Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Semi-scientific comparison

On and off for the last ten years or so, I've had painful dry cracking on my fingertips. It's been so bad at times that I've had as many as four band-aids on different fingers, which makes it kind of hard to type or work. I've tried different over-the counter creams and lotions, and some prescription ones as well. Some of them worked for a short while, but the cracking always seemed to come back. The only solution that really worked was a steroid shot from the dermatologist; that was effective for about six months before it started again. Don't want to do that too often, though.

A few years ago, I decided that it might be some ingredient in my shampoo that was causing the cracking. I have very mild dandruff, and had always used some kind of shampoo for it - Head & Shoulders, usually. Around the same time that I stopped using that, I started taking a fish oil supplement with my multivitamin. The cracking cleared up and went away. I assumed that the combination of those factors did the trick.

About a month ago, we were at Costco and needed bar soap. We decided to try a new brand, Lever 2000. A week or so after starting with the first bar, my fingers started cracking again. I realized that, if I compared the ingredients of Head & Shoulders, this Lever 2000, and my previous bar soap (Irish Spring Aloe) I might be able to find out what was causing the cracking. I typed the ingredients into an excel chart, highlighted the ones that were in Head & Shoulders AND Lever 200, but not Irish Spring, and only came up with one possibility: Sodium sulfate. (Sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate, specifically.)

The Wikipedia page for sodium lauryl sulfate even mentions that it has been identified as causing dermatitis in some people. I've since switched shampoos and soap to something without sodium sulfate (not easy; most shampoos contain sodium sulfate or ammonium sulfate) and it looks like my cracking fingers are clearing back up.

Feels good to have figured that out. Anybody need some bar soap that I can't use?


SnowLeopard said...

Wooooow, Mr. Scientific Man! Impressive that you figured that out! You even went the extra step by typing the ingredients into a chart, instead of just holding the two bottles next to each other. :)

kirsten said...

I forwarded this to my mom b/c she has similar problems with her fingers. Thanks for blogging about this. :)