The smelly truth behind fragrance and why smelling good can be hazardous to your health: As someone who is an avid label reader, people often come to me and ask what my top red flags are and what they should look out for on skincare ingredients lists. I have a long list but one of the easiest ones for people to remember to avoid is the “ingredient” fragrance. That’s a nasty little monster that isn’t just ONE ingredient.
In fact fragrance is a proprietary blend of anywhere from a dozen to hundreds of chemicals combined to make your skincare smell like the ocean or flowers or whatever scent that makes you oooh and ahhh when you put your nose to it. The smelly truth behind fragrance is that companies are not required to disclose what they use in these compounds so you really have no idea what you’re spraying on your body or slathering on your skin. One independent study shared that most popular perfumes include a lot of the same chemicals used in toilet bowl cleaner!
Chanel No. 5 was one of the hundreds of perfumes that were included in this study. In fact according to BCPP ¾ of the toxic chemicals detected in a test of 140 personal care and beauty products came from fragrance. These same chemicals have been linked directly to allergens, skin rashes, hives, hormonal complications and cancer. And fragrance isn’t just in our personal care and beauty products. It’s also in our cleaning supplies, candles, air freshener, even our trash bags!
Smelling good poses a real threat to our health so why do companies continue to add it? Well that’s simple, fragrance triggers emotions. People are more inclined to buy a product that has a scent that reminds them of something they love. So what can you do you avoid fragrance?
Now that there are so many options in the green and clean beauty space where transparency in labeling is a basic rule of thumb, it’s a lot easier to avoid in your personal care and beauty products. But when it comes to household cleaning supplies etc, there are resources like EWG which hosts a database of safe cleaning products. BCPP also encourages people to buy products from brands that are committed to disclosing their ingredients lists.
A good rule of thumb is If you see the word fragrance or perfume on any label, avoid it. NOTE: All the above can also be applied to the ingredient “flavor” in our food and oral care products.