Take a bottle from your bathroom cabinet, from your laundry, or take a look at the ingredients on your expensive scented candle. “Fragrance” or “parfum” on an ingredient list represents a trade-secret fragrance recipe that could be made up of hundreds of synthetic chemicals. What is in those air fresheners being auto-sprayed on us in a restroom? What gives that pervasive air diffuser it’s “forest fresh” scent? And what effect do the consumption of these fragrances though the skin, nose and mouth have on our health and wellbeing?
Fragrance was originally derived from flowers, leaves, fruits, resins and barks, captured in a precious glass bottle and used sparingly. Ancient texts and archaeological excavations show the use of perfumes in some of the earliest human civilizations. But post World War II, scientists found a way to synthesise natural aromas that was much cheaper and more commercially viable than the natural version. This was the birth of “Modern Perfumery”, and thousands of hidden chemicals and artificial substances being added to not only perfume and cosmetics, but room fragrances, cleaners and countless other common household and luxury lifestyle products.
Chemicals and Health
I personally became interested in this topic after rapidly becoming sensitive to the chemical fragrances in my home, which were frequently setting off migraines. Today, most perfumes and fragrances contain synthesized odorants or “nature-identical” synthetic copies. Synthetics can also provide fragrances which are not found in plants, for instance, mimicking a sea breeze or cotton candy. Whilst synthetic fragrances can smell delicious, they also might be causing you ill health.
Whilst most of us grow up associating perfume with elegance and beauty, the self-regulated fragrance industry selects from over 5000 synthetic chemicals to concoct fragrances, most of which have never been tested for their health and wellbeing impacts. Because the formulas are a ‘trade secret’ they are not required to disclose those ingredients.
Over the past 2 decades, an array of studies have been published worldwide on the negative health effects of some chemicals used in fragrance, including allergic sensitisation, and confirming some are carcinogens. A recent study published by the University of Melbourne on “Health and Societal effects from Exposure to Fragranced Consumer Products” was based on a national survey where 33% of respondents reported adverse effects such as headaches, migraines, nausea and asthsma attacks from exposure to fragranced products, from air fresheners and deodorisers to cleaning products. Other reports link artificial fragrance with diabetes, obesity, autism, ADD/ADHD and hormone disruption due to the presence of toxins, endocrine disruptors and phthalates.
Fragrance in the new “second-hand smoke”
Workplaces, restaurants and public transport are now all spaces where we have the right to be free from breathing someone else’s cigarette smoke. However few rules apply when it comes to strong fragrances that can aggravate the senses. For those who do suffer from the effects, like headache and asthma and allergies, being forced to breathe in fragrance fumes from a co-worker or a public area is a vertiable invasion of personal space. In Europe, the USA and Canada, “fragrance free” workplaces are becoming more common post a few landmark court decisions.
The purpose of manufacturer’s use of perfume or fragrance compositions is to affect consumers through their sense of smell and entice them into purchasing their perfume or perfumed product. Synthetics are pleasant in smell and relatively inexpensive, as such they are often employed in large quantities to cover the unpleasant scent of laundry detergents and many personal beauty products.
Despite the known effects of artificial fragrances, the vast majority of Australian consumer products contain them. Today, our society is suffering from over-saturation of synthetic fragrance in almost everything we use, from our beauty lotions (even those very expensive department store ones), designer perfumes, cleaning and laundry products, and countless other home and lifestyle products from luxury candles to toilet paper, panty and bin liners. Even washing clothes in detergents and fabric softeners containing fragrances releases toxic chemicals onto the skin and into the air all day long, and as you sleep.
It is only human to seek out pleasant smells and to try to eliminate unattractive ones from our environments. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a beautiful fragrance, if it is a genuine and authentic plant-derived, unadulterated essential oil, or an organic, wildcrafted scent oil.
Although the areas are under active research, much remains to be learned about the effects of synthetic fragrance on human health and the environment. In today’s world we are already exposed to so many chemicals, so it is therefore vitally important to be mindful of the types of products we use on our skin and in our homes. Our body absorbs what we put on it as well as the airborne molecules from the environments we frequent.
The words “fragrance” “perfume” or “parfum” on any product indicates it contains a compound or addition to create the scent. Almost all of these are 100% synthetic, with a rare few high-end brands including trace amount of natural extracts. Reduce or avoid products with “Fragrance”. Invest in fragrance-free non toxic products and when working with essential oils, chose organic or wild crafted that have not been grown or extracted with pesticides or chemicals.
Practice self care by being ruthless about the quality of your products and environment, and enjoy a breath of fresh air and peace of mind.
We’re proud that MISS FOX has always been a “fragrance-free” workplace as specified on our recruitment policies, and our spa has a gentle, pleasant smell due to our strict standards of chemical-free cleaning methods and certified organic essential oil diffusions. We continue to seek ways to offer services that are botanically-based and organic, or with reduced chemicals. At this time, our entire skincare, makeup and spa ranges are artificial fragrance free. All tanning and nail services offer fragrance-free options, please ask your therapist. We welcome your comments and feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org