The scent of swag

8 Dec

Continuing with last week’s Movember theme, Gerry, whose moustache journey we documented, took me to the Movember gala on December 2 and it was so much fun!

Gerry's barber gave him a David Niven look and I rocked a fancy airbrushed Mo!

Many guys had already shaved by then but I was delighted to see how many got into the spirit of the moustache and came in character – there were cops, highway patrolmen, firefighters, a gang of bootleggers, general Mo freaks, and a very dashing French revolutionary soldier complete with bicorn hat and period uniform. Gerry had his Mo reshaped one more time and we did him up as though he were striding onto his yacht, so I matched his costume and we both had a look of nostalgic glam.

Mo-goers were given bags o’ swag containing men’s grooming products – deodorant,  shave gel, and a 5 – yes, 5-blade razor. I put my swag away with the rest of my men’s grooming stuff when I got home and didn’t think about it.

Then I started noticing something. When I walked into my living room, I could smell something odd, something I couldn’t identify. I decided that someone walked past my door wearing too much cologne. However, each time I walked into my living room, I could smell it again, so I hunted around and discovered that it was my bag of swag from the gala that was causing the stink! I was able to distinguish which grooming product was giving off the strong scent – the culprit was Mennen Speed Stick. Welcome to today’s topic.

Now, I want you to understand some things before I continue, readers:  1. I don’t want to sound like an ingrate because I appreciate that large companies are sponsoring Movember and promoting the fight against prostate cancer, and 2. I only use natural and unscented grooming products on my skin, therefore, I am highly sensitive to chemical fragrances, thus my picking up on the swag smell.

Ingredients: salt and gas

I’m going to share some of the research I have done on common men’s grooming products with you so as to educate you on the products you’re applying to your skin because whether you realize it or not, your skin is absorbing it.  Some of these ingredients may cause you to question the products you use because the ingredients themselves are questionable.

My information comes from websites that scientifically test grooming products: Good Guide, Cosmetics Info,  Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, and the David Suzuki Foundation.

Because I have taken from different sources, the ingredients listed below may or may not be present in the 2011 version of Speed Stick:

  • Water
  • Cyclomethicone: silicone oil
  • Denatured Ethanol: ethanol with chemical additives
  • Tripropylene Glycol: colourless, viscous liquid derived from petroleum
  • Dimethicone: anti-foaming and emollient agent, suspected environmental toxin
  • Propylene Glycol: colourless viscous liquid derived from natural gas
  • Phenyl Trimethicone: derived from silica, a natural component of quartz and opal
  • FDC Blue #1,  FDC Yellow #5 : synthetic dye produced from petroleum
  • Sodium Carbonate: sodium salt of carbonic acid
  • Sodium Chloride: salt
  • Sodium Stearate: salt of stearic acid, a naturally occurring fatty acid and cleansing agent (surfactant)
  • Sodium Sulfate:  sodium salt of sulfuric acid
  • Tetrasodium EDTA: used to decrease reactivity of metal ions that may be present in a product
  • Stearyl Alcohol: compound produced from stearic acid, a naturally occurring fatty acid; stabilizer, surfactant, fragrance
  • Dimethicone Copolyol: silicon-derived, used as a low-odor ingredient to mask other scents
  • Fragrance: not listed – more trouble ahead
Fragrance
If the above list isn’t enough to put you off entirely, let me sweeten the pot a bit.
Some of us react to these synthetic fragrance ingredients because they are irritants that we have an allergy or sensitivity to. I don’t need to tell you that I’m one of these people. As a sensitive person, I pick up and respond to scent easily – this isn’t always a good thing. Like the way a strong cologne can offend, personal care products can be just as disagreeable.
I was with a friend one night earlier this year who decided that his health food store deodorant was failing. He happened to have his gym bag with him that happened to contain a commercial deodorant (that could have been Speed Stick or perhaps Old Spice) and went off to the men’s room to apply it. Before he even got back to me, my eyes were overpowered and almost watering at the strong scent that he carried back from the bathroom with him. It took a long time to get the stink of the deodorant stick out of my nose.
The fragrance in Speed Stick is rated as a high hazard by Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, and associated with neurotoxicity and allergies/immunotoxicity. In Failing the Sniff Test: Chemicals in fragranced personal care products remain a mystery, The David Suzuki Foundation reports that fragrance mixtures can contain up to 3,000 chemicals
, and a single product can have dozens or even hundreds of chemicals in it!
Many of
 these 
unlisted ingredients 
are 
irritants
 and
 can
 trigger
 allergies, migraines, 
and
 asthma
 symptoms. In laboratory 
experiments,
 individual
 fragrance
 ingredients
 have been 
associated
 with 
cancer 
and 
neurotoxicity 
among 
other
 adverse
 health
 effects. – David Suzuki Foundation
One of these alarming fragrance-boosting ingredients is Diethyl
phthalate, 
or 
DEP, widely 
used 
in 
cosmetic
 fragrances
 to
 make
 the
 scent
 linger.
 The presence of phthalates
 should be of particular concern to men because this substance is linked to hormone toxicity that can reduce sperm count and reproductive defects in the male fetus when the mother is exposed during pregnancy. Diethylphtalate are also associated with obesity and insulin resistance in men.
Alternatives to commercial deodorants are abundant but in my experience require trial and error to find the right one for you – I have several alternative brands that are just sitting in my bathroom because they just didn’t work for me. The one I like and stick with is a mineral salt roll-on, available at drugstores. Find good suggestions in Good Guide‘s top and bottom-rated deodorants and if you are concerned with animal testing (Mennen, who makes Speed Stick tests on animals), check the PETA site to see what companies don’t use questionable ingredients and test on animals.
Scent pollution
Many people have allergies to fragrance and yet fragrance continues to be poured into grooming products, among many other items. Both men and women are under the spell of corporate marketing that insists on strong unnatural chemical smells in their products (women’s products are just as bad as men’s – I have experienced young women running around the gym locker room  smelling like candy, and walking through the drug store fills my nose with gag-inducing smells of baby powder-scented tampons, cheap perfumes, and pungent, eye-watering shampoos). In the same way that commercial production adds excessive salt and oil to food products, I think that the producers of commercial grooming products are adding too much fragrance.
Try this experiment to prove it to yourself: put away your current scented grooming products (deodorant, shave product, moisturizer, shampoo, soap, etc.) and instead buy a small fleet of unscented products (maybe from the drug store, maybe from a health store). Use these unscented grooming products for 2 weeks, then bring out your former products. Smell them – how strong are these products to you now? Are you inclined to use them? How is the unscented world different and which do you prefer?
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