Dangers of Artificial Fragrances, Why We Only Use Natural Scents

by Dajana Ivkovic March 21, 2022

Dangers of Artificial Fragrances, Why We Only Use Natural Scents

Do you ever think that you couldn’t imagine your life without artificial fragrances? I used to worry about that. What changed my perspective is knowing that the lovely smell of cherry or strawberry bottled up in a pretty package isn’t as harmless as I thought.

So, are artificial fragrances as bad as some say? I decided to really dig deep into this topic. I also found a way of getting the best of both worlds—the incredible smell and the healthy ingredients—but I’m getting ahead of myself. (More on that later!)

Are Artificial Fragrances Safe?

To put it as plain as day—no. Artificial fragrances aren't safe because manufacturers use toxins and dangerous chemicals without openly disclosing what they added to the product. The next time you see "fragrance" listed as an ingredient, know that this synthetic scent is a mixture of many different unidentified ingredients which include carcinogens, allergens, and hormone disruptors.

Unfortunately, the law protects the companies from listing the ingredients they infused in the product to get that signature scent. They can use anything and everything without testing the effects of it or the long-term consequences on the human body.

What is our part in this story? The lack of information we had in the past prevented us from making smart choices and avoiding harmful products. That is luckily changing as more people are becoming aware of what artificial fragrances are, and support companies that scent naturally instead.

I was shocked when I first heard of the dangers of artificial fragrances and what they consist of. The skin is our largest organ and what we put on it can make a huge impact on our well-being. If you want to limit the number of harmful toxins, chemicals, and pesticides you ingest, an essential step you should take is to reconsider your attachment to synthetic scents.

What Are Artificial Smells Made Of?

I know what you’re thinking, “but artificial fragrances smell so good.” I feel you, but let me explain what they are actually made of.

Artificial fragrances contain numerous synthetic chemicals which are derived from petroleum. This means that these products can include gasoline, diesel fuel, asphalt, heating oil, jet fuel, waxes, lubricating oils, and petrochemical feedstocks. Shocking, right?

Manufacturers are currently using around 5,000 chemicals to scent products, but none of them need to be visible on the label nor did they pass the safety testing. A single scent can contain up to 300 different chemicals and you won’t know what they are or how they can affect your health.

The fact that shook my world is that around 95% of chemicals masked under the word “fragrance” are synthetic petroleum-based compounds. As you might imagine, these chemicals do you a lot of harm.

What Are the Dangers of Fragrance?

Petroleum-based chemicals are linked to many terrible illnesses. The toxins in artificial fragrances increase the risk of cancer, autoimmune disorders, asthma, infertility, certain neurological disorders, weakening of the immune system, allergies, and much more.

Sensitive individuals can also experience common side effects of artificial fragrances such as rashes, headaches, dizziness, vomiting, hyper-pigmentation, and skin irritation. Sounds terrible? Well, it is.

Do you know what’s the worst part? In most cases, we have absolutely no idea what we’re exposing our bodies to. Let me explain why.

Take any product you have in your home that contains an artificial fragrance and take a look at the label. Does it just say “fragrance” or “parfum” without listing what this mysterious fragrance is made of? Don’t be surprised as this is the trick that most manufacturers use. They can put anything in the product and get away with it by representing it as a single ingredient—fragrance.

But how is this possible? It's quite simple actually. The law considers fragrances to be a "trade secret." So, the companies are allowed to use chemicals that have never been tested and pass them off as their signature scent. In this way, they don't need to disclose to the public what chemicals they've used under the pretence that they are keeping their authenticity. Very sneaky, isn't it?

But what is even better is, since it’s a plant, you can be sure it’s 100% natural. It has no chemical additives. It’s harmless for our planet because it has virtually no negative ecological footprint.

Standard skincare and makeup ingredients can affect the wildlife and the environment negatively. The more artificial chemicals are used, the more of it can get into the air and water. Organic beauty products have fewer chemicals and the ingredients are mostly grown on organic farms. As a result, sustainable ingredients are produced with little or no negative impact on the environment.  

We have our minds set to try and sustain the planet we call home. To leave it better off than when we joined it.

Why Do Companies Use Artificial Fragrances?

So, what’s behind this use of harmful chemicals? I was curious to find out what motivates these companies to include toxins without a pinch of guilt. Well, there’s no evil plan of global domination or anything of that sort and the answer is sort of expected.

Artificial fragrances make the products more attractive to consumers. It’s also more cost effective to use synthetic imitations rather than the real thing. We all love a good floral or fruity smell, right? What we don’t like is the irritating smell of chemicals.

Now, to cover up that unpleasant scent of various chemicals they used, chemists add synthetic scent. This process is called “masking” since the chemists "mask" the bad smell with a stronger, pleasant one. So, yes, they cover the smell of chemicals by using more chemicals that do us harm.

How to Avoid Artificial Fragrances?

If you want to close the door to artificial fragrances all you need to do is to pay attention to the ingredient list. Look for the words “artificial fragrance,” “fragrance,” “parfum,” or “fragrance oil. They are the indicators that the manufacturer uses synthetic fragrance.

Keep in mind that there is a huge difference between fragrance oils and essential oils. Fragrance oils are synthetic compounds and they are nowhere near natural, so don’t let the word “oil” fool you. They are made with extenders and other toxic artificial ingredients that can be harmful to your health. As synthetic compounds, fragrance oils can dry and irritate your skin and even cause more serious health problems.

At the other end of the scale, we have essential oils. They are completely natural as they are basically plant extracts. Essential oils are made by pressing or steaming flowers, leaves, fruit, bark, or any other part of a plant. By doing so, we can capture the compounds such as terpenes that give us that wonderful natural fragrance. That’s why essential oils are used to add a natural scent to cosmetic products.

We also use essential oils as natural gentle fragrances, which have additional benefits. For example, chamomile oil can add a light but pleasant smell to a product while also benefiting your skin with its natural antihistamine properties. Whereas clove can give that spicy tone and have immune boosting properties. When using essential oils, it’s best to have knowledge of top, base and middle notes, and a good understanding of scent families such as sweet, spicy, floral etc. Creating natural fragrance blends with essential oils is as much an art as it is a science and it requires a sensitive olfactory system.

By the way, since we’re on the topic of EO’s, here’s a fun fact: Essential oils can be used for SRT (Smell Retraining Therapy). Pick up Essential oils of:

1. Rose (Floral)
2. Lemon (Citrus)
3. Clove (Spicy)
4. Eucalyptus (Woody)

Then smell them each for 10-20 seconds while you concentrate on the scent 1-2x a day. This helps regrow smell nerves and can repair your sense of smell over a matter of weeks. If you know anyone struggling with their sense of smell try gifting them a SRT bundle.  

So, the next time you are looking for a scent or a scented product, choose products that use essential oils. What you should completely avoid is any product that has listed as an ingredient any of the following:

  • Fragrance
  • Fragrance oil
  • Parfum
  • Phthalate
  • DEP (Diethyl Phthalate)—Toxic odourless aromatic solvent
  • DBP (Dibutyl phthalate)—A fragrance ingredient that is found to interfere with hormone function and can cause reproductive problems (among others)
  • DEHP (Di(2-Ethylhexyl) phthalate)—A manufactured chemical that is linked to increased risks of cancer, birth defects, and other reproductive harm.

The Difference Between “Unscented” and “Fragrance-Free” Products

Besides the products with essential oils and artificial fragrances, you can also find the ones labelled “unscented” or “fragrance-free.” If you can’t quite make the difference between the terms “unscented” and “fragrance-free,” no worries! They can be somewhat misleading. So, let’s clear this out!

First, let me explain what unscented products are. As the name suggests, they have no scent. But does that mean that they are completely natural? No! Now, this is the confusing part. Unscented products may have no smell, but they can include chemicals.

Most ingredients have some sort of smell, even the natural ones. To get an unscented product, chemists still use chemicals and fragrances to get that neutralized odour. Yes, you understood it well. Unscented products can still have synthetic fragrances in them. So, don’t let the “unscented” label stop you from turning the product around and taking a glance at the list of ingredients.

Fragrance-free products are the ones that don't contain any sort of ingredients—neither natural nor synthetic—that are purposefully added to create a scent. These products can have a smell, but they aren't infused with chemicals or ingredients that will add a specific scent to them. What you have in the packaging is pretty much how the product will smell.

For example, if a cream contains lavender oil it can be labelled as fragrance-free. In this case, the purpose of the lavender isn’t always to add that swaying smell to it. Its purpose could be to soothe eczema, act as an anti-inflammatory or promote healing injured skin.t.

On the other hand, if the product formula contains lavender but the manufacturer wants to create an unscented product, they will add chemicals to mask this smell. Why would anyone want to get rid of this lovely scent, you ask? Well, some of us are very sensitive to all sorts of smells (natural or synthetic) and unscented products are primarily targeting these consumers.

How To Find Products With Natural Scent?

When you start talking about giving up on artificial fragrances, people automatically assume that you're giving up on smelling nice. This is not how it works, you know.

There are loads of products that smell absolutely amazing without boosting your chances of getting cancer, allergies, hormonal dysfunctions, or any of the terrible consequences you can endure.

We are very proud to be a part of that nature-loving group! We produce products filled with beneficial ingredients while still maintaining that obsessively good smell. For example, if you like sweeter smells you can try out the Raspberry Bergamot Whipped Body Cream. Are you on the hunt for flower-scented natural deodorants? There’s our all-natural Lemongrass & Rose deodorant waiting for you.

My point is that you don’t need to sacrifice smelling great for the sake of your health. You can have it all if you just read the labels carefully!

Did you manage to kick out a product with artificial fragrance recently? Let me know and we’ll celebrate these little victories together!

Dajana Ivkovic
Dajana Ivkovic


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