Rants from the Chef

Rant #1   My PSA about aloe                               May Day, 2020

     I'm sixty-something and seriously asthmatic, so I'm sitting at home hiding from Covid. It's time I did something public-spirited, so here's my best effort at a PSA.

     A couple weeks ago I tied a scarf around my face and went to the Bozeman Community Food Coop. They have been brilliant at taking Covid seriously: They overnight replaced their salad bar with prepackaged salads, hung up plexiglass panels at the checkouts, got face masks and made hand-sanitizer available at the entrance. Kudos to the Coop! 

     Unfortunately, this is not the end of this story. As soon as I got into the store, a little spot next to my right eye started to itch. The more I tried to ignore it, the worse it itched. Then the end of my nose chimed in with a very intense itch, the kind you might risk your health to scratch. My face is not usually itchy, but it does itch when I'm consciously thinking I shouldn't touch it. Knowing that this itch is mental doesn't stop it, so I went to the stand with hand-sanitizer, rubbed it all over my hands, gave my face a good scratch, reapplied a little hand-sanitizer and went on my way.

     Next I went to Walmart. While I was shopping there, my face started itching for real: one spot after another urgently needed scratching. I tried to control it with a quick scratch of the forehead using a sleeve, a rub of my chin with the inside of my scarf...Some itches are so bad, though, that a person might risk catching a dangerous disease to scratch them. By the time I got out, my hands had been all over my face. I grabbed my stuff, drove home, washed my hands and face, and noticed my hands were red and scaly.  

     I finally looked at the Coop's recipe for hand-sanitizer, which they were kind enough to print up for their customers. It is mostly alcohol and aloe. Aloe, of course, is supposed to be moisturizing and healing. Apparently it is for most people. It's in practically every lotion and skin cream on the market. 

     Some of us, though, are sensitive to aloe. I discovered this the time I got annoyed with regular lotions, all of which made my hands redder and itchier, and tried some pure aloe gel. My hands swelled, turned an alarming shade of purple, and developed a deep, painful itch. At least I finally knew what to avoid.

     The joke's on me: I had been scratching my face at Walmart with aloe-y hands and making matters worse!

I finally attempt to make some useful points:

1) If you react to every cream, gel, lotion and hand-sanitizer you try, your problem may be aloe. 

2) Even if you are thoroughly aware of all your allergies/sensitivities and make a habit of reading all lists of ingredients, it's still so easy to slip up.


1)  Aloe is also found in almost all baby wipes. I suspect there are babies whose diaper rash gets worse the more often and more meticulously their moms change them because their problem is the aloe in the wipes. This might be a good thing for parents of babies with sensitive skin to watch out for.

2) I can barely keep my hands away from my face for 10 minutes even when I haven't got a rash or anything going on. I've got to admire hospital workers and others who every day deal with emergencies under actually difficult conditions--and can't even stop and scratch an itch.

Coming soon! Rant #2    I Can Cheat on 3 Diets at Once!

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