Many people think that FRAGRANCE is quite harmless. It smells good to them and they enjoy it. So how could fragrance be bad for you? Let me explain....
“Parfum”, "Perfume", "Fragrance oils" aka Fragrance, used to be made solely by extracting natural oils from plants through pressing & steam distillation [essential oils]. The pure, unadulterated essence of a plant in its natural state (with nothing added to or taken away from it) which had been used since ancient times. It's really not just a hippy thing!
Today's fragrances however are mainly made from synthetic chemicals. 95% of the chemicals used to make fragrances are derived from petroleum or natural raw materials known as petrochemicals. Petrochemicals can have detrimental effects on our bodies and some people (like myself) are extremely sensitive to these fragrances having various reactions... some are life threatening. For this reason Fragrance is known to some as the other F - word!
Did you know companies don't have to disclose the ingredients they use to create their fragrances?
The chemical components which companies use to make their fragrances are protected as trade secrets even though 95% of the chemicals are linked to serious health problems! The government has allowed a loophole in the Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1973, which requires companies to list cosmetics ingredients on the product labels but explicitly exempts fragrance. So this means companies can get away with using harmful synthetic chemicals as ingredients!
Why should you be concerned about fragrance?
Petrochemicals used to make fragrance can accumulate in our bodies (bioaccumulation). Petrochemicals can cause cancer, hormone/endocrine disruption (these systems control just about every function of your body), tons of reproductive issues including miscarriage and infertility, developmental toxicity, trouble sleeping and/or concentrating, memory issues like forgetfulness, neurological issues including migraine headaches, loss of coordination, nausea and abdominal pain, eye nose and throat irritation along with other respiratory symptoms like allergies and asthmas, neurotoxic symptoms like depression & anxiety and they can cause sensitivities too. What's even more frustrating is that current laws do not provide the FDA with the authority to require disclosure or public safety of fragrance ingredients. In the U.S., companies are required to list ingredients on the label; however, this regulation excludes the individual ingredients of fragrance in order to preserve fragrance trade secrets.
What is Fragrance found in?
Fragrance is found in most candles, air fresheners and room sprays, cleaning and laundry care products, perfumes and colognes, body care and hair care, lotions and creams, deodorant, skincare, makeup and more. Unfortunately there are very few companies nowadays you can trust. Laboratory tests commissioned by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and analyzed by Environmental Working Group revealed, "38 secret chemicals in 17 name brand fragrance products. The average fragrance product tested contained 14 secret chemicals not listed on the label. Among them are chemicals associated with hormone disruption and allergic reactions, and many substances that have not been assessed for safety in personal care products. Also in the ranks of undisclosed ingredients are chemicals with troubling hazardous properties or with a propensity to accumulate in human tissues." Some of the petrochemicals you'll want to avoid are benzene derivatives, aldehydes (formaldehyde), phthalates, toluene, benzophenone, as well as synthetically created constituents that have been isolated to recreate the natural ones found within essential oils. There is a HUGE list of MANY other harmful chemicals used to make fragrances.
This is NOT acceptable! Think of all the things you personally use in a day. From brushing your teeth to showering, applying lotions, chap sticks and makeup, washing your hands, doing laundry etc. That's a lot of products that you exposing yourself to... but you're also exposing your family & pets to these too.
One last type of scent I would also like to bring to your attention is "natural fragrance oils". This one baffled me for awhile. Sometimes companies will include, *derived from essential oils after it. What does that even mean? What are natural fragrance oil?
The International Organization for Standardization's defines natural fragrance oils as complex compositions of natural aromatic raw materials such as essential oils, fractions of essential oils, isolates, exudates such as resins, distillates, extracts and volatile concentrates. A natural fragrance oil is a derivative of an essential oil called an natural isolate. It is made in a laboratory.
The Natural Perfumers Guild defines a natural isolate as a molecule removed/isolated from a natural fragrance material. Processes that are acceptable for removing/isolation are: fractional distillations, rectifications and molecular distillations of natural fragrance materials as defined by the Guild.
I don't know about you but with being so sensitive I want the real deal! I want real essential oils in their pure natural state with all the therapeutic constituents intact working together as God intended them to be. I want TRUE and REAL essential oils. I only know 1 company doing it the right way for over 25 years!
So with all that said, what can you the consumer do to make sure you're getting the real deal and not some fake stinky F-word?
1. STOP buying products with ingredients listed as... "fragrance", “parfum”, "perfume", "fragrance oils" , "Natural Fragrance oils *derived from essential oils" in it's ingredients.
2. EDUCATE yourself (*see resources listed below).
3. KNOW your ingredients.
4. READ your labels.
5. CHOOSE better products from reputable companies that ONLY uses pure unadulterated natural ingredients. Preferable ingredients that are not synthetic. Look for companies that are open about utilizing organic methods, sustainable and eco friendly practices, as well as full disclosure of their ingredients and even their sourcing. Be conscious of companies that use greenwashing techniques to make consumers believe their products are healthy and natural when in fact they are not.
When you know better, you can do better! Demand better products for yourself and your family.
*Resources on petrochemicals: