How to Get Fragrance Free Glasses!

Earlier, this year, I wrote about ‘Doubling up on Chemical Exposures for the Sake of Convenience‘. Odd title, I know but—as I found out from that post—that’s just what so many of us do when there’s an appointment to go to: we double up, even triple up. (Wrongly, so wrongly, some of us can’t go out at all, even.) On that day, I didn’t want to drag myself anywhere, let alone somewhere where I’d be standing in a room with other people who would most likely be wearing fragrances and other spray type products. And I was right. They were! My eyes stung, caustically. And as I moved my mouth to speak, the 3M mask allowed fragrance chemicals through sides that don’t seal tight enough around my face: the shitty taste of Armani-like fragrance, followed by the smell, infiltrated my senses; but not before swiftly kicking three weeks of good health into the gutter.

The moment I got out of there, which turned out to be only thirty long minutes later, after walking out passed the building’s exit, passed the miniature chimneys of smoke coming from people sucking on cigarettes furiously giving head to their frustrations, I made a beeline for my car. While still parked in the disabled parking zone, I took off my mask, pulled a clean set of clothes, including an army jacket, from a bag I’d packed earlier, and proceeded to change clothes by pulling the new items over the top of my body, while sliding off the perfume contaminated ones underneath. (Talented, I know.) The best way to stop the exposure was to remove the clothing that was covered in the fragrance chemicals causing it.

Once I had a ‘clean’ set of clothes, I took a spray bottle of water kept in the car for times just like this, and cleansed my skin, wiping any fragrance residue away with tissues. I checked my face in the rear-vision mirror: Yep! The tell-tale red rash in the shape of a butterfly was stinging its wingspan across my face. Oh well, may as well make the most of this and head to the shops, I thought. As I grabbed a fresh mask from the old Weetbix tin that’s kept in the back seat of my car, the old thrill of going shopping cursed through my veins: I wanted to go to Target, even though I had no reason. (It had been more than nine months. And after finishing Part 1 of my interview with Kathryn Treat, where we discussed going to Target while chemically sensitive, I had been fantasying about such a trip!) No plan to buy anything in particular. Just allow myself to be carried along by impulsivity for a change. (A dangerous pursuit for someone with MCS).

My partner, Dan, used to be a typical male (Is that sexist to say?), not enjoying shopping unless there was method behind the madness, but now, things have changed: he encourages me because he knows that if I want to go into a polluted building, it’s because I’m either on the mend or not had a chemical exposure for some time (we’re not sure, it could be both, but we embrace this opportunity, anyway). Purely on a whim, we ended up in the Waurn Ponds branch of OPSM (an optometrist and glasses shop), instead of Target.

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No, it’s not a stick up!

It’s been eight years since I last bought a pair of reading glasses, while also getting my eyesight re-checked. I’d been due for the last two years: my DKNY sturdy black frames had cracks along the ear pieces. They rubbed, scratching their way into irritation that I managed to ignore. I’d fantasised many times about going to the Optometrists but kept putting it off, all because I had to find a new one, doing the ol’ Will-you-go-fragrance-free-for-me? dance. My last Optometrist was in Rosebud, a whole boat ride on a diesel ferry away from where I live. You know when you have to go to the trouble of organising staff to be fragrance free so that they can attend to you by actually peering into your face at close range, it’s easy to ignore scratches behind your ears…

Well, no longer. Here I was in OPSM trying on glasses, while my partner was busy explaining to the shop attendant how I had fragrance allergies and it’d be best if she didn’t get too close. And guess what happened? No, she wasn’t dripping in Britney Spears or Charleze Theron, but she did tell us she wasn’t wearing any sprays because she didn’t like them. And, she was friendly, too; treating me as if I didn’t even have this weirdo mask plastered to my face. I immediately stopped being the freak I’ve succumbed into feeling like: a result of being teased, commented on and/or laughed at while shopping (another reason—although minuscule compared to an illness caused by chemicals—to avoid visiting the shops). I felt at ease, asking if they had any glasses the same as my old trusty pair of faithfuls. She had better than that: she had the same DNKY black-rimmed glasses but with bright pink accents running along the edges of the black frames. And the glass area was bigger, too, giving me a larger scope of peripheral vision!


Dan found a pair of sunglasses that could have my script fitted into them. I would never have chosen this particular brand, not just because of the price (although, we got them discounted due to a health fund) but because they are Prada: almost too Milano-I’m-dripping-in-Armani looking.  And bug eyed! However, the shape is extraordinarily special because they wrap right around, blocking out not only the sun, but also any wind. And, they can protect my eyes from getting fragrance in them when I walk in public spaces. When that happens, they dry, they sting, and it’s just another level of exposure I have to put up with if I want to go somewhere.

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I settled on those two pairs, and made an appointment to see an Optometrist during a time when it could be arranged for them to not be wearing any sprays or scents. We made it for first thing in the morning so that I wouldn’t be in a cloud of another customer’s cologne or hairspray. The staff also attached a note to the technicians so they could give me brand new glasses rather than the ones from the shop that had been tried on by Who Knows wearing Who Knows What; and, most thoughtfully, they wrote instructions on the paperwork for them not to be cleaned with fragrances or any sprays or any cleaning solutions. I hadn’t thought of this.


The extra trouble they went to meant that I didn’t have to air out my new specks, and it negated the possibility of not being able to use them, ever!, because they had become contaminated by known airway and eye irritants.


So I went back a week later, had my eyes checked, finding out that there’s no change to my prescription: Still a slight astigmatism, and a little bit of scar tissue from some old sun damage. The last optometrist said this scar tissue was caused by irritation from inhaling chemicals that caused inflammation, but it’s good to know it’s actually caused from the sun but it’s chemical exposures (particularly fragrance) that flares it up. I get a red line going across my eye that stings like crazy. It’s always the left eye that cops it worse. And, often, it’s only the left eye that’s left stinging and burning like someone dragged a hot knife over my eyeball from side to side. It’s great to know I can prevent this from getting worse by wearing sunglasses when outside.


Bug-eyed Melfie

(Speaking of being outside in the sun: I have some awesome news, I’m able to spend time, like hours!, out on my front balcony, in the sunshine and fresh air (Hello, Vitamin D that’s not in a capsule!). This is a breakthrough because when I first moved here, I couldn’t sit outside for long because each time a car or truck went passed (400 metres away) the fumes would come up and totally gas me. Now, I can’t even feel it, nor can I smell it. Sometimes it might be one of those (polluting-scum-bag) cars or trucks that blow out dirty exhaust and then, yes, I have to move inside. I know from previous experience, this is a sign of healing. I’ll share some more about my success and what I’ve been doing asap…)

You know, I found the Optometrist and staff at Waurn Ponds OPSM to be really friendly, fragrance free (upon request) and willing to go out of normal procedure to accommodate my needs. (Check out their use of cotton gloves for handling my goggles; their idea, not mine.) I’ll definitely be going back, in possibly about another eight years when it’s time to get new specs!

Things You Can Try to Do This Too:
  • Ask for an appointment with an Optometrist who is willing to go fragrance free
  • Wear a mask if you need to, even two! (Or one mask with a cotton scarf layered over the top like I did!)
  • Tell them not to clean with any sprays on the day of your appointment
  • And not to clean your glasses with any cleaners with any ingredients that could impact on your health (for me, I just say: fragrances, solvents and petrochemicals)
  • Take cotton gloves for them to use to handle your glasses with
  • Ask them to include the gloves, and instructional note, to the laboratory where they will go to
  • If you face any resistance, explain that they are blocking your access to goods and services based on a disability; or, just go somewhere else (can you really trust someone who finds it such a pain in the rectum to have to help others, especially when they are being paid to do so?)
  • If you are house-bound due to having environmental controls in place (practicing chemical avoidance as your main treatment) and already have a prescription for your glasses, then you could possibly buy them online (see links below)

Share: do you have any handy techniques for getting items like reading glasses from buildings polluted by fragrance chemicals? When was your last eye check up? Can you access appropriate care (a basic human right) that we all need?


Sonda’s visit to get new glasses

Two places where you can buy glasses online in Australia

Sneaking Duck


Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

Doubling up on Chemical Exposures for the Sake of Convenience

This type of photo is called a 'Melfy': picture one takes of self wearing a mask :)

This type of photo is called a ‘Melfy’: picture one takes of self wearing a mask :)

Today is doomsday. Nah, just kidding. But hyperbole can help make light of seemingly dire circumstances… I have an appointment, one I can’t avoid, and I know I’m going to have a fragrance exposure of mass proportions. I have my mask; I’ve organised to be the first one seen; and I can wait in a room set aside for people with disabilities. The nature of this appointment is private so I won’t bore you with the salacious details (deliberately oxymoronic statement, right there!); however, I will tell you it’s at a place where people dress to impress (or not) and spray who knows what on thinking that is the nature of lasting impression. The last time I went there, it took two weeks to recover. Perhaps this time, I’ll be lucky.

The good thing about having an appointment where I’ll be exposed to fragrances, solvents and petrochemicals fuming from the general population’s choice of personal care products, is that I can schedule to go to other places as well. Call that crazy, maybe. But as I see it, I rarely go anywhere anymore where I know I may get sick; such is the pattern developed by people told by their doctors to practice avoidance behaviour around chemicals known to impact on their health; so I often take the opportunity to double or triple up. This way, I already have fragrance all over me. I’m sick, already. I’m wearing a mask. And I’ll need to wash my hair, air my clothes (before washing them, too), and start the recovery process, dealing with come what may. So why not hit the shops? Nick into the Optometrist to get my glasses straightened.

Today, I feel great. I’m not suffering any symptoms. I’m wearing a killer pair of strappy clogs, a grey high-waisted business skirt, a loose houndstooth shirt. My hair is in a bun (thanks to Lilla Rose) and I’ve penciled my eyebrows into a fashionable arch. Do I look sick?


I think not. Will I end up wrecked today? Chances are, yes. If I get out of the first appointment unscathed, my plan is to go for a bush walk at Anglesea Heath. If I’m sick, well then, I’ll go to Target (just quickly) and pick up some panty hose (cause that’s what’s missing in this carefully-thought-out outfit of professionalism!), and then Bunnings to treat myself to a new Bonsai for my collection.

Do you ever double up on getting exposed to chemicals because 1), it makes life more convenient, and/or 2) you’re going to get sick anyway so you may as well get shit done while this is happening!?

PS: Personally, I love my outfit, and yes, it makes me feel—in a cliched type of way—a million dollars; but once I put my mask on and wool scarf over the top of that, it only kind of ruins it. Oh well, ho hum, it’s off I go today…



The Labyrinth: How to Have a Low Chemical Car

Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

The Day I Fell in Love… with a font

One day in June, 2014:

It was a rainy, damp day. Mould spores were antagonising my sinuses; and as I ruminated on the pain throbbing it’s three month long beat: boom, da boom, boom, along the bridge of my nose, piercing its un-relentless way into the bones of my face, forehead and cheekbones, I pulled a snotty piece of cotton wool from my left nostril, and, tugging a clean piece of cotton wool from an organic tampon, rolled it into a ball, and proceeded to shove it up my nose, in effect, replacing the old ‘nostril plug’ with a clean one.

The pain had been going on since April; and my left nostril had been plugged up with cotton wool (the cotton from a tampon was the only cotton wool I could find that didn’t release the fumes of bleach into my already inflamed nostril). There was no defining event that caused the pain. Nothing I could blame, apart from myself for being in constant agony. I had an appointment with an Ear Nose and Throat specialist coming up, but it was another month away, I’d become to accept the solemn, cacophony of pain.

It was a school day and, as I applied my mascara, ready to be on my way to Victoria University, I wondered why the hell I was doing this to myself. The 2 hour drive through traffic; the anxiety of wondering if I could stay in class (due to there, hopefully, being no air-borne fragrances forcing me to leave); the sinus pain made worse by the pressure of the mask I needed to wear to protect my upper respiratory system; the possibility of exposures that may take days to recover from; the guaranteed 24 hours needed to recover from the drive alone. Just thinking about all this was exhausting! Realising it was about to happen was producing anxiety. And the pain (did I mention the pain?) was pissing me off…

First up, I had ‘Editing II’ class where we were learning the ins and outs of the publishing industry. That went well, the tick sheet was all ticked in my favour: the whole class stated they weren’t wearing any spray deodorants or fragrances. And I could stay. I removed my mask, was greeted with air only permeated by carpet fumes, and washing powder residues; I turned the air filters up, and completed my work, took notes, then left class feeling like a *normal human being partaking of student life on campus.

Second up, I was in the library’s Perfume Free room with author, K A Cook; aka my mate, Kim. We were going over fonts, trying to work out which one would be best for the PDF version of my book. Smashwords only allowed a few stilted styles, but that day, Kim gave me a quick lesson on Typography. Font Ninja that they are, my mind soaked up a squelch of useful learnings. And then… It happened: I met Nymphette; and this was ‘The Day I Fell in Love… with a font’!

Adobe Garamond Pro; Adobe Sans Source Pro… these were all beautiful. But after I met Nymphette, and just about lost my mind over the most minute details, I was smitten.

The Nymphette scrolls: the perfect minutiae

The Nymphette scrolls: the perfect minutiae

As you can see, it’s not even an alphabetised font; it’s more a stylised set of calligraphic swirls, symbolic of feelings, perhaps: dainty, gay, pretty, artsy: all adjectives I’d use to describe Nymphette. It’s the kind of typography that makes me think of a painter taking a brush, and with several flicks of the wrist, creating a hidden alphabet that means different meanings to different people who mean to read it differently and get different meanings because how can it mean anything else? It’s just so different.

Nymphette can be found for free over at Font Squirrel. Thanks, Font Squirrel; you’ve changed my life. Forevermore, your lovely Nymphette will support my book title in the header of my pages; and in the footer, Nymphette will cradle my author name, Mischa van Loder, along with my page numbers.

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Love = Nymphette

My eBooking lessons with Kim have paid me dividends in skills I will use for life. Books have been my best friends since I was a child; and to be able to create a real live book (as opposed to the miniature ones I’d staple together as a child), is a dream come true. To sit alongside someone who has mastered so much and is able to articulate their mastery in a manner that’s easy to model, is a wonderful gift. Thanks Kim. Thanks VU.

Ergo, along with the positive comes a negative. Such is the zen-like duality of everything. Every single word I read is now done with an air of judgement. What font is that? How dare they use Papyrus? Don’t they realise it’s screaming: unprofessional? Then, while driving to the library at VU the other day: “Yes, yes, this graphic designer must of adjusted the kerning to fit that phrase onto that van.” (Yes, these are the type of thoughts I’m thinking about at traffic lights.) I am consumed by fonts. Design. Photography: all morphing in with the words agitating around my head, waiting to spill out onto a computer screen.

The semester has finished. I have my Diploma, Yet, I’m still creating my way to some type of success, Usually, this time of year, I’m in relax-sit-on-my-bed-binging-on-movies type of mode; but no, I’m still working on another eBook. And each Thursday I still make my way to the perfume free room at the library so I can continue being a normal person with a purpose.

To be consumed by typography is a beautiful thing. To be consumed by anything is a beautiful thing when life just feels like it’s too much to bare. And for that, I’m really grateful.

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*Normal describes a state of mind one has when comparing themselves to others who they perceive to be normal (aka neuro-typical)

(One day in September, my partner found our kitchen sink was blocked with black mould. Within a few days of cleaning it and airing it out, my nostril began to heal. Fiddle dee dee! I hate mould!)


K A Cook: Three Simple Words: I’m an Author

Free Fonts!: Font Squirrel


Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

Information, products and views presented by guest bloggers @The Labyrinth are not necessarily the same as those held by this blog's author, Michellina van Loder. Reviews are my own personal opinions (unless stated otherwise); and satire is used throughout personal posts. Any health topics discussed are not to be taken as medical advice. Seek out medical attention if needed and do your own research; however, you're welcome to use mine as a start.
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