Moira’s Story: Fragrance & Formaldehyde
Owner of Earthly Roots Hair Studio
My name is Moira Brouillard, and I own a small, eco-friendly hair studio in Concord, New Hampshire called Earthly Roots Hair Studio. I’ve been a Hairstylist and Colorist for 17 years. In 2007, I realized that I had multiple chemical sensitivities. It became clear that ammonia, formaldehyde and fragrance chemicals were the main culprits to the respiratory issues I was developing. Clients also started to have symptoms and complained that their eyes or scalp were burning. For 7 years, I had trusted that the chemicals I had been using in my career were safe. I never questioned it. In cosmetology school, we weren’t educated about the toxic chemicals we would be exposed to, so it became apparent that I needed to educate myself.
I tried everything to resolve the issue. I switched over to non-ammoniated hair color and formaldehyde-free straighteners and perms. My work station had an air purifier and I had a personal air purifier around my neck. It seemed to help, but whenever a co-worker would mix color with ammonia or chemicals with formaldehyde, I would still feel ill from the fumes. The owner of the salon sympathized, and said that at times she did notice the strong smell. For the most part, though, my co-workers weren’t jumping on board.
I had become so allergic to fragrance chemicals that I struggled to work. My symptoms ranged from burning & itchy eyes, a raw throat, achy lungs, and shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, coughing, sinus headaches, and pain in my chest and heart. After careful consideration, I took the leap to start my own healthy, safe and fragrance-freesalon. In 2011, I opened Earthly Roots Hair Studio. Working for myself is stressful at times, but it is completely worth it because both my guests and I are in a healthier environment. Many of my clients have sought out my fragrance-free salon because of their own chemical sensitivities.
To this day, anything can trigger my symptoms — from perfume and Herbal Essence products, Lysol and aerosol sprays, moth balls, Yankee candles, laundry detergent and dryer sheets, to Glade plug-ins. Fragrance is so ingrained in our culture that most don’t give it a second thought, and I’ve found it very difficult to have a conversation with people about this issue and my illness. I hope that my story will help raise awareness. Toxic chemicals in fragrance have been linked to a number of health impacts ranging from eye and skin irritation to hormone imbalance and increased risk of breast cancer, and might be affecting not only your health, but the livelihoods of those around you. (You can lower your chemical exposure by ditching perfume and scented products. Try experimenting with essential oils, or go au natural!)