For this week’s Ingredient of the Week post I’m talking about fragrance. Luckily, it’s a pretty straightforward chemical because most of us can take a guess at what that is. So why am I talking about fragrance? Keep reading.
If you missed the intro to this series, it explains what “safe beauty” is, and why it’s important. The quick version is that the FDA doesn’t regulate what chemicals brands put in their products and it doesn’t set standards for words like “natural” or “organic”. Basically, a brand could put “natural” on a container full of carcinogens if they wanted (and they often do). I caveat this at the beginning of every post not to scare anyone but to educate. You don’t have to switch everything you own to safer today. Just make small changes where it makes sense for you. After all, doing something is better than doing nothing, right?
If you’re completely overwhelmed right now, take a look at my skincare routine and my everyday makeup routine. Since most of the products we use fall into one of those two categories, it will give you an idea of some great beauty products to start with. Of course, if you have any questions, shoot me an email or send me a DM. I chat with you guys all day long about personalized recommendations based on your needs! If you want more, here’s a list of my favorite beauty products!
What to look for.
This one is easy because it’s in plain English and doesn’t sound like a word out of your chemistry book.
What is Fragrance?
Fragrance is a combination of ingredients or chemicals that a brand will add to their products to make them smell good (usually). Fragrance or parfum is considered a brand’s “trademark” of sorts and are exempt from the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act and the Personal Care Products Safety Act. Therefore, a brand is not required to include what is inside this magic formula of theirs on the label.
Why do brands use Fragrance?
Generally, brands use them for the exact reason you would think: to improve the scent of a product. You don’t want to open your face wash and feel nauseated! However, brands will also take advantage of the fact they don’t need to disclose the chemical makeup of “fragrance”. They’ll put a chemical inside the fragrance to make the product act like it should, last longer (e.g. parabens), or have the consistency they want. Those chemicals can be chemicals that I’ve covered in this Ingredient of the Week series. It makes sense to the why! If you read any of those posts, the chemicals are effective, cheap, and make the product act like it should. However, you should also know that even though that sounds great, there is quite a range of health impacts as well.
Truthfully, I highly doubt any brand is including toxic chemicals maliciously. They’re just trying to keep costs down, make money, and deliver a product that meets consumers expectations. By any means necessary – even if it compromises our health, unfortunately.
Which products contain Fragrance?
Everything. As women, we want to smell pretty! If we’re using something on our skin, we don’t want it to smell like dog pee (if you’ve been following my saga about our apartment on Instagram, you know why this came to mind). I’ve seen the word fragrance on the backs of just about every single skincare, makeup, and personal care product.
I’ve also seen some brands go so far as to label it “natural fragrance” (read more about that in my post on the best natural deodorants). While I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that this is a brand’s attempt to indicate the fragrance is free of toxic chemicals, we know that the FDA doesn’t regulate the use of the word “natural”. So, it doesn’t really mean anything. You still don’t know what is in that product. Although, I still appreciate the effort.
What Fragrance can do to you.
Everything that I’ve covered in these Ingredient of the Week posts! That’s a wide range from skin irritation to cancer. Of course, the more severe effects are caused by long term exposure to these chemicals. As a general rule, you should always pay attention to how your skin reacts to any product with fragrance or parfum in it. Since most chemicals are also known skin irritants, that is the best first indicator of whether a product has toxic chemicals in it. While it’s not fool proof, trust your skin. It will tell you if it doesn’t like something!
Safe alternatives to Fragrance.
I’ve gotten one of the more obvious questions when it comes to fragrance a lot lately – and that’s, is there a safe perfume? I haven’t found one yet. My recommendation is to use essential oils instead. You can also fight body odor with things like this body wash (it’s amazing – both Matt and I use it). I’d also recommend switching to a natural deodorant!
When it comes to other beauty products, it’s not as necessary to have them smell good. You guys know that one of my favorite brands is Beautycounter because I know I can trust them and they make products that actually work. I’m still trying to find other brands that have publicly stated their commitment to safe products like Beautycounter AND also make products that are great quality. I try to keep you guys posted whenever I find good alternatives especially if they’re affordable! It’s a big ask for most companies! Until I find more, you can find a list of my favorite safe beauty products here.
Have you used anything that contains fragrance or perfume? Do you have any favorite safe beauty products of any kind? Leave your recommendations below – I always love getting new beauty tips!