The Hidden Dangers of 'Fragrance'


Developing a keen eye for ingredients is a big help to navigating the chemical world of beauty products. Even in so-called "natural" products, the word "fragrance" can actually be masking some dark secrets.

Thanks to an accidental loophole in FDA regulations, the word "fragrance" can be used as a substitute for a whole list of chemicals you probably don’t want absorbed into your skin.

Fragrance. Such a pretty word – certainly prettier than "phthalates", a word referring to a family of chemicals used to extend the longevity of a given aroma. Phthalates are known as artificial musks, and when absorbed through the skin or breathed through the nose, these musks can accumulate in the body over time and have been linked to various cancers and reproductive disorders in males. Chemicals associated with the term "fragrance" are known to induce asthma, headaches and irritated eyes.

To avoid the pitfalls of faux-fragrance, opt for "fragrance-free" or organically-scented labels, and double check the ingredients. At Skin Deep you can view a long list of fragrance-free products and look up your favorite shampoo to inspect its hidden side.

"Fragrance" should be a health enhancer, made from pure distilled plant oils and fragrances. A favorite of mine is Oshadi, whose biodynamic oils and blends are 100% natural and elicit that "what are you wearing?" response without accompanying sneezing or itching.

Image: tanakawho

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One thought on “The Hidden Dangers of 'Fragrance'

  1. Although I agree some common fragrance materials are probably harmful you have made some inaccurate statements.
    Phthalates are used as solvents for fragrances particularly in candles. They do not give any fragrance, musk or otherwise.
    Artificial musks commonly used in all types of fragrances have been shown to be bio-accumulative and are suspected to be unsafe. It is likely that several common artifical musks will be banned in the near future.
    Natural fragrances may be safer than artifical fragrances. But many common fragrance materials found in nature are allergens and need to be avoided by people susceptible to these materials. Fragrance materials known to be allergens are required to be listed on packaging.


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