Homesickness, Hair Loss, and Methylisothiazolinone: Why Everyone Should Read this Post

I know what you’re thinking: homesickness, hair loss…and methylisothiazoli-what? 

I know you are trying to connect the dots in your heads. Hell, I don’t blame you. Why am I telling those of you who aren’t homesick that you should read this post? And that cracker of a word, methylisothiazolinone. Um, yeah. I promise. You need to read this post.

So let’s start connecting the dots.

Homesick Commenters

Deep in my blog archive are a few posts about homesickness that I wrote when I was trying to survive (or reconcile) my attempt at expat life in Australia. Although you, my regular readers, don’t really think about those posts much, the truth is that many a homesick and lonely person finds these posts, and they comment, ask for help, or just generally need to vent about how they feel. I spend a lot of time responding to these comments, especially the ones where I can almost feel their tears on my keyboard from the other side of the world. I feel so very bad for them, having felt the aching blackness of homesickness myself; I firmly believe that sometimes a few kind words, even from a virtual stranger, can make all the difference in the world.

And sometimes it does! If you have time, read this comment thread with Anna V Salan of Meatballs!

My most recent homesick commenter stopped by yesterday. I have included her comment below, and an adaptation of my response follows. It is the catalyst for this post, which I’ve been meaning to write for a few weeks.

If you’ve ever suffered from itchy, phantom rashes, eczema, dermatitis, or the like; if you’re suffering from inexplicable, sudden hair loss; if you are pregnant or nursing, you should pay extra attention to the part about methylisothiazolinone. 

Methylisothiazolinone or MIT, is a powerful biocide and preservative within the group of isothiazolinones, used in personal care products.

via Google

Please remember that I am not a scientist or researcher…all information presented in this post has been cited so that you may investigate further and draw your own conclusions.

J October 6, 2013

Hi!

I stumbled across your blogpost searching for anything or anyone that seemed to relate to what I am going through at the moment. Your post and comments definitely have made me feel a little better already.

About 6 1/2 months ago, I left Chicago to teach English in Korea. I left behind my family, friends, job, and boyfriend to take this opportunity, which was a stressful decision in itself to make. Everything was exciting and new at first, but I definitely had my ups and downs, especially with maintaining my relationship with my boyfriend. I didn’t think I was overly homesick or stressed about my new lifestyle until about three months into my move here I started noticing my hair falling out more than I’ve ever noticed.

It’s three months since then and it’s freaked me out so much and put an even more intense strain on my positivity about this experience that I’ve decided to go home. I’m disappointed in myself for not being able to finish my contract and this year living here, but I’ve developed such bad anxiety and depression about my hair loss.

Would you mind sharing a little more about that aspect of your experience with the stress of living in a new country? I feel so alone and scared after having lost so much of my hair from what I assume is related to my moving here. I’m afraid if I stayed, I’d eventually bald. I’m even nervous about putting my body through more stress going home. Did you experience noticeable hair shedding? It’s hard for me not to panic everytime I run my hand in my hair and more comes out. What change did it take and when did your grow back?

Sorry this is so long but I really appreciate your post, thank you!

V
@gritandglamour
October 7, 2013

Hi J,

I’m so glad you commented here, although I’m so sorry that you are experiencing such a physical reaction to your move. First I want to say that you should just stop beating yourself up about not finishing your contract in Korea. Just stop right now, and pat yourself on the back for having given it a try. It was a tremendous learning experience! Now you can check it off your been-there-done-that-and-I’m-never-doing-it-again list. Don’t even give it a second thought. Pack your bags and get home.

Now, on to the most important thing: The hair loss. Yes, I experienced some pretty significant shedding when I moved. Apparently hair loss is quite common. But it has taken me allergy tests, dietary changes, three years of reading, and a lot of paying extremely close attention to my body to really get to the bottom of it. Tests revealed I have no allergies to any foods or gluten, but I just could not get rid of the eczema on my hands, and my hair was still not the beautiful mane I had before. I did narrow the eczema down to some sulfite sensitivity, but I finally figured it out what the real culprit was after stumbling onto an eczema support forum: I have a methylisothiazolinone (MI/MIT)¹ allergy. As soon as I read about MIT, the light bulb went off in my head.

I looked at my shampoo and conditioner ingredients…my beloved Pantene…and MIT was there. A favorite styling product (Living Proof Full Cream): MIT. Dove body wash: MIT. My dish soap: MIT. It was in many of the products I use that touch the skin on my hands repeatedly, daily. OMG.

Then I thought about it a little longer: I’ve been using Pantene products for years, with great results. But a few years ago, ABOUT THE TIME I MOVED, Pantene not only changed its branding and packaging, but its formulations², and likely included the preservative methylisothiazolinone, which is now (unfortunately) added to almost every beauty product, and is wreaking havoc on people’s skin and hair.³

That was a few months ago. I got rid of everything with it. I searched ’til I found a shampoo and conditioner without it (no small feat). I switched all my products, and you know what happened? My eczema faded away. Completely. Three years’ worth of embarrassing rashes and horrible itching and scabs were gone in a couple weeks’ time. And it’s still gone, several months later. All the money I spent on tests, and the discomfort I lived with because of methylisothiazolinone. IT IS THE DEVIL.

Tips for healing homesick hair (and avoiding MI-based skin issues):

  • Avoid all products with methylisothiazolinone and methylcloroisothiazolinone (MCI). Period.
    I now use the Organix Biotin & Collagen line for my hair. You can find it in most drugstores. I’ve switched to Palmolive Ultra Pure + Clear Dish Liquid. It’s extremely gentle.
  • I started taking the supplements Appearex and Viviscal as soon as I was back in the States, and they really did wonders that first year back. I take them every day, and will forever. They are worth every penny. You can get them on drugstore.com.
  • Don’t stress! Remember it takes time for hair to grow. It may be months before you see changes, but they will come. If after a year or so, you aren’t seeing significant progress, you might consider Rogaine. The only thing about it is once you start using it, you kind of have to stick with it forever. But then again, having hair forever is pretty important to many, so it’s really a blessing if you use it and it yields worthwhile results.

MI/MIT/MCI Factoids

¹ From Wikipedia: Methylisothiazolinone:

“Methylisothiazolinone is commonly used in products in conjunction with methylchloroisothiazolinone, a mixture sold under the registered trade name Kathon CG. A common indication of sensitivity to Kathon CG is Allergic contact dermatitis

Due to increase usage of Isothiazolinone-based preservatives in recent years, a major increase of reported contact allergy to this product have been reported, and in 2013 it was dubbed the 2013 Contact Allergen of the Year.

² From Pantene Gets to the Root of the Problem:

“…reformulated Pantene products include 13 substances, including polymers, that P&G has never used before.

³ From Warning over ‘epidemic’ of skin allergies from chemical in cosmetics and household products:

“…dermatologists warn people are being exposed to much higher doses than before, leading to a steep rise in allergies known as contact dermatitis where the skin becomes red and itchy and can sting and blister.

Experts say the chemical is second only to nickel in causing contact allergies. One in 12 adults and one in five children in the UK now have eczema, of which contact dermatitis is one of the most common types.”

From Health effects of Methylisothiazolinone or MIT:

“MIT is a common biocide and preservative used in industrial and household products such as shampoos, toothpastes, soaps and other body care products. Also MIT is used in dehumidifiers so it can be detected in air conditioned indoor air. When it was introduced in the market as an ingredient of cosmetics and personal care products there were no studies testing in any way its safety.

This changed in 2002 when the first study by Dr Shen Du from the University of Pittsburg was published and reported that MIT displays strong neurotoxic and cytotoxic properties in vitro; this means that cells and specifically neural cells die, upon exposure to MIT...Another study in 2004 from the same research group tried to simulate chronic exposure to MIT, like the one most of us probably have sustained while using toothpastes, hair dyes and shampoos containing small doses of MIT for prolonged period of times. MIT was found to inhibit proper growth and development of neurons. Imagine the potential damage unborn babies are subjected to because the mother shampoos her hair or brushes her teeth with MIT loaded products. In the study, the length of neural axis only managed to reach half of the total length it reached without MIT; this could mean fewer synapses (connections between neural cells) and reduced brain development for the newborn.

 

 

Comments

  1. says

    Oh my, Vahni!

    I just went into the shower to check!

    As a lifelong sufferer of eczema – like disfiguring eczema until my early 20’s – this piqued my interest greatly! It was peri-orbital, too aka – tight, weepy, constantly red flaking skin around your mouth, eyes and face like Ronald McDonald – and I am really, really relieved that the shampoo I have does not have this evil ingredient listed. I’ve got Moroccan Oil Shampoo and it’s very nice. I have my cosmetology licence and swore off drugstore products years ago after learning the ingredients contained in cheap shampoo.

    I’m doing my own little experiment with Viviscal, too. I had a horrible experience in which my hair was totally ruined by a rogue colorist and have been growing it back – all four feet of it slowly over the last four years to its’ virgin glory. http://weartonext.net/the-viviscal-experiment/

    I’m almost at the end of month two and haven’t noticed any real change yet, but we shall see. It’s hard as there is mass fluoride and chlorine in the Australian H2O. When I was back in Canada with the pure, mountain fresh water? Well my hair had lustre and shine within a few washes. The only thing I have truly found that helped with scalp eczema has been a product in the US/Canada called AG Haircare Dandruff Control. It’s very soothing and doesn’t have tar or scary stuff (meso) above.

    Anyways! Nice to see you took a “breather” and very good post, doll!

    XO, Di
    Diana’s latest post: Confession – I’m secretly glad I don’t bartend anymoreMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Di, thanks for dropping by, my dear!

      Sounds like you have your eczema under control, which is great. Also good that MIT is not in your products…I’m sure there is a correlation there. Many have no noticeable, immediate reaction to MIT, but the peeps with sensitive skin a preexisting skin issues would do well to avoid it entirely.

      I’m sure you will find that Viviscal lives up to the hype. I know it definitely helped me, and there is a reason why models swear by it too. It’s good stuff.

      Thanks for your comment. Big hug to you! xo

  2. Kate says

    Just wanted to share, because my husband is allergic to MI/MIT, and just discovered that a line of products my friend sells are MI/MIT free! Woohoo! I’ve been using them for a while (and they’re *awesome*), and finally looked through their “never list” and was so thrilled to find out that they don’t have this horrible ingredient!
    No pressure, of course, but I just like to spread the word when I find products without methyliso-blah-blah-, so here’s the link to the products, just in case you’re interested:
    http://melissavickers.beautycounter.com/

  3. says

    needless to say that after your post and the article I tweeted you, I searched all my beauty products and found it in my Clarins toner and Aussie hair mask. Thankfully I didn’t get a reaction to it, given that I have sort of sensitive skin (and psoriasis as well). As for the toner I’ll buy from Korres next time. Their products don’t have so many chemicals!
    Anna’s latest post: It’s Not Just About HairMy Profile

    • says

      Glad you have no issues with it, Anna…but your approach is a good one anyway. The fewer chemicals we encounter daily, the better.

  4. says

    I did fine with all my facial products but the stuff is in my shampoo, conditioner and body wash. I was trying out some new products that I thought were OK, but I’m going back to my coconut shampoo & conditioner by Organix (I love the line!) thanks for the tip Vahni.

    I lived in Paris for a couple of years when I was a kid going to school. I was homesick but it wasn’t too bad. Then one day I bought a cantaloupe, took it home, cut it open and started sobbing. My mom loves cantaloupe and we always had it at home growing up. The smell sent me over the top!
    Heather Fonseca’s latest post: Environ Skin Care: A Mini ReviewMy Profile

    • says

      Aw, your homesickness story is so sad…and I can totally identify! That’s what people who haven’t experienced it don’t understand, especially partners in relationships. You’re fine, then one day, someone cuts open a canataloupe, and you go to pieces! I was just like that. My hubby thought I was nuts until he became the expat, and then everything made a lot more sense.

      I love Organix too. I’ve always been a drugstore brand girl when it comes to most hair products. In fact, I checked Aveda looking for shampoos and they ALL had it too! So I’m sticking with the stuff at Whole Foods and Organix for now.

    • says

      Luckily it wasn’t in any of my face products because I usually buy products for sensitive skin, but it was in my Dove (Unilever) body wash, Dove shampoo and Aussie 3 Minute Miracle (P&G). Guess it’s back to the drawing board for bath and hair products.

      I’m not sure how the quality is, but for those looking for a drugstore-esque brand of haircare, Yes to Carrots makes shampoo and you can find it at Target.

      On homesickness–when I did my cross country road trip, I did NOT anticipate how much I would miss home. I LOVE LOVE LOVE to travel but being gone for a month just made me so sad at the same time. I think it’s because for the first time in my life I’m where I want to be. Being away made me realize that but it also made it so much harder to be that far. I’m going to write about this eventually on my blog, but I started having panic attacks and extreme anxiety when I was on my trip. Homesickness definitely played a role in that!
      Courtney’s latest post: Avoid the Super 8 and Other Tales From the RoadMy Profile

      • says

        Hey Courtney…yes, the “Yes to” brand is usually sold in the health food stores, and it’s OK. But yeah, As I told Heather above, and in my tweet to you, even some AVEDA products have it, and I find that just grossly negligent, especially since it’s touted as “pure” brand. Oh well.

        And oh, goodness, the panic attacks…does sound like homesickness played a role. This rang so true for me: “…for the first time in my life I’m where I want to be.” I really think that has a huge affect on how well people acclimate to a new environment. Can’t wait to read more!

        • says

          Seems like Aveda is “green washing.” I think they’ve been sold several times throughout the years so it’s no surprise that they prefer to green wash instead of being actually eco-friendly.

          I ended up popping in my local TJ Maxx and picked up some Creations Garden shampoo and conditioner as well as Be Natural body wash. Right away, I noticed a HUGE difference in my hair. Since moving up to Boston, it’s been very straight and drab whereas in South Carolina, it was always very wavy and curly. I’m not sure if I switched my products when I moved or if it was the humidity or what. Anyway, I used the products one time and my hair was already back to being wavy. It felt better and even looked lighter. So weird!

          Also, I’ve always had an itchy scalp and found it near impossible to rinse out all of my conditioner. In the past four days, my scalp hasn’t been itchy and the conditioner washed out in less than 5 minutes. (I swear, it used to take 20 with Dove or similar brands.)
          Courtney’s latest post: So You Wanna Learn How to CodeMy Profile

  5. says

    GIRL! You always have the best posts about shit I never heard or knew about…pardon my french.

    I have hand eczema …on mu right hand…it comes and goes and lately I have had the WORST time with it…kept clearing up and then coming back and would sting like ALL hell in the shower…Yup, Yup…you guessed it…virtually ALL of my bathing products contain MIT. I can’t say it is definitely what I am allergic to…but since having cleared everything out of MITs, I HAVE noticed a significant decrease in the itching/burning and although there is still a little patch of itchy skin..it is SO much better than before. THANK YOU! I never would have thought to pay attention to that.
    As always …great post!
    Hope you are well lady.
    C

    • says

      Hey Carly, glad you read this post! I was experiencing the same thing, and it took me years to finally narrow it down. Hopefully you will continue to see a decrease in the skin issues.

      It’s astonishing to believe, but MIT is in a LOT of baby products, especially baby wipes. Check all of your little ones’ shampoos, cleansers, conditioners, and the wipes. I bet you’ll (unfortunately) find more there too.

  6. Erin says

    Just found out I too am allergic to MIT after heading to an allergist because I was having a horrible reaction around my eyes – swelling, redness, itchy, burning, flaky. NOT pretty! I didn’t realize that it was causing all sorts of other issues until I came home and started going through all the products in my house. MIT was in my shampoo, conditioner, body wash, shaving cream, moisturizer, sunscreen, foundation, concealer, hand soap, dish soap, some of our laundry products (woolite for one), those flushable moist wipes, plus many other hair/beauty/cleaning products I’ve been using. Are you kidding me?! Everything makes sense now. Besides some trouble with my complexion and random rashes popping up here and there, I’ve been struggling with hair loss and a really awful rash that kept showing up on my rear – TMI?! I’ve tried everything with the hair loss – even been to my endocrinologist – with no improvement. Now I’m certain it’s the MIT in so many of my products. And the rash – which I was never brave enough to have checked out – Hello!!!? Those damn flushable wipes! It’s in all of them! After not using them for 3 days, the rash is gone! It’s a major pain trying to find what products out there are safe, but so worth it! Good luck to all of you that are dealing with this too! By the way – they also found I was allergic to Iodopropynyl butylcarbamate (another preservative used in the same kind of products) – so y’all might want to look out for that one too!

    • says

      Erin,

      I am SO glad you have made this connection…it’s ASTONISHING how many products have MIT in them, and it’s even more astonishing how fast rashes vanish in the absence of it. I know the relief you are feeling having finally figured it out. No fun to be allergic, but this is a chemical that can be avoided (and I am so glad my rashes weren’t due to a food I love, which would be much harder to come to terms with!).

      Thanks for the info about Idopropynyl butylcarbamate. I had no idea about that one, but will be on the lookout for it going forward. Thanks also for your comment!

  7. Christy says

    Hi!
    I’ve just read your article about homesickness, and I was wondering, can you write one about boarding school? I’m from china and I go to boarding school in the UK. It’s so far away, and during the first term I cried a lot. It is now the second term and I still wish I could go home everyday and see my mum and dad.

    • says

      Hi Christy, so sorry you feel so badly. Have you read my post, Getting Over Homesickness? I strongly recommend you read it, and the comments and my responses. I’ve had a few exchange students write in experiencing the same thing…I’m hoping my responses to them might help you too.

      Good luck, my dear. Do remember that it is temporary. Sometimes it helps to tell your brain that. It’s not forever!

  8. Dawn says

    I am always suffering on and off from sore, itchy, swollen eyes. I have had two really bad episodes where the last one I ended up in A & E fuel to not being able to open my eyes because they were that swollen. Someone sent me a article on Methylisothiazolonone and I’d been using Huggies pure baby wipes and this contains that substance. The wipes have gone in the bin and are now waiting to see if that is the culprit

    • says

      Hope so, Dawn. I tell you, discovering that MIT was my eczema culprit changed my life! I no longer itch and feel ashamed of my scratched-up skin. I hope you will come back and let me know if your skin cleared up for good.

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