A Response to Mary Duggan

(For those just now tuning in, click on the links in the first  paragraph to get caught up…the “impassioned response” one is quite long; you might want to get a nice cup of organic herbal tea and settle in if you choose to actually read all of it…)

A Response to Mary Duggan, President of Duggan Sisters

I am honestly beyond stunned that my complimentary mention and linking of your company in a post that wasn’t even fundamentally about your company or products should promote such an impassioned response. I commented and made some adjustments on the original post, which you can see if you click over there, but I do wish to respond more fully here.

I do not feel the need to answer your accusations with a point by point rebuttal, as the vast majority of them required a highly subjective interpretation of my writing to even infer that I was implying what you say I was implying, and others seem made up out of whole cloth.  As I said on my comment at the Green Phone Booth, I trust readers to be able to tell who is blogging with integrity and who is attacking whom.  I will write a fuller post at The Green Phone Booth on Monday, my normal day to post there, addressing your condescension toward those of us who take joy in knowing how to homecraft our own products and sharing that knowledge with others of the same bent; it is an attitude with which many Boothers and readers are familiar, and I’m sure they will want to weigh in as well.

I did want to ask a couple of specific questions and concerns, ones I did not mention on the original Green Phone Booth post, though. These were concerns I had following our first conversation at the spa but which I chose not to explore in the initial post, primarily because the post was not really about your company, your products, or your deodorant, but also because I did not feel it was appropriate to bring criticism against your company in that particular forum. But in for a penny, I guess…

Mostly I am confused about the essential oils you use in your formulations. Your site says that the proper sifting of the product is important to avoid burning, but if the stinkstick is likewise pure essential oils, wouldn’t that have the same danger of burning? I had always been taught never to use undiluted essential oils on the skin as the most basic premise of aromatherapy, as they can cause sensitization (See this article for reference), and also that straight bicarbonate can cause irritation, which is why many people mix it with cornstarch or arrowroot in their formulations.  I’m especially concerned by your assertion on your site that if a rash occurs while using the product, one should keep using it through the “detox” phase which causes the rash; this is a claim that I can’t find documentation for anywhere (I looked especially on Dr. Mercola’s site, since I know you respect him so highly), and it flies in the face of everything I have ever been taught. Can you give me background on this? Even your mention of Raindrop Therapy (with its widely published dangers—had you read this paper?) makes me both confused and honestly a little wary. I know you have a lot of education and certification; I really wish you could add some links to authors and studies on your site to help people understand where your practices come from and on what they are based.

I am also not a chemist, and I also do not play one on TV. I am a musician, and my chemistry professor parents have despaired for years at where this non-science-minded kid came from. But I know enough to know this: Everything is chemistry. The fact that flour, water, and yeast can become bread, or oil and water emulsify into lotion, or the pectin in peach skin turn cooked peaches into jam at 218 degrees Fahrenheit—it’s all chemistry.  You say that you are not trained in chemistry but in naturopathic medicine, which “focuses on healing through herbal compounds, among other techniques, none of them chemically derived.” Herbal compounds, or the distillation process of flower alkaloids into essential oil, or the way those oils affect the outer layer of the human epidermis, or the way sodium bicarbonate reacts with human perspiration—all chemistry. A knowledge of basic chemistry and natural science are crucial to what you do as a certified practitioner of naturopathic medicine. So I really hope I misunderstood you here.

A few of the things I was pretty sure you said to me in our initial conversation didn’t match with my research afterward: You told me in our initial conversation that there was no aluminum-free bicarbonate available on the market. (The bugging out of my eyes in that instance was incredulity as much as surprise—and in this case, the incredulity seems to have been well-founded.)  This is no longer true; Bob’s Red Mill, a really superb company, sells aluminum-free bicarbonate.  Even Arm and Hammer asserts strongly and publicly that their product has no aluminum in it, though the debate on that continues; most of those aware of the issue simply avoid that particular brand, as do I. You also verbally (and again in your post) told me that Dr. Mercola has condemned potassium alum deodorants as “dangerous.” I could find no such claim on his site, although he does suggest that it would be “prudent to avoid” using them. (Which I now do, by the way.) And finally, your post says that you sell the “only green deodorant on the market.” In only a few minutes of research I was able to find companies like WeledaAubreyErbavivaBubble and Bee, and others (source here— they produce very pure, natural, environmentally conscious deodorants. I’m not saying they are better than yours, just that they seem to have as much right to the label of “green” as yours does.

Again, I hope you can see these questions not as a personal attack but as the opportunity to clarify your position on these issues, since they are the kind of questions that educated lay-people are likely to ask. But only if you wish. If not, I am content to let things lie and simply acknowledge that you and I come from very different paradigms of learning, healing, and wholeness. I do not wish ill for your business any more now than when I wrote that little post 7 months ago praising what you are trying to do.

In any case, I’m afraid my order for your deodorant is not something you should expect to see any time soon.  I make my own. It works beautifully. And costs about $8 a year.

I wish you well,



Posted on August 19, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Wow. I read both pieces, and I hadn’t seen the original piece of a criticism beyond the cost. Just as there are clothes and purses for every price range, so are there green solutions!

  2. Whew! I just finished the IMPASSIONED RESPONSE” and like Clarissa, I don’t think I can improve on what Jenn had to say. Tho I might add that Mary Duggan made 2 separate references to her Certification focus on “Breast and Prostrate Health”. I would think that she would know the difference between “prostate” and “prostrate” so I have to wonder what “prostrate health” is! Am I missing something?
    Certainly I don’t see how Jenn’s original posting could be construed as an attack on their business at all. Methinks the Mary protesteth too much!

    • (Shh! I saw that too, but was polite enough not to comment on it.)

      (It’s nowhere near as funny as being in church and hearing the reader get up and tell how Abraham fell prostate before the Lord…)


  3. an addendum to my previous comment: I have never heard of baking SODA containing aluminum. Some brands of baking POWDER do, however. Baking SODA is sodium bicarbonate. Baking POWDER is baking soda plus either Alum (which contains the aluminum) or tartaric acid. Both of the added ingredients are the acidic components of baking powder that cause the sodium bicarbonate to release carbon dioxide to make the batter rise.

    • GM–there’s a lot of debate about this; the most sensible hypothesis I’ve found is that aluminum leaches into the bicarb from the containers, though the companies don’t actually put any aluminum into their soda…but it’s all very fuzzy and no one seems to have actually, like, sampled cans and boxes of A&H to see if there is metal in there.

  4. Honestly I could not get through all her impassioned response. After reading your original post Jenn, I was a bit confused at what Mary Duggan could have been upset about. It was a positive post and well- we’re all allowed to have our own opinions about product safety.

    Her response completely implied, like your response indicated Jenn, a level of condescension towards the consumer. This type of attitude of ‘I’m the expert because of my various degrees and if you disagree with something I say that’s because you just can’t understand’ irritates the crap out of me.

    As a consumer, without third party certification we have the right to understand what we’re purchasing. Unfortunately with today’s society of greenwashing and various questionable practices, it’s important to be able to back up your claims. Just because I don’t have a specific degree doesn’t mean that I don’t have the intelligence to understand how a product works. Her response was so filled with ire it was insulting and difficult to read.

    I can understand that providing research for every little statement can be difficult and time consuming (and not appropriate for all consumers, if you don’t have the background in education, sometimes interpreting articles and research is tricky)- and I can understand the frustration of having people question your every statement (as a Speech-Language Pathologist I sometimes get this from parents- if they don’t believe my ‘expert’ opinion then why did they come to see me? that said, i NEVER treat them so condescendingly), however as a business in the environmental industry you *should* be prepared to back your crap up and completely willing to HAPPILY do so.

    ok- and to the actual POINT of your first article: I think there should be a balance. Often I see many products where I feel that the price is warranted, I just can’t afford it. I can recognize the work and care, but since my economic situation doesn’t allow to invest in that work, I don’t buy.
    That said, I do feel there are other products that could be made at home for much less money, just involving time. If you have the time and it works out- i don’t see how that should impinge on another businesses bottom line. They sell their products to people who don’t have time or the resources to make that product, and have the money to buy it.

    anyhoo- sorry for the long comment, i LOVE your response and support your position fully.

  5. Jenn – I really like what you do here on your blog. You are honest and upfront. Please continue to write as you do.

    I went ahead and read their response because I always like to examine all sides of a disagreement before coming to a conclusion. Their response was condescending and left me feeling as if they were trying to manipulate my emotions to support them. A complete turn off for ever purchasing anything from their company.

    While I do make my own deodorant, there are other green products that I happily purchase from small businesses such as this because I do not have the equipment, supplies or time to make them. I love finding new companies who are worthy of support. I hope the Duggan Sisters realize that attitude towards customers is equally, if not more, important than the product they make. I will never be purchasing a product from them no matter how wonderful it may be.

    • Jennifer–

      I actually buy a lot of products from small businesses too, whenever I can, and not infrequently because I either don’t have time/equipment to do it myself or, by extension, because I have tried to make it and either failed or realized that making it myself is MUCH more difficult than I’m willing to expend the time and energy for. It’s actually given me a huge appreciate for these companies and what they do. (Have you ever made cheese? Wow. I respect cheesemakers even more now than ever before!) Thanks for the supportive comments!

  6. And Yogini–you nailed it in your comment too, there are a lot of things I think are worth the price charged for them that I just don’t feel I need to (or am able to) buy. And don’t apologize for long comments–I love hearing from you!

  1. Pingback: Deodorant, Autism, and Green Businesses « Clarissa's Blog

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