Lyn Jensen's Blog: Manga, Music, and Politics

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Location: Anaheim, California, United States

Regular contributor ("Carson City Limits" and other content) for Random Lengths (circulation 56,000) in San Pedro, CA, 2001-present. Manga reviewer: LA Alternative (circulation 150,000), 2005-2006. Some manga reviews also ran in NY Press around this time. Entertainment reporting: Music Connection (circulation 75,000), 1983-1906. Travel writing: Oakland Tribune (1998) and Life After 50 (2006). Other bylines: Goldmine, Star Hits, Los Angeles Reader, Los Angeles Times, Long Beach Press Telegram, Blade, BAM, Daily Breeze, LA Weekly. Specializations include community news reporting, writing reviews (book, theater, concert, film, music), copywriting, resumes, editing, travel writing, publicity, screenwriting, lecturing, and content development. Education: B. A. Theater Arts, UCLA. Post-grad work, Education, Chapman University.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Senior Reporter: Life After Mother

I've started a new column for Senior Reporter and it's titled "Life After Mother" because it's about my personal experiences dealing with estate and probate issues after my mother's death.

The introductory column ran in both print and online versions. Due to the COVID-19 situation, Senior Reporter has gone online only until further notice, so until further notice this column is online only:

May 2020, "First, A Phone Call" on p. 42

April 2020, introductory column, p. 42

Friday, April 24, 2020

Allergic Reactions to "Homemade" Conditioner

On Sat. Apr. 18 at about 7 p.m. I washed my hair with homemade shampoo, the only ingredients being water, olive oil, and pure fresh Ivory soap. I didn't even add any essential oil. (Link here:

I then conditioned it with homemade conditioner, the only ingredients being water, olive oil, and guar gum--again, I didn't even add any essential oil (link here: ).

I have trouble describing the reaction but I had discomfort for hours afterward. It was definitely physical, and not just "in my head," although primarily it was a nameless kind of discomfort, impossible to define, but a feeling of dread, of worry, of what might happen, like what a character feels in a horror story just before the lights flicker, the lightening flashes, and the thing emerges from the darkness. Benedryl didn't help, or at least didn't knock out the reaction entirely.

The fear was combined with itchiness and sleeplessness and restlessness--but the entire reaction was so mild I didn't notice anything out of the ordinary until I got ready for bed around 9 p.m. Since the only thing that I'd used that might cause any reaction was the guar gum in the conditioner, I thought shampooing my hair a second time, washing out the conditioner (and not using any more), might work.

The shampoo without conditioner helped some but not much. After about an hour--between 10 and 11--I got up again and this time tried just using a bar of Ivory soap, trying to get down to the scalp and the roots. Once again, it helped some but not much. I could feel that I'd missed some places, or that I hadn't rinsed sufficiently--despite rinsing for a lengthy period of time.

Around midnight I got up and got in the shower a fourth time. This time I just seized the hand-held shower head and put it flat against my scalp. I moved it over my entire scalp, putting the full force of the water over as much skin and hair as I could. That finally brought complete relief.

So now the problem is, how to condition my hair, if I can't use guar gum--or vinegar, another substance that triggers my allergies. Using homemade shampoo but no conditioner, homemade or otherwise, isn't an option. I've tried that, and my hair gets too greasy.

I'll have to do some further experimenting. I seem to recall a stylist giving me advice to put the juice of a fresh-squeezed lemon on my hair. That would cut the grease from the soap and oil in the homemade shampoo. I could also try using a cup or half-cup of bottled lemon or lime juice, or I could squeeze out enough lemons to make a cup or half-cup of juice and try that. The way to use the juice is to put it on the hair first, and then shampoo it out.

Applying a cup or half-cup of vinegar or an alcoholic beverage and then shampooing may be another option, because either will cut the grease and oil--but I'd have to be willing to risk another evening like the above, because I have a history of allergic reactions to both substances.

Getting a shorter hairstyle so there's less hair to manage would help. Less hair to clean would make it easier to manage.

I also have to factor in that I live in a dirtier, dustier, moldier, and more pollen-heavy environment than where I lived before, and two cats have the run of everywhere except my bedroom. So there are more allergens in the environment to trigger an allergic reaction. Breathing dust, cat, mold, and pollen big-time, and then using a hair treatment that contains an allergen, may be enough to set off a reaction that otherwise wouldn't be set off.

Update, 5/8/20:  Squeezing the juice of one whole fresh lemon in my hair before putting the homemade shampoo on it appears to be cutting the greasiness and tangles. Before I start the shampoo, I cut a lemon in half cross-wise, cover the ends with restaurant-style lemon wraps to keep the pulp and seeds out of my hair, and put the halves in a crock pot to take into the shower.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Living With the Prospect of Death and Allergies

I've fought the trauma associated with the prospect of death for much of the past year. Last August I watched my mother die and every day since I've dealt with the fallout. Five times I've had spider bites that were cases for the ER (after going all my life without so much as one), each time requiring antibiotics and sulfuric tablets. On a holiday getaway I was caught in the middle of a blizzard in the middle of the night. Twice I got a rabies scare when my un-vaccinated cat bit me--she was just playing but the bites drew blood--so I had to care for her during at-home quarantine. When I did get her vaccinated, it was too soon after one biting episode, so I had to live with the consequences. Now COVID-19 has made it dangerous to go to the grocery store or welcome visitors to my home.

What a time to suddenly develop uncomfortable and frightening allergic reactions, starting back around the holidays, to most of my regular cosmetics and toiletries. For months I've tested my reactions and found I can't use foundation cream, face powder, most soaps and cleansers, moisturizer, toner/freshener, or commercially manufactured shampoo or conditioner. I've had to stop wearing cosmetics all together (except for nail polish, lipstick and some eye make-up) and stop using anything on my skin beyond water and pure Ivory soap.

As my blogs of past months show, out of desperation I've switched to homemade shampoo and homemade conditioner. Even that has brought forth risks that were not predicted. On Thurday, Apr. 2, I tried a fresh batch of homemade shampoo from my usual recipe (found on below link), containing only distilled water, Ivory soap flakes, and olive oil, I don't even use any essential oil:
I didn't use any conditioner, homemade or otherwise, for this most recent shampoo because I wanted to keep the possibility of a reaction as simple as possible. The following recipe for homemade conditioner contains guar gum, and I admit I'm not exactly sure how my system reacts to that. (The most likely other option, to use vinegar--I know I'm allergic to that):

As I've reported in previous blogs, even using these homemade ingredients have left me with some reactions that I don't consider normal. I'm now trying to determine what that means, since, unless it's the guar gum, there's no shampoo/conditioner ingredient that gives me trouble.

After my Thursday-night shampoo I noticed brief itching along the nape of my neck and where my hair parts, both places where airborne allergens are likely to cluster. My (amateur) hypothesis, therefore, is that the itchiness is caused by airborne allergens--the dust, pollen, mold, and cat--that accumulates in my hair and on my skin. But the itching results as they're being removed.

More troubling is what I've reported/recorded before as an adrenaline surge (again, an amateur hypothesis, but the best description I can manage). After washing my hair, I feel my heart beat faster and my blood circulate faster, like I've had some vigorous exercise, even though washing hair hardly qualifies as vigorous exercise.

This symptom involving my heart, if it continues, I will have to discuss with a doctor or allergist, because anything abnormal involving one's heart can be serious. What I think though, is that, like the minor itching, my body is responding to the lack of allergens, to the removal of allergens. For decades I unknowingly bombarded my system with allergens every time I washed my hair, and that's not happening anymore, but my body is "programmed" to respond to allergens, even if they're not there. I'm not the most scrupulous person about personal cleaning, either, and I'm sure I've let airborne allergens accumulate in my hair and on my skin for longer than a healthcare professional would advise an allergy-prone patient to do.

So when allergens are absent from my system after affecting my system for some time--that's when my system reacts. My guess is that these strange reactions may compare to how one's system can react to lack of alcohol or drugs.

If I speak to a doctor, or have another episode involving my allergic reactions that I feel needs to be put on record, I'll blog again. 

Friday, March 27, 2020

Product Reviews and My Allergies: Dimethicone

My allergic reaction to dimethicone sneaked up on me but there were warnings. The first came when several years ago when I bought a different face powder from "my" brand and I had an itching burning sensation immediately, and had to take the product back. At the time I had no idea what ingredient was causing the problem. Now I think it was the dimenthicone. 

I didn't notice anything else until I bought a new bottle of my usual foundation cream, made by Revlon, during the 2019 holidays--and it itched and burned my skin. That turned out to contain dimethicone. I tried other products including:  

Avon True Color Flawless Cream-to-powder Foundation with broad spectrum SPF 15 sunscreen, DIN 02374145, contains dimethicone. (All the colors in this line do.)  I tried the product 7 Feb '20 and immediately my skin tingled and burned. After ten minutes of minor discomfort, I washed the product off. Here is a complete list of ingredients:

Mary Kay Timewise Matte-wear Liquid Foundation, ivory, combination-to-oily skin, which the saleswoman insisted is also used for normal-to-dry skin. The product has two big strikes, one that it doesn't pass the PETA standard for cruelty-free, and the other that it includes dimenthicone among its dozens of ingredients, as listed on the below link. I tried it 8 Feb 20, and couldn't tell how much discomfort was due to the itchy sweater I was wearing and how much was due to the foundation, but plainly neither one was wearable. For this Mary Kay product's ingredients :

After that came itching and burning reactions to several brands of soap and all three of the hair products I'd been using for decades. As for my longtime shampoo and conditioner--Suave Essentials Ocean Breeze--it's possible the formula has changed because I can't find an ingredient list online that matches the labels of both products I know I used in February. I stopped using them after that, and started using homemade shampoo, because I knew was taking a risk using even when taking Benedryl as a precaution. 

I also had to stop using Mane & Tail detangler which contains dimenthicone:

Then came March 19 when I used a homemade shampoo that contained soap slivers other than Ivory soap as a base. Those must've had dimethicone or citric acid, or both, or something else I'm allergic to, because I itched and had adrenaline rushes for about three hours afterward. Taking even two Benedryl had little effect, so either the reaction was extreme enough that the Benedryl didn't knock it out, or it was some other type of reaction. When extra rinsing didn't work either, I began to wonder if I was going to have to shave my head to find relief. I finally grabbed two bars of Ivory, one in each hand, and scrubbed down to my scalp. That took care of it. I may have to do that more often.

I made up a batch of homemade shampoo using only Ivory yesterday, and I had an adrenaline rush for about an hour afterward. (I only took one Benedryl this time, it stopped before I felt the need for a second.) My guess is that either the container was contaminated and I'll have to try another container, or possibly the allergens that have been put into my hair (and system) previously are causing an after-effect. 

Postscript:  I do find a listing for simply "Suave shampoo" (not Suave Essentials) that apparently does not contain citric acid or dimethicone, but it warns against gluten sensitivity--and that's another problem I have: 

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Product Reviews and my Allergies: Dove and Other Cleansing Bars

For the time being, I'm using Ivory Soap. For moisturizer I'm applying olive oil and then washing it off with the Ivory. I've found I can't even use Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar, which is normally something people with sensitive skin can use.

Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar has one different ingredient from the regular Dove Beauty Bar. It omits any fragrance and adds maltol. Something in the ingredients the Dove bars share is causing me to have an allergic reaction. I've tried the "Sensitive Skin" version several times over the past couple of weeks, and it's always caused me to feel sick--it's hard to describe my reaction other than that. I've already found out I can't use the regular bar. I can't narrow down which ingredient(s) could be causing my reaction, but for now I'm stuck with Ivory. Here's a comparison of the Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar ingredients to the Dove Beauty Bar:

Rose 31 Body Bar by Le Labo Fragrances--the bar I have is for sale to hotels so the ingredients list doesn't appear to be online. The box says the product is not tested on animals.  Ingredients listed on the box:  sodium palmate, sodium cocoate, water, glycerin, parfum (probably rose), lauryl glucoside, shea butter, sodium chloride, titanium dixoide, pentasodium pentetate, limonene, tetrasodium etidronate, alpha-isometheyl ionone, linalool, citrionellol, gerniol. I don't see any reason to stop using Ivory for as an overall skin cleanser, but for hand-washing this product appears to cause me no issues other than some dryness. 

Update, 3/27/20:  

Grandma's soap is sold at ACE Hardware, and lists three, and only three, old-fashioned basic soap ingredients--lard, lye, and water. If someone had a reaction to this product, it'd be easy to narrow down the cause. However, some of the packages are labeled, "itchy." So you're buying something that you want to be itchy, apparently.