The Nasty Facts About Fragrances

What exactly is fragrance and does it have unlisted chemicals in it that you are unaware of?

Fragrance is a complex cocktail of different aromas, that can include natural oils.  Most likely it’s full of synthetic chemicals that are hidden under the term ‘fragrance’ on the label.  A fragrance’s ingredient list can sometimes be longer than the ingredient list for an actual product.  It isn’t practical to list all of the components of the fragrance and companies aren’t too keen on giving away their secrets either.  So the word “fragrance” (or parfum) is the only term required of beauty and health companies to use on their ingredient labels to represent the fragrance blends.

So why is fragrance so bad?

According to research, the average fragrance contains from about 14 secret chemicals that are not listed on the label; many of which are linked to hormone disruption and allergic reactions, as well as about 80 percent of them not being tested for human safety in personal care products. Many fragrances have much more harmful chemicals in them but they are cleverly disguised under the term Fragrance.

How on can fragrance ever be allowed into our so called healthy products?

Fragrance acts as a loophole on the FDA’s regulations.  The FDA is the USA regulatory standard for Food and Drug Administration.  The FDA has been adopted in other European countries (under different titles) around the world claiming responsibility for protecting the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, food supply, cosmetics, and products.  But many people now believe the FDA was designed to protect ‘Big Pharma’ and ‘Investors and shareholders’ in large food & beauty manufacturers.

Fragrance is considered a trade secret under the Fair Package and Labelling act of 1966 in the USA, allowing companies to not list ingredients so their formula cannot be replicated easily. Unfortunately, this gives brands an opportunity to add in cost effective, but toxic, chemicals to their products to make a scent that is “better” than natural.  I know when making natural creams that the smell can be a little ‘funky’, so I use natural oils and herbal extracts that are proven beneficial for the skin that also smell nice in my formula’s to avoid using fragrance.  Unfortunately we are somewhat ‘brainwashed’ to think that it has to smell nice to be good for us.  

What does Fragrance do to us?

For example, when a product is sprayed into the air, it doesn’t just affect the person that sprayed it, but can cause many problems for other people around.  It can throw their bodies into a frenzy of reactive behaviour and trigger migraines, allergy symptoms, asthma, eczema, chronic lung disease and other health conditions.  Even if people do not have immediate symptoms from these chemicals, we don’t actually know the long-term effects of spraying or rubbing them on our highly sensitive skin every single day due to the lack of testing these chemicals,. Perfumes are not the only culprit; these effects can come from furniture, adhesives, cleaning supplies, paints, and other substances.

Do we even know what chemicals are actually in Fragrance?

Research has found that about 75 percent of products that list fragrance contain the hormone disrupting chemical, phthalates. Phthalates, used to make fragrances last longer, have been linked to many hazardous health conditions, such as reduced sperm count, liver and breast cancers, reproductive malformation and diabetes. This carcinogen has been banned in many countries (EU, Japan, South Korea, Canada, even China), but the USA government sets such an intense level of proven harm for these chemicals that some say it’s almost impossible to reach. Companies voluntarily comply with many safety standards, but the current law does not require that cosmetic ingredients be free of certain harmful health effects before they are put on the shelves.

How can I avoid fragrance?

Like with many other personal product worries, it’s up to us to protect ourselves. The main, and easiest, strategy is to check the labels on the products you buy. To be safe, you want to avoid any product that simply labels “Fragrance” with no other explanation. The very best option is too only use products that use essential oils and herbs, and maybe natural fragrance, to create their scented products and of course buy NZ made where possible.


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