Yes, I know that fragrance actually has 9 letters, not 4, but the point here is that fragrance is actually something that is bad for your health. On top of that it’s in virtually everything we use – lotion, face and personal care products, household cleaners, laundry detergent, dryer sheets, perfume, candles, shampoo, sunscreen…
You see “fragrance” listed on virtually everything, and unfortunately this seemingly benign ingredient is anything but, and in fact it can be incredibly dangerous, possibly the most dangerous ingredient in the entire personal care/beauty industry. Fragrance is a catch all term, which can contain (or hide) a number of ingredients that are all allowed to be bundled under the one term, fragrance. Many personal care product companies hide and bundle ingredients under this blanket phrase, so that they don’t have to disclose the true ingredients that they use to make their products.
So, why does it matter to you, why should you care you just want to smell nice? Well, most of the chemicals that make up fragrance are hormone (endocrine) disrupters, are carcinogenic (could cause cancer), and are not good for your health, especially for the growing population of folks with asthma.
“Phthalates, used to make fragrances last longer, are associated damage to the male reproductive system, and artificial musks accumulate in our bodies and can be found in breast milk. Some artificial musks are even linked to cancer. And if you’ve got asthma, watch out– fragrance formulas are considered to be among the top 5 known allergens, and can trigger asthma attacks. The same kinds of chemicals are often used for fragrances in cleaning products, scented candles, and air fresheners.” — EWG, What is Fragrance
To date, the term “fragrance” has been protected as a trade secret, but it’s often used to hide ingredients that you wouldn’t want to put on (or in) your body. Remember that 60% of what you put ON your skin, goes IN your skin. The personal care industry is only regulated by a 2 page law, that’s only a couple hundred words governing a $62 Billion dollar industry and that’s only the personal care products. We need to vote with our dollars to tell the industry we want more transparency and we want to know what is in the products that we use on our bodies every day. Unilever just announced it will start disclosing it’s fragrance ingredients which is huge since they are such a large company (including brands you know like Dove, Lever 2000, Axe, Ponds, Vaseline, and more).
This is one of the (many) reasons I’ve fallen in love with Beautycounter, and decided that I want to help share the mission to educate folks on the dangers of what is in their personal care products. One of the amazing things that Beautycounter does is that they are fully transparent about everything that the put in all of their products, and adhere to an amazingly strict ingredient selection process making sure that every product is safe and high performing. Beautycounter has been going to Washington, advocating for this change, but having a big brand like Unilever also start to disclose fragrance ingredients will hopefully (positively) peer pressure other brands to do the same – allowing us to be more informed and hopefully safer!
If you think you’re fragrance free, double check! I’ve learned to take my ingredient reading skills that I’ve honed from switching to eating cleanly to also look at all of the ingredients in everything else! Aren’t convinced, take the challenge to read everything you can and tally up the number of times you see fragrance in the items you use every day!
If you’re still wearing perfume or body spray, I hate to break it to you, but it’s probably damaging your health – and the health of others around you! Maybe there is a reason why pregnant ladies have such a keen sense of smell, our bodies are trying to tell us to avoid things that are toxic! I’m not going to tell you what to do, but I can tell you what I do for products that I want to be scented – I use products that are lightly scented with safe ingredients which tend to be high quality essential oils, and use essential oils with a carrier oil instead of perfume. It’s amazing how much more sensitive I am to smells now that I’m not surrounded by such strong ones all day, everyday.
So what questions about fragrance do you have? How many products do you use that have fragrance listed as an ingredient? What one small change are you going to make today, to help reduce your exposure to fragrance?