WHAT is “fragrance?”
Well, for starters it is the #1 chemical to avoid in skin products.
More than 95 percent of the chemicals in synthetic fragrances are derived from petrochemicals. These chemicals include: benzene derivatives, aldehydes, phthalates, and a slew of other known toxins that are capable of causing cancer, birth defects, nervous-system disorders and allergies—some of which are cited on the EPA’s hazardous waste list.
Environmental Working Group (EWG) researchers found more than 75 percent of products listing the ingredient “fragrance” contained phthalates, which have been shown to disrupt hormone activity, reduce sperm counts, and cause reproductive malformation, and have been linked to liver and breast cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Fragrance can also cause inflammation in the skin (which leads to aging) and even trigger asthma and allergies. Additionally, studies by Dr. Philip J. Landrigan of the Mount Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center, link fetal exposure with autism, ADHD, and neurological disorders. So fragrence can be especially dangerous for expecting mothers.
In May 1999, in response to repeated complaints of respiratory, neurological, and other toxic effects following the use of Calvin Klein’s Eternity perfume, the Environmental Health Network of California hired two testing laboratories to identify the ingredients in the perfume. Analysis of these results by the Cancer Prevention Coalition, summarized in the author’s 2009 Toxic Beauty book, reveal the following:
26 ingredients whose “Toxicological properties have not been investigated,” or “toxicology properties have not been thoroughly investigated.”
- 25 ingredients that are “Irritants.”
- 5 ingredients that are “Skin sensitizers,” or allergens.
- 3 ingredients that show “Fetal, hormonal, and reproductive toxicity.”
- 2 ingredients that “May cause cancer.”
Despite fragrance known to be potentially dangerous, it is still not even required by law for companies to disclose the specific ingredients used to produce these fragrances. In the U.S., manufacturers can legally hide hundreds of synthetic chemicals in the one word—“fragrance”—without revealing what those ingredients are.
Many of us work hard to make good food choices—such as eating organic and avoiding hormones and GMOs—and we read nutrition labels. But how many of us read the labels of our bottles, sprays, and jars. Well with fragrance it is even more difficult, as it can even be found in products marked “unscented”. Even if the front label screams “fragrance-free,” products can still contain fragrance ingredients as a masking agent to cover unpleasant chemical smells.
Fragrances made out of “essential oils” can also be a problem because a lot of oils are adulterated and contaminated with chemicals, while some essential oils are not even natural, instead consisting of man-made ingredients and scents; fragrant oils. For instance, if you find a company claiming to use 100% natural watermelon or pineapple fragrances derived from oils, they may only be telling half the truth; there are no 100% natural watermelon or pineapple essential oils that smell like most people would want. These are fragrance oils man made to smell like watermelon or pineapple. It may seem sexy and natural, but it is far from it. It is really important to do research on a cosmetic company to find out how they are sourcing essential oils and choose products that don’t have the ingredients labeled “fragrance” or “parfum”.
The only way to really know the truth is to read the labels! If a manufacturer isn’t willing to list ALL of a product’s ingredients on its label, we must ask why?
With all of the research we have and the incredible knowledge readily available today, we must ask ourselves why we continue to subject ourselves to these unhealthy, and potentially dangerous ingredients. Brands have also done an amazing job in creating 100% natural products that smell and feel great.