Perfume bottles and skulls on a vanity table.


Successes and failures treating chemical sensitivities

mold poisoning

(Updated July 2022.) I first noticed that I was reacting to some chemical substances around 2002, when I developed splitting headaches from paint used in my apartment, even the low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) stuff.

Around the same time, wearing mascara and lipstick became unbearable. My eyes would become blurry and my lips cracked. My lips were pretty much blue from low iron so the no-lipstick look did not suit me.

Vitamin B6 a brief success

Several months of taking vitamin B6 got rid of the reaction to paint, and eventually I could wear my usual drugstore mascara and lipstick again … for a few months. Luckily I was able to find health-food store versions that I continue to tolerate. (The reaction to paint never returned, actually.)

In 2014, toward the end of my stay in my old moldy apartment, different and more severe reactions developed seemingly overnight. For one month I had to shower with rubber gloves because my hands had more than a dozen quarter-inch-deep cuts on the fingertips. I had to take two weeks off work because I couldn’t type.

Vitamin B6 failed me, until it finally dawned on me that nail polish was the culprit. And toenail polish, and my rings, and perfume, and perfumed products. Once I quit all that, vitamin B6 did seem to speed up my recovery a bit. (As I have stated elsewhere, perfume is in my opinion one of the things that makes life bearable, so this was a huge adjustment.)

Mold avoidance helped somewhat

Three years later — and two years of detox from mold — and I still could not use nail polish, perfumes, perfumed products, or room spray without my heels splitting open and my fingers kind of fraying at the ends. 

For a while I tolerated two drugstore lipstick brands, but as my overall physical comfort improved after I started avoiding mold, I registered the discomfort more and more, and finally gave up on them. 

I can still tolerate certain brands of mascara and lipstick obtainable only at health-food stores, unless you’re in Northern or Southern California, in which case you can get it at the grocery store, because this place is like another country. I also tolerate most jewelry. 

Lymph cleansers no help, beef spleen sort of

Many months using lymphatic cleansers — burbur, red root, and cleavers — while very helpful in other areas, did not affect these reactions. I did see some improvement after three months of beef spleen supplements, which is the first iron source that has worked in more than a decade. The manufacturer also markets it as an immune system booster. 

Considering that the Europeans have banned many chemicals used in perfumes, I have to wonder if my decades of perfume addiction screwed me up permanently — we’re talking multiple applications a day, sometimes of three different scents, since junior high.


This content was first published in January 2019 and updated in July 2022.

Marjorie smiling, wearing an orange shirt.

Marjorie R.

Marjorie is the creator of, a record of her and her guest authors’ experiences with non-prescription health solutions. She is a third-generation nutritional-therapy self-experimenter.

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