Friday, February 4, 2011

Airing out the Dirty Laundry

I'm sitting at home, just-changed into brand-spanking-newly-washed pajamas--and trying desperately not to claw off acres of skin. My boyfriend did the laundry earlier this week, and for some God-forsaken reason he insists on adding fabric softener to the wash, which aggravates my eczema. God-forsaken, because we line-dry our clothes, which completely cancels out the fabric softener.

Actually, I'm pretty sure I'm not allergic to fabric softener per se, but just to whatever the hell Robyn puts in their detergents. I'm perfectly fine using the generic supermarket-brand detergent, but I itch like I have fire ants down my pants when we use the fancy brand-name stuff. It's irritating, because for the most part, I've outgrown my eczema. I no longer need to use color-and-perfume-free soaps, and I can tolerate conventional moisturizers, which is a fortuitous development in my dermatological history because you're basically screwed if you have sensitive skin.

When I first came here, I was surprised to find that there were so few products for people with sensitive skin. My Dutch improved, but my assessment of products for the dermatologically challenged hadn't: there really isn't all that much stuff for people prone to the itchies, here. And this is doubly true if you're on the Generics Budget, because what there is--body washes, laundry detergents--can cost double the price of the ordinary stuff.

It's generally true that, in the Netherlands, you have fewer choices with respect to just about everything. The produce section of the local Whole Foods by my parents' house probably contains more vegetable matter than an entire Albert Heijn. Most of the time, the short list makes it easy to choose from--Trader Joe's makes a killing from understanding the principle that more choice isn't always better.

But every now and then, I do miss the fact that there are so few hypoallergenic options available. I suppose I could just tell my boyfriend not to use fabric softener, but that would be too difficult.


  1. I have eczema as well but it's actually been better since I lived here. My doc gave me a great cream called Elecon which works wonders :)

  2. I've noticed that my eczema is better, too, as long as I don't snuggle with FatBoy (I'm allergic to him, but as long as we vacuum every other day it's manageable). I think most people eventually outgrow their eczema, but it is nice to have a standby.

    Elecon reminds me: I need to make a post ranting about the fact that 1% hydrocortisone cream is a prescription drug, and not an OTC...

  3. I could agree more : Dutch people don't have large choices about anything in their tiny tiny supermarkets. :D
    I have a hard time finding some specific products, like powedered almonds or nuts, different kinds of sugar, vegetables that are not carrots or leaks (ok, i'm exagerating a little bit for this), etc ...

  4. Which supermarket do you shop at? For more "exotic" ingredients (i.e., powdered nuts) it sometimes pays to check out the Turkish markets. Plus they have better honey.

  5. Grocery shopping here blows. I'd give anything to have a Whole Foods open here, in fact, I've emailed and asked them to open a store here. They'd corner the entire market, although it'd probably be all expats shopping there because of the higher prices. lol

  6. Maybe in Amsterdam--but in my city we have the Saturday market which is like heaven: mushrooms, fresh herbs, amazing produce, fantastic cheeses...the organic kram is a little pricey, but everything else is actually pretty reasonable.

    Where do you live, just out of curiosity? Some cities have better markets than others.

  7. I am in the same boat, apart from the fact I am fine with Robijn and it's the generic Albert Heijn one (the one my husband decided to buy earlier in the week). I live in Breda which is a large city without a large AH, just the tiny ones. It sucks a lot. Can't get many products for sensitive skin here, nor many sugar-free options.