Fragrance is Everywhere

Fragrance can be found in most personal care and household products. It is used abundantly in perfume and in every single type of skincare, personal care and cleaning product ranging from hairspray to dishwashing liquid. These fragrances tend to be created via synthetic and chemical methods (barring genuine organic and natural products that use either no fragrance or only pure essential oils for scent).

Chemically derived scents are cheap and are very easy to produce. They motivate us to buy the products, as we all respond well to attractive scenting. That’s why the personal care industry uses an overwhelming amount of synthetic fragrance with one single objective in mind: to boost sales.

The problem here is that thousands of chemically-created ingredients end up in these products, which we absorb via our skin or through inhalation. These may be either known irritants or allergens, or have unknown potential side effects.

Matt Mands, Flickr

Trade Secrets and Insufficient Regulation

Fragrance is a special type of ingredient, which perfumiers and other personal care manufacturers are not always required to disclose. Ingredients may be protected from disclosure as they qualify as “trade secrets”. Therefore, hundreds of chemicals can be disguised as “fragrance”, “perfume”, “linalool” and “limonene”. The International Fragrance Association (IFRA), which has over 100 members manufacturing perfume & fragrance all around the world, keeps lobbying for the protection of the formulas of perfumes and scented products, under the proviso of “trade secrets”.

As a consequence of the lobby activity from organisations like the IFRA and manufacturers, there is no federal regulation regarding the disclosure of the ingredients used to create scents of cosmetics, personal care and household cleaning products in the United States. The European Union is somewhat stricter in regulating the use of fragrances. It restricts the use of nitromusks and other synthetics. It requires manufacturers to use warnings on products if their scenting formula contains any of 26 known and commonly used allergens.

Research Shows…

Scientific research has been conducted on several occasions on perfumes and fragrances, by independent organisations. Their results tend to be alarming.

Most recently the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics – a non-profit organisation – completed an analysis of 17 popular perfumes, including well-known brand names. The research found that a range of chemical ingredients is included in these top-selling perfumes, without such being listed on labels. Further, several ingredients were found to have the potential to trigger allergic reactions and cause hormone disruption.

The research found alarming results, including the identification of ten sensitizing chemicals associated with allergic reactions like asthma, wheezing, headaches and contact dermatitis.  As well as four hormone-disrupting ingredients linked to sperm damage, thyroid disruption and cancer, in the analysed perfumes.

The alarming results of the research conducted by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics implies that thousands of other fragrances may contain the same or similar harmful ingredients, without any listing on their labels. Products ranging from perfume and body spray to hair spray, dyes, air fresheners, scented candles, shampoos, soaps, perfumes and cleaning products can all contain such items.

What to Do?

Given that regulations do not require manufacturers to list many of the potentially harmful chemicals used in these products, it is a prudent idea to ditch cosmetics, personal care and household cleaning products that are synthetic. However, that’s easier to say than to do, as we are all swamped with chemically-manufactured products. To help you filter down your synthetic products, here are a few tips that you may wish to consider:

  • Get rid of your synthetic perfumes. Opt for natural brands using pure essential oils extracted via a cold pressing process, without the use of solvents.
  • Choose genuinely natural or organic skincare and personal care products with no scent, whenever possible.
  • Go for natural, ecologically friendly and home-made cleaning methods.
  • Choose natural beeswax candles instead of commercial, fragranced candles to scent your home.

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