Body products tend to come with a long list of ingredients, most of them nearly impossible to pronounce. Of all the chemicals hiding in self-care lotions and potions, you might not think twice about synthetic fragrances. After all, how much harm can a little scent do?
Turns out, quite a bit. The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) lists more than 3,000 chemicals that are reportedly used in fragrance blends. And many of these are linked to negative health effects including cancer, reproductive toxicity, allergies and sensitivities.
WHY USE ARTIFICIAL CHEMICAL FRAGRANCE?
We love body and hair care products that smell delicious — but it’s very hard to find products scented with 100% natural, organic ingredients. Instead, most manufacturers add scent the cheap and easy way: artificially, using chemicals.
WHERE ARE SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCES HIDING?
Beyond perfume and cologne, many everyday things that many of us have in our homes — deodorant, soap, lotions, candles, baby wipes and dryer sheets — contain synthetic fragrance blends made from known carcinogens.
Manufacturers don't usually name the specific compounds that are used to make their fragrances, leaving consumers in the dark about what they’re really putting on their bodies. It’s completely legal for manufacturers to hide hundreds of synthetic chemicals behind one ingredient, “fragrance,” in order to protect what’s considered a trade secret.
WHAT’S REALLY IN MY PRODUCTS?
One of the most common synthetic fragrance compounds is xylene, a solvent — and a known carcinogen. The hazards of this volatile, aromatic hydrocarbon are so well documented, it’s listed as a potential occupational hazard for laboratory technicians.
Researchers at the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that more than 75% of products listing the ingredient “fragrance” contain phthalates, which have been shown to disrupt hormone activity, reduce sperm counts, and cause reproductive malformation.
Acetaldehyde is another toxic fragrance ingredient that adversely affects kidneys and the reproductive, nervous and respiratory systems. California’s Proposition 65 listed it as known or suspected to cause cancer, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies acetaldehyde as potentially carcinogenic to humans.
Many synthetic fragrances are derived from petroleum or coal, which can irritate the skin and cause allergic reactions, and can be dangerous for people with respiratory issues.
HOW DO I AVOID SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCES?
- Steer Clear of "Fragrance"
If you see products with the generic term “fragrance” on the ingredient list—run. There’s no telling what could be lurking behind that one little word.
- Be a Skeptic
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