didn’t I react to another?

Then, I went back to the soap ingredient list and looked again. One of the essential oils was cinnamon essential oil. Now, cinnamon is intensely irritating and has to be used carefully. I had actually had a less-severe skin reaction to a product with cinnamon in it after my hives situation. So after all that, after years of being chemically-avoidant, it was probably a natural essential oil that had caused my reaction.

So the lesson here is that anything can cause a reaction, be it natural or synthesized. Be aware of your personal care products, but know that approved chemicals became approved through a lengthy research process, and distrusting that research may not leave you with the best products to work with.