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What Paint should I use if I have multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS) or am Hypoallergenic, in Austin, TX?

If you’re like me, you have used paint before but couldn’t stand the smell. Little did I know when I started painting in my youth that there is toxic chemicals in the paints I was using! I have since become sensitive to exposure to these chemicals, and being a painter, have had to find safer options for myself, our team and our customers. Today, there are great options for what paint you should use if you have multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS) or are Hypoallergenic, in Austin, TX. 

If you have chemical sensitivities, you may have noticed that certain cleaning products give you a headache. Or maybe you bought a piece of new furniture, and now you feel nauseous when you are near it? This could mean that you have chemical sensitivities. Even eating certain foods can have affect on the way you feel. 

I don’t know how exactly to measure how sensitive you are, so I would suggest if you are in the market for painting, to go with a non toxic, ZERO VOC (not low voc!) Paint. There are countless studies linking exposure to VOCs and other toxins to symptoms like headache, nausea, dizziness, and impaired cognition. 

There is further data showing longer term exposure to these chemicals being linked to things like kidney and liver damage, addiction, respiratory problems, asthma, allergies, and even some prolonged impaired cognition, as well as cancer! We would recommend that you use non-toxic products as often as you can, not only when painting, but also for cleaning and for furnishing your home, buying clothes, and even food! 

Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS)

Research shows that as many as 1 in 4 people have aversions to multiple chemicals. With more things being made quicker and cheaper these days, more and more toxic chemicals are being overused and misused. Many of these chemicals are known as VOCs, or Volatile Organic Compounds. VOCs are found in things that need to dry, such as cleaning products and paints. More and more people are showing an aversion to these and other chemicals. I believe that we as a whole human race have an aversion to these chemicals, as they are known carcinogens (cancer promoting) and have other adverse health effects, it’s only people who have a reaction to them that notice it and get labeled as such. 

It really comes down to which chemicals you have a reaction to. Maybe you just haven’t been exposed to the certain chemicals yet? In any case, you should avoid using products containing VOCs and other toxins. How do you find this information? I would suggest you call the company, and in many cases, look up the SDS, or Safety Data Sheet. You do have to become a bit of an investigator, as you may or may not know which chemicals cause you to react. When possible, you should go with the most “non toxic” products you can find. For paints, there are a few certifications that can guide you in the right direction; “Cradle to cradle” & “DECLARE” are two prominent certifications. LEED certifications can depend on a number of factors and has many levels. I would always suggest talking directly to the companies and asking questions like;

  •  “what’s the voc count on this indoors?”
  • “Has this been third party tested for carcinogens?” 
  • “Is your “Zero VOC” claim third party proven?
  • “Is this hypoallergenic?”


Some people call themselves “canaries”, which is another term for people with MCS, or multiple chemical sensitivities. This aversion to chemicals can sometimes be sparked in a moment, with no warning. Exposure to toxic chemicals can be a daily experience for people, and under certain vulnerable conditions, can spark a life-long aversion.
I consider myself a “canary-light” which has made me very conscious about what I expose myself to and put in my body! I have used a number of “low voc” paints that have made my throat swell up when I slept that same night. I have noticed even some “zero voc” paints do the same thing. I have taken it upon myself to use myself as a test subject, in order to better serve our customers. 

“We are the canaries in the coal mine; what has happened to us will happen to many others unless we clean up our environment.”

This refers to the coal mining days, when the miners would take a caged canary deep into the mines with them. Canaries are naturally sensitive to chemicals like carbon monoxide and methane. If the canary kept singing, the miners kept mining. If the canary died suddenly, the miners knew it was time to evacuate. 


Hypoallergenic products are defined as products designed to reduce or minimize the possibility of an allergic response, as by containing relatively few or no potentially irritating substances. You may have heard somebody say “I’m hypoallergenic”, meaning they are likely to have a reaction to something containing harsher, less natural chemicals. If you consider yourself hypoallergenic, we highly suggest you look a little deeper into the paints you choose. 

Again, zero VOC is a baseline, but even still, what does that mean? Ask your paint provider and contractor you are hiring if the paints are “hypoallergenic”. Most will say yes, without actually knowing. A safe bet is to find a painter who specializes in hypoallergenic painting services. Non-toxic paints with a “cradle to cradle”  or “DECLARE” certification can usually be considered hypoallergenic and safe for you to use.

 What Paint should I use if I have multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS) or am Hypoallergenic, in Austin, TX?

All the safety data sheets in the world will not give you the honest information that you can just by experimenting, lightly. I have had good and bad success with having customers smell certain paints. I personally have not had any issues using Romabio, ECOS Paints (all non toxic!), EnviroSafe ZERO VOC Paints, and even Benjamin Moore’s NATURA line. But like I said before, I consider myself canary-light. We do take extra precautions regardless of the paints we use with adequate ventilation as well as using fans and air-movers, to maintain good clean air-flow. We use filters and air movers when spraying paints, to ensure clean, paint free air gets moved and replaced quickly.

So far, from working with a few canaries, we have had the best success, equally, with ECOS Paints and the locally made EnviroSafe Zero VOC Paints. These are both great options with beautiful finishes. Murco, another local company that is distributed nationwide, makes drywall joint compound that is hypoallergenic. Murco also makes a hypoallergenic line of paints. I have not yet used them, but have heard great things!

If you have any questions regarding safe paints to use, or want to discuss a painting project, you can book an estimate here!


Nicholas Painter

Brush & Color Painting



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