Fragrances are designed to make you smell good, but is that all they are doing? In a recently released study of 17 name-brand fragrances co-authored by the Environmental Working Group and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, they found that they contain secret ingredients – chemicals not listed on the label – with troubling hazardous properties.
It looks like “natural fragrances” may mean as much as “natural flavors” do on a label in terms of the chemical load they bring to your body.
The study found 38 unlisted chemicals in the testing. The average fragrance tested contained 14 secret chemicals. 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 by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the industry’s own safety panel.
How many secret chemicals do such popular fragrances like Chanel Coco and Old Spice contain? Check out the full report on chemicals in fragrances and you’ll see that Coco has 18 distressing chemicals and Old Spice has 16 ingredients not reported on the label.
In 1973 Congress passed the federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act. The law, which requires companies to list cosmetics ingredients on the product labels, specifically exempts fragrances. Since then, the vague word “fragrance” is all you’ll find on the label. If there’s anything to be grateful for in this, it’s that “fragrance” is a recognizable word that is easily avoided by label readers.
Personally, I avoid all synthetic “fragrances” whenever possible, including in laundry detergents, shampoos, body products, and non-organic-based candles. I believe most air fresheners are some of the worst toxins that you can add to your environment — and they’re designed to encourage you to smell deeply and carry all those chemicals deep into your lungs.
I think dryer sheets are bad, too, and I encourage you to stop using them as they infuse your clothes with these synthetic fragrances so that you can be continually exposed to these dangerous chemicals each and every day.
The FDA has not assessed the vast majority of these secret fragrance chemicals for safety when used in spray-on personal care products such as fragrances. Most have not even been evaluated by the safety review panel of the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) or any other publicly accountable institution.
Of the chemicals that have been tested, there isn’t a lot of good news. The vague term “fragrance” covers chemicals that can be linked to reproductive damage, hormone disruption, and can trigger allergic reactions.
Fragrances may be designed to make us smell better and feel good about ourselves, but as the EWG points out, “we don’t know how you can feel good when you don’t know what you are putting on your body.”
So what’s a girl to do when she wants to float in a sweet smelling cloud without taxing her body’s tolerance levels?
Chemical perfumes add to the air pollution we breathe in every day. Take steps to minimize your exposure when possible.
Be sure to check out my upcoming post on custom-blended pure aroma perfumes, look for soy or beeswax candles scented with natural tinctures, and consider practicing aromatherapy using only quality uncontaminated oils and tinctures.