What’s in Your Fragrance? “Secret” ingredient in Cosmetics linked to a myriad of health problems


What’s in Your Fragrance? “Secret” ingredient in Cosmetics linked to a myriad of health problemsIn an industry allowed to self-regulate hazardous ingredients, popular perfume, cologne and body care product makers are pouring toxic fragrances into many everyday scented products. These products are marketed for their “floral,” “exotic,” or “musky” scents, however manufacturers fail to mention that many of them are nothing more than a complex cocktail of natural essences and synthetic chemicals.

Laboratory tests summoned by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and analyzed by Environmental Working Group exposed 38 secret chemical ingredients in 17 big-selling name brand fragrance products.  According to the report American Eagle Seventy Seven is leading the list with 24 unidentified ingredients, followed by Chanel Coco with 18, and Britney Spears Curious and Giorgio Armani Acqua Di Gio with 17.

As the researchers analyzed the selected fragrances, they discovered that every product tested contained a mixture of secret chemical compounds not listed on the ingredient labels. These unlisted compounds, “included ten sensitizing chemicals that can trigger allergic reactions, four hormone disrupters in each product and a dozen chemicals not tested for safety by government or the fragrance industry itself” says Jane Houlihan, senior vice president for research for EWG.

A gaping loophole in a 40 -year-old federal law (Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1973) allows cosmetics manufacturers to conceal the chemicals that comprise their specific  fragrances by claiming them as trade secrets. This “secret” chemical formula is listed on the product ingredient label as a generic category called “fragrance.” According to EWG’ Skin Deep Cosmetic Database the “fragrance” product ingredient has an overall hazard score of 8 out of 10 and “represents an undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients used as fragrance dispersants such as diethyl phthalate. Fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system.”


Common ingredients used to make toxic fragrances

  • Benzenethanol (floral-smelling compound which is irritating to the eyes, skin, and upper respiratory tract)

  • Benzenemethanol (solvent and sweet floral synthetic fragrance

  • Benzaldehyd 4-Hydroxy-3-Methoxy (synthetic additive that adds vanilla notes and irritates the throat, mouth, lungs, skin and eyes)

  • Ethyl linalool (ingredient commonly used in pesticides, mimics French lavender and bergamot)

  • Eugenol (found in fungicides, insecticides, and pesticides and can trigger dermatitis while irritating the skin, eyes, and airways)

  • Galaxolide 50 (musk fragrances, suspected as a hormone disruptor and a carcinogen)

You may think that using these scented products may make you more attractive to the opposite sex, without even realizing that wearing or breathing these toxic fragrances is actually making you sick. Have you ever gotten a headache or felt dizzy, nauseous, irritable, confused or fatigued just by sitting next to someone doused in perfume? These symptoms may indicate that you may have a chemical sensitivity to “fragrance,” and many people do.

Here is a partial list of possible symptoms that may be related to chemical sensitivities, but keep in mind that such symptoms are protean, meaning almost any symptom is possible and can even be debilitating.

Foggy thinking, Poor memoryDizziness, SeizuresHeadacheChronic fatigue, DepressionLearning disorders
Canker sores, Rashes, EczemaNausea, vomitingRunny or stuffy nosePuffy, watery, itchy eyes or Blurred visionReproductive toxicity
Sneezing, Coughing, Sore throatAllergies, AsthmaItching in the roof of the mouthArthritis Chest pain, Heart irregularities
Emotional instability or hypersensitivityDiarrhea or ConstipationCancerSwelling of the hands or feetAbdominal pains or cramps
Hyperactivity (ADD/ADHD)Panic attacks, Aggressive behaviorVaginal itchingUrinary frequency or urgencyInsomnia

Babies and children are especially vulnerable

Remember, the skin is the largest organ, but also the thinnest. Babies and children’s skin can be up to 30% thinner than an adult’s, and can absorb more chemicals into their bodies at a faster rate. When you put chemical loaded conventional skin products on your baby’s skin, they are absorbed straight into the bloodstream without any kind of filtering, going directly to their still developing organs. And daily exposure over the course of a lifetime, it really adds up!

Once you understand and suspect that even low-level daily exposure to chemicals such as fragrance, may be decreasing your quality of life, it’s time to do something about it. And, just because your favorite fragrance wasn’t among the products tested, it doesn’t mean it’s safe!

On top of that, one would be careless to overlook the fact that we get blasted with harmful synthetic fragrances on a daily basis in forms of hair spray and dyes, shampoos, soaps, body sprays, sunscreens, candles, and all kinds of scented cleaners. Research is finding that many of these products interfere with our delicate hormonal balance, which maintains all system functions in our bodies. Mess with that, and there is trouble waiting down the road!

Since determining what’s actually in your “fragrance” can be virtually impossible, everyone should avoid artificial fragrances at all cost, not only for your own health, but also for the health of those around you. And, if you are not satisfied with that au-natural option and simply cannot give up your fragrances, then at least consider switching to plant derived scents made from 100% pure essential oils instead.

Before you rush to the natural food store in search of the best essential oils for you, and especially if you are new at this you can start by reading  The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy which is one of the most complete and down-to-earth books on the subject.

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