Yes, they make your products smell delightful, but if you could see how synthetic fragrances were made, you'd be less likely to be impressed. One fragrance in one personal care product—say, your bodywash—can consist of as many as 200 chemicals combined to come up with that particular scent.
Problem is, there's no way to know what those chemicals are. On the ingredient list, you'll read only the word “fragrance.” Why?
I posted about this topic in an earlier post, but wanted to revisit it again because so many of our personal care products are full of these unknown “fragrance” chemicals. Those of you with asthma, chemical sensitivities, and other respiratory problems will really notice a difference if you can get rid of most of the chemical fragrances in your house.
What are Synthetic Fragrances?
Synthetic fragrances are mixtures of various chemicals that produce a desired scent. Labs across the country are constantly experimenting with new mixtures of various chemicals to come up with just the right sensation. These people know what they're doing. How a touch of this chemical will make something smell a little more floral, while a touch of that one will make it smell a little more clean. The fragrances in your products are the pride of chemists, but for you, they can potentially cause skin irritation, headaches, dizziness, and rashes.
Here's something else to add to the “ew” factor. A 1986 report by the National Academy of Sciences noted that 95 percent of chemicals used in synthetic fragrances are derived from petroleum (yep, crude oil) and include benzene derivatives (carcinogenic), aldehydes, toluene, and many other known toxic chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders and allergic reactions. A 2001 study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that synthetic fragrances were often shown to contain hormone disruptors linked to abnormal cell reproduction.
One of the toxic ingredients in fragrances, by the way, is often phthalates, which you can read more about here.
Why do Manufacturers Use Synthetic Fragrance?
Businesses are after profits, and scents produced by chemicals are much cheaper than scents produced naturally. Moisturizers, cleansers, body washes, shampoos, conditioners, soaps, deodorants, and even candles are often artificially scented. The idea is to make you “think” you're getting something luxurious, when really you're getting something potentially irritating, at best. Worse, manufacturers create these fragrances to be long lasting, so the chemicals don't break down easily, remaining on skin and clothing. In fact, these fragrances are becoming so pervasive in our world that a Norway study found synthetic musk fragrance compounds in outdoor air, even in a remote area.
How do companies get away with keeping us in the dark as to the ingredients used to make their fragrances? They're fragrances are protected as “trade-secret”—with formulas only they are allowed to know. That leaves the lowly little customer out. And no one's telling them they have to do otherwise. Certainly not the FDA.
How to Avoid Synthetic Fragrances
Fortunately, if you read labels, you can easily avoid synthetic fragrances. Follow these tips, and choose brands that employ natural methods for creating scent in their products. By the way, Annmarie Gianni Skin Care uses no synthetic fragrances—only natural scents from essential oils.
- Choose only “unscented” and “fragrance-free” products—but read labels carefully, as some products use other chemicals to mask scent to create the “unscented” experience
- Avoid those products that list “fragrance” in the ingredient list
- Shop at whole foods stores and on the internet for brands that are more conscious about the fragrances they're using—this is the best way to avoid synthetic fragrances in your personal care products
- Look for scents that are naturally derived or plant-based
- Certified Organic products do not have synthetic fragrances
Do you avoid synthetic fragrances? Please share any other tips you may have.
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Photo courtesy misteraitch via Flickr.com.
“Fragrances are Not Just Pleasant Odors…,” Environmental Health Coalition of Western Massachusetts.