About

About Juliejulie

Julie lives in San Diego County, CA and due to her Acrylate Allergy is a bit of a hermit on her two acre ranch.

Her mission is to convince companies to remove Acrylates from Personal Care Products.

How many things do you touch in a day? Imagine if you, or your child, were allergic to nearly everything you touch? Because that is my life.

I’m a canary.

In the 1970’s, I worked as a Dental Technician. One task I was asked to do was to repair a broken denture. To make a smooth repair, I was taught to use the liquid monomer, and use my fingers to mold it into place.

Directly touching liquid monomer is very dangerous!

Yet I didn’t learn anything about this risk in trade school.

After a few days of doing my first repair, my fingers began to itch and turn red. Then the skin began to peel away. I went to the doctor, described my job and was to never touch that liquid again.

From then on, whenever asked if I was allergic to something, I’d say “Methyl Methacrylate” the correct term I learned to pronounce. When I told medical professional this however, I’d usually get a quizzical look. “A monomer of acrylic” I’d explain. That didn’t help, but they wrote it down (usually misspelled).

I was able to still work in the industry. I was able to do other tasks and let others do any repair work. Years went by without any further issue.

Yet for many reasons, I decided to go back to school and get a degree. I graduated with a Bachelor in Business Information System and got a great job as a computer programmer at Hewlett Packard. The division I worked in made printers. I worked in a cubicle and always had access to great photo printers. It was fun.

I stayed with the company twenty five years. Growing into management roles and then (while obtaining a Master’s degree) learned how to conduct and analyze customer research.

The company went through turbulent times. In 2011, my department was moved next to the large industrial printers. That is when the problems began. . .

It started as a small patch of rash on my back. . . Within weeks it had spread to 75% of my body. It felt like mosquito bites on top of an acid burn. It hurt, itched, and burned all at the same time!

legrash

Over the next year, I saw many doctors. They took eleven vials of blood and multiple biopsies. Their only diagnosis was that I had a ‘psoriasis-like’ condition. They put me on steroids, which cleared the rash. But after each course, as soon as I was well enough to go back into the office, the rash would return! I was on steroids for nearly a year without a clear reason of why the rash kept coming back.

What is it like to live with skin problems?

When the rash flares, the severity can range from the feeling of having about 20-30 mosquito bites, to feeling like my skin has been splashed with acid following by being doused with itching powder.

Taking a shower hurts, bathing hurts, wearing clothes is agony. Even terrycloth feels like sandpaper against my skin.

Sleep is near impossible. It feels like there are a thousand insects burrowing into my skin and it takes all my will power not to claw at my legs. If I do sleep, I’d wake up from the pain of having scratched at my itchy ankles or other limbs, in the middle of the night. Sometimes, I’d wake to find my legs bloody and/or infected.

When I unknowingly used a lotion with Acrylates, the palms of my hands began to peel in large chunks of skin. The itch was like torture, and the skin was so raw it was difficult to do anything for myself. Including wiping my own butt.

fingerspeel
(c) Julie Wininger

And these are just the physical symptoms. For some reason a rash is a medical condition that has a social stigma. Skin issues are looked at with disgusts, fear of contagion, or ridicule. Comedians make fun of rashes. Sufferers from Eczema and Psoriasis share this embarrassment. Many feel the need to hide their skin, wearing long sleeves even on hot days. Scratching in public is also frowned upon.

The physical and psychological pains are complicated by the reaction of dismissing these health challenges. Often the reaction I get when I tell others of my condition is a silent, “Oh, just a rash.” As if a rash is a simple thing easily dismissed. But those who have felt the torture of an itch so intense you want to tear off your own skin. It’s not something I’d wish on my worst enemy.

Finally a Diagnosis

Finally I went to a very experienced Dermatologist. He administered a patch test and told me out of the 80 chemicals they tested, I was allergic to Acrylates. Specifically: 2-hydroxyethylmethacrylate (HEMA).

Over the next year I read all research papers I could find about an Acrylate Allergy. What I found out about is scary. Many ingredients used in personal care products are harmful. Yet there is little to no regulation in this area. Companies can use any ingredients in products like cosmetics. There is NO government agency overlooking or checking for safety.

I’m a canary.

I just happened to work in two of the handful of most common environments for overexposure to Acrylates. But since exposure is cumulative over repeated exposure, and since Acrylates are now being put into products designed to be put on your skin, I predict many more cases of a painful Acrylate Allergy in the future.

This could happen to you or someone you love.

Once Allergic, even a minute amount of the chemical can cause a reaction that can last three to six months!

patch-testing-minnesota-dermatologist-skin-allergyNAC-80. North American 80 Comprehensive Series – Patch Test

The only was to test for Acrylate Allergy is using the NAC80 Comprehensive Series Patch tests. Other test do not test for Acrylates!

4 Comments Add yours

  1. REBECCA KRAUSE says:

    Was wondering if you had a list of products that do not contain acrylates and are less likely to cause sensitivity also?

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    1. There are some data bases out there that attempt to keep track of all the millions of products. I have not had too much luck using them however. It seems that once I find something in the database, I can’t find that exact product in a store. What I have found helpful is an App called ‘Think Dirty’ – it has a fairly complete database that allows you to scan a bar code of a product and it will list the ingredients. Then, read through and look for any word that contains ‘acrylate.’ Also, beware of the ingredient ‘carbomer’ seems to be a ‘brand name’ for an acrylate!

      Also, beware of anything with ‘fragrance’ as there is currently no law that makes manufacturers reveal what’s in fragrances.
      There is also currently no law to reveal what is in cleaning products! But there is a proposed amendment to change that — at least in California, the Federal bill might have died now 🙂

      It is a frustrating condition to manage because it is in SO MANY THINGS! That is why I end up using natural ingredients like coconut oil. I wish you luck in managing this.

      Also, check me out on Facebook. I list some tips there. https://www.facebook.com/AcrylateAllergy/

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  2. Mary Kate says:

    Hi Julie, Thank you for your story, I have had Chronic Urticaria for the last 7 months, I suspect an oral appliance, a sleep device, may be the cause. It is made of acrylic and polymers. It could also have been caused or aggravated by the sulphate based denture cleaner that I cleaned it with. I am in San Diego County too. Can you recommend a dermatologist? Thank you again! Mary Kate May

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  3. I just tested positive to Acrylate via the NAC80 Patch Testing at UCSF. i too have been suffering with the red lesions and more, especially on my legs. Dermatology wants to rule out Psoriasis with a host of anitquated methods: cover my leg with Peroleum Jelly and then wrap it with Saran Wrap; have me use coal tar (MG217) twice a day for four total hours; and now “soft casting” with use of a zinc oxide mixture wrapped in bandages. These methods have really irritated my leg and now they want me to try Methotrxate, a strong drug that may help clear my skin but cause a host of side-effects. (I have friends who suffered from using that drug). The idea there is to change my immune system so that it will stop the flaring of my condition. No thanks on that one.
    Two questions now: Does anyone know of dental alternatives to using acrylates (dental paste, glue, etc.)? My entire mouth is full of this stuff now. What do I do in the future? And is there a solution so I could remove the exposure there? Cost is no problem.
    Second: Is there a list database that lists where acrylates are used, I know it’s extensive. Thanks in advance. Lynn, Santa Rosa, CA

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