Scent of danger - Harmful chemicals in your perfume | The Brown Bottle

Scent of danger - Harmful chemicals in your perfume

Oct 2, 2017 by Sora

When you want to have new perfumes, do you just go to the store and spray them to check out the scents only? Are you aware that 95% of fragrance ingredients are synthetic chemical substances derived from petroleum to mimic natural scents? Are you sure of how those chemicals will affect you before you try them out?

I used to get a headache when I sprayed perfumes. Are there safer natural ingredients in more expensive perfumes?

I have many friends who are concerned about synthetic ingredients in their daily household items and personal care products. They try not to use products that contain such substances, and some of them talk about 'chemophobia'. This is because our interests in cosmetics and household products have increased greatly but we have not yet been provided with enough information about the products’ ingredients or safety.

3,163 ingredients hide behind the word ‘fragrance’

Over 3,000 ingredients are listed as simply 'fragrance' or 'perfume' on ingredient labels. And that means the potential risk of synthetic fragrances are hidden behind these labels too. So far, reported side effects of synthetic fragrances include headaches, dizziness, skin rash, hyperpigmentation, severe allergic sneezing due to respiratory tract irritation, nausea, inflammation, and on and on. Some common examples of synthetic fragrance ingredients you can encounter easily are Geraniol, Citral, Limonene, Benzyl Benzoate, etc., all of which are used in personal care products that advertise so-called 'natural skin care'.

Why does EWG classify ‘fragrance’ as a ‘high hazard’ ingredient?

Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit, non-partisan organisation based in the United States, gives 'fragrance' a score of 8 in their Skin Deep database. A score between 7 and 10 means 'high hazard'. This score of 8 is even higher than that of Triclosan, which has been issued recently due to its peril. EWG explains that ‘'fragrance’ is usually a chemical cocktail, often containing individual chemicals associated with allergic reactions and hormone disruption. Some fragrance chemicals have not been assessed for safety. Until all fragrance ingredients are disclosed on the label, consumers cannot know what is in a particular fragrance.'

Not even perfumes have to list their ingredients on the label.

Ah... This is truly a label-listing loophole. For personal care products, they have to list all ingredients that are added to the product. However, for fragrance or perfume ingredients that are added for the purpose of adding a scent or masking odours, they are recognised as trade secrets. So cosmetic companies simply write those ingredients as ‘fragrance’ or ‘perfume’ on the label and only reveal a few severe allergic ingredients that are supposed to be written on the label because doing so is mandatory. This means consumers cannot recognise what kind of synthetic fragrances are added even if they read the ingredients list carefully.

Then how can I choose a safe perfume?

Sadly, we consumers cannot figure out if a perfume is safe unless the manufacturer lists 100% of the product's ingredients, including fragrance ingredients. However, if you choose ‘Phthalate free’ or ‘Non-toxic’ ones, you'll have a better chance of getting a safe product, and that’s why we still need to check the label!

What about natural essential oils? Are they safe?

From room spray to body perfume, people who want to avoid synthetic fragrances in their daily lives try essential oils as an alternative. In the following blog, l’ll let you know how to use essential oils safely.

The best way keep ourselves from toxic chemicals is to ensure our right-to-know as consumers. Read the ingredients list!

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