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I've mentioned fragrance before in my affordable green beauty post, but there are lots of other everyday products that contain fragrance.
Think about all the fragrances you're surrounded by on a daily basis: perfume, soap, candles, plugins, room sprays, cleaning products, laundry detergent and softener, feminine care products, markers, and the list goes on. Everywhere we go we are bombarded by these artificial scents or told that our belongings and homes should always have strong “clean” scents.
It's actually quite surprising that more and more products are coming out with fragrances considering that a 2014 study found that of patients whose migraines were triggered by ‘odours’, nearly 76 per cent named perfume as the cause. I'm guessing they are just doing an amazing job at marketing.
I was recently shopping for fabric softener (because the white vinegar just wasn't cutting it anymore) and had a really hard time finding one without any fragrance.
It is nice that things smell clean and pretty, but does everything have to have a strong scent? After all, fresh, clean air doesn't smell like anything.
The dangers of fragrance and the fact that they bother many have recently become such an issue that “secondhand fragrance” is now a thing and some places have created “fragrance-free zones”. I used to work at a school for students with special needs, and we were not allowed to wear or use any scented products, because of the effect they had on the children.
Search up fragrance on the Environmental Working Group's website and you'll find lots of links to studies and articles on its negative impacts.
I've seen the quote “When you see the word fragrance, think chemical shit storm” floating around and it just sums up the issues with fragrance so well.
Fragrance can be any combination of thousands of synthetic chemicals which do not have to be disclosed or tested for safety. “A major loophole in FDA's federal law lets manufacturers of products like shampoo, lotion, and body wash include nearly any ingredient in their products under the name “fragrance” without actually listing the chemical.” More specifically, 3,163 ingredients hide behind the word “fragrance”. And of those, 1 in 20 earned a high hazard score in their database. High hazard chemicals are those which have been shown to have a negative impact on health, such as carcinogens, allergens, and endocrine disruptors.
The Environmental Working Group also found that up to 72% of products with fragrance as an ingredient contained phthalates, which are known endocrine disruptors (aka they interfere with hormones and can cause cancerous tumors, birth defects, and other developmental disorders).
More concerning, as much as 95% of the chemicals used in developing fragrances are derived from petrochemicals, which according to the EPA are linked to cancer, birth defects, nervous system disorders, asthma, and allergies.
Swap to healthier options
This doesn't mean you have to ditch all scented products for life. You'll just have to make some changes to avoid fragrances.
Luckily, there are lots of companies who are bucking the trend and using safer ingredients to scent their products.
You want to find products that use plant-based ingredients to scent their products, like essential oils. And if you're not sure, look up the product on the Think Dirty App and you'll see right away if it's safe or not. Don't fall for the word “natural” on the label because natural doesn't mean anything.
I'll list a few safe swaps here, but you can also find more in the shop section of the blog.
Candles – Skylar
Cleaning products – Branch Basics
For scenting the home, diffuse essential oils instead of air fresheners.
I don't think anything else needs to be scented, but if you're looking for something else in particular let me know.