Hazardous Chemicals in Perfumes

What You Don’t Know About Your Fragrance May Hurt You!

What a joy to our senses is the great smell of a perfume or air freshener in our home! I personally love waking up to a fresh, clean smell or doing some work with floral aromas filling the room. We spray all these perfumes and fresheners all over our houses and bodies, but do we know what is in them? I sure didn’t --until I started paying attention to product labels.

Most people still don't know that one of the most seemingly “normal” words is “ fragrance” which seem so harmless because it’s used so much in the cosmetic industry and a vast majority of skincare and household products have this ingredient in them. If your products have the ingredient "fragrance" or "parfum" in them, you should throw them away immediately.

Now, I know what you are thinking! What’s wrong with fragrance? That’s why the perfumes and fresheners smell good, right? While it’s true that the fragrance gives products their smell, the word "fragrance" or "parfum" is code for chemicals used by companies to hide a lot of artificial and other nasty ingredients to their products behind that one word! The word "fragrance" is truly a "dirty" term used by manufacturers and companies to manipulate consumers.

Unfortunately, in the US and some other poor countries, companies are not required to list all the ingredients on a perfume bottle or a product. That way, companies don’t have to disclose all the harsh chemicals that are used in their products. Instead, those nasty chemicals could be all included within the term "fragrance" and will be listed as "fragrance" on the list of ingredients on labels.

This does not seem too bad initially until you realize that, “the word fragrance or parfum on a label signifies a mix of potentially a dozen to hundreds of chemical ingredients, and the exact formulas of most are trade secrets, according to most companies (1).” This is horrible because you have a right to know what you are putting on or inhaling into your body! Since all these chemicals are all hidden under the name "fragrance" or "parfum" the best solution is to avoid all products that have this ingredient listed on the product label.

If you think "fragrance" as ingredient is only used in perfumes, think again! It's added almost to all products, so you're affected even if you don't use any fragrances or perfumes. 

People with fragrance sensitivities most often react to products including:

  • perfumes, body mists and colognes
  • air fresheners
  • laundry detergents
  • cleaning solutions
  • body lotions and other toiletries
  • hair care products, such as shampoo, hairspray, mousse, etc.
  • essential oils and various products made with these oils, such as candles, cleaning supplies and facial serums
  • even pesticides

diy perfume recipe with essential oils

What causes fragrance sensitivity? What are the health implications?

The answer is the chemicals hidden in the "fragrance" ingredient which is included in so many consumer products today.

While Europe and other countries have gotten better and better over the last couple of years at banning more chemicals from cosmetic and household products, the US unfortunately is far behind when it comes to consumer protection, so it's up to us as consumers to educate and protect ourselves because the US regulators are not doing the right thing. If you wonder why is this the case, the answer is because sadly the US chemical regulation is very weak and vague when it comes to consumer products safety and testing. 

According to The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics coalition, "the European Union law bans 1,328 chemicals from cosmetics that are known or suspected to cause cancer, genetic mutation, reproductive harm or birth defects. In comparison, the U.S. FDA has only banned or restricted 11 chemicals from cosmetics." (5)

The EPA performed a study and found that “numerous chemicals commonly used in fragrance products, [include], among others: acetone; benzaldehyde; benzyl acetate; benzyl alcohol; camphor; ethanol; ethyl acetate; Limonene; Linalool; [and] methylene chloride, (2).

”These chemicals have been proven to lead to “central nervous system disorders, dizziness, nausea, poor coordination, slurred speech, drowsiness, irritation to the mouth, throat, eyes, skin, lungs and GI tract, kidney damage, respiratory failure, ataxia, and fatigue, among other symptoms and illnesses” when combined and inhaled (2).

Not only that, but fragrances are known to cause health issues like asthma, allergies, infertility, and migrainesOther studies have shown that 17-20% of the American population suffers from breathing difficulties, headaches or other health problems after exposure to air fresheners and deodorizers. (6)

There have also been reports of some fragrance materials getting stored in the body and showing up in breast milk. This is not good because some fragrance materials are thought to be hormone disruptors (3).” This is detrimental to the human body as it creates all sorts of hormonal imbalances which could lead to infertility, auto-immune diseases, such as thyroid problems in women, and even tumors.

The  endocrine system that makes our hormones function is one of the main communication networks in the body, “and is responsible for controlling and coordinating numerous body functions (4).” The endocrine tissues, like the thyroid or ovaries, create the hormones. These hormones get into the bloodstream and act as the body’s messengers and control the coordination of other tissues in the body (4).

Coincidentally, some of these tissues are located where perfumes are applied. For instance, the thyroid is in your neck. This gives the hormone disruptors easy access to one your body’s main communication system, which means nothing good can come of that!  It's no surprise that more women than men suffer from thyroid problems and imbalances!

Hormone disruptors mimic (fully or partially) the hormones in your body. In doing so, they stop the hormones from binding and communicating with the receptors in your body. This affects the normal bodily functions by changing the signals that your hormones give out and can lead to major damage such as, “reduced fertility and increased incidences or progression of some diseases, including obesity, diabetes, endometriosis, and some cancers (4).”

This is a pretty serious issue that is overlooked. Just think of all the sprays you have in your house that have “fragrance” listed in their ingredients if the ingredients are listed at all! The fact that you are being exposed to chemicals that are linked to serious health issues like infertility and cancer is outrageous! To top it off, these “fragrances” are found in just about everything from your favorite bar of soap to your favorite scented candles!

By the way, did you know that the average woman ingests over 500 chemicals into her body every day? Slathering toxic creams and garbage on her skin, never stopping to think that this beautiful, living breathing organ is not wallpaper, but the body's defense system and ever-present protector.

Everything that goes on the skin is absorbed into the bloodstream and impacts our health in every way… it either ends up working for our body's immunity, and natural healing ability, or against it.

But the good news is that your body can and will heal itself - that’s how it was designed. Have you ever thought about that? Illness takes years to progres and health takes years to restore. Right now if you are healthy continue protecting your health!

What’s more expensive, illness or prevention? An ounce of prevention IS worth a pound of cure- you've probably heard this before, but it's worth reminding nonetheless.



How do you protect yourself?

If you are like me, then you are probably ready to throw everything away and be done with it all, but part of you will miss the pleasant smells. You are probably asking yourself how you can avoid this invasion of chemicals in your environment and still enjoy the scents you love.

1. Stop using products with synthetic fragrances

The alternative is simple- switch to USDA Certified Organic Essential Oils and make your own cosmetics, toiletries, and household cleaners with them- it's much easier than you think and more affordable!

Also, please tell those around you- at home and at work- not to use synthetic fragrances while you interact with them-- if possible.

And if you still want to buy products instead of making your own please read the labels and don't buy any products that have the words "parfume" or "fragrance" on their ingredients list on labels

Make sure you check the EPA - the Environmental Protection Agency's database, which helps consumers identify cleaning and other products that have been determined to be safer for human health and the environment. This is a good resource for looking into potential dangers of some scented products.

Another great organization is the EWG- the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org/skindeep) which help consumers identify potentially dangerous chemicals in cosmetic, toiletries and household products. 

In case you didn’t know most perfume makers today use very small amounts of essential oils as the base of their perfumes to get the scents you love, but the problem is the rest of the commercial perfumes bottles are filled with nothing but only chemical fillers. Just imagine how pleasing and healthy it would be to smell the essential oil alone, without the added fillers=aka chemicals!  

As a bonus to using only essential oils, you’ll also get the benefits of the natural oils therapeutic properties because your body can properly break down the compounds found in organic oils which will get easily absorbed and processed in your body.

The human body cannot process at all the chemicals found the most of the products we purchase today, which is the main reason why people living in Western societies are sicker than ever with chronic diseases than people living in poor countries who don’t have access to “modern” consumer products just yet. Our bodies can easily absorb and process properly everything that comes from nature and is 100% natural and un-adulterated.

There are essential oils for everything from anxiety and depression, to muscle tension, pain management, and aphrodisiacs. Anything you are struggling with, you can be sure that there is an essential oil that can help you! I think we can agree that nothing is better than smelling good AND feeling good at the same time and with essential oils you can have both. You should consider making the switch and creating your own perfumes with essential oils which is very easy!

2. Make your own perfume

TAs a 100% safe alternative, you can make a perfume from essential oils following this simple recipe. Mix a few drops of your favorite essential oils (1-3 scents) with 1-2 tablespoon of carrier oil such as coconut, almond, or jojoba oil, shake the mix well, and store it into a small rollerball for easy application, and voila! If you want a more sophisticated perfume learn here how to create your own signature perfume which goes in more depth on how to combine different essential oils scents based on their perfumery notes.

Some of the favorites essential oils scents for women include Jasmine, Rose, Lavender, Bergamot, Patchouli, Clary Sage, and Ylang Ylang.

Other oils such as Sandalwood, Vetiver, Bergamot, Cedarwood, Fir, Bay, Lemongrass, Myrrh, Frankincense, and Ylang Ylang are more preferred by men. 

Having said that, most genuine essential oils aromas are very mild in their nature since they are directly extracted from plants, trees, roots, and flowers, so any of these can be used by both men and women as their scents are not pungent but rather mild, yet lasting longer than the artificial fragrances. This just shows just how versatile the essential oils can be.

3. Make your own candles

If you’re really into DIY and want to take it a step further, you can make beeswax candles with essential oils instead of buying the commercial ones which are full of chemicals, unless they’re made of soy or beeswax.

Here’s an easy homemade candle recipe with essential oils that we tested and love.

Please remember to always research the products you want to buy beforehand because you never know how bad some of the commercial products are until you actually read and understand what the ingredients are on those labels.

So hopefully next time when you go shopping you’ll know the meaning of fancy words like “fragrance” and the likes, and steer away from those products for your own well being and will opt for perfumes made with organic essential oils instead. 

Check out the blogs below on how to switch to more natural products to avoid inhaling or putting chemicals on your skin and in your body. You'll find easy and affordable recipes which are fun to make. 

4. Make your own cosmetic products

5. Make your own cleaning products 

In conclusion, make sure you always read the product labels and check them against the EWG database for potentially dangerous chemicals. Also buy only USDA organic oils as much as possible, otherwise, you risk spraying on your skin or inhaling the chemicals found in non-organic essential oils which come from conventional farms where plants are sprayed with toxic pesticides and artificial fertilizers. 

Your health is priceless and you're the only one responsible for it- stay informed and be proactive. 





(1) https://www.nrdc.org/stories/9-ways-avoid-hormone-disrupting-chemicals

(2) https://cleanerindoorair.org/publications/pamphlets/why-go-fragrance-free/

(3) https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ffj.1106

(4) https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/materials/endocrine_disruptors_508.pdf

(5) https://www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/regulations/international-laws/

(6) https://www.jstor.org/stable/26327879


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