Fragrances are used in a wide variety of products including cosmetics, soaps, candles, skincare and hair care products and perfumes. However, fragrances can be dangerous especially if you have sensitive skin. Here are a few things you should know about fragrances in cosmetics:
Definition of Fragrance
In the beauty world, the word fragrance has two meanings:
1. It is a scent, made of a mixture of essential oils and aroma compounds, fixatives, and solvents that you wear on your body to give it a pleasant smell.
2. It is a scent that is added to beauty products to neutralize the odor of the chemicals used in it and give it a nice smell, so that it will be more appealing to customers.
Benefits of fragrances
As stated above, fragrances can be used in cosmetics to cover the unpleasant odor of the chemicals used in the product.
Fragrances can also be the determining factor when you make a purchase. In fact, fragrances can evoke memories, a sense of joy and well-being, and they can lift your mood, but they can also make you wrinkle your nose.
Fragrances side effects
Fragrance is one of the main cause of allergic reactions and irritations, especially in people with sensitive skin. Most chemicals used for the fragrance are made from synthetic chemicals (primarily petrolatum). But fragrances with natural ingredients can also cause the same reactions. And because fragrances are composed of many different chemicals, it isn’t easy to identify which one (or combination of a few) causes the problem. Fragrances can enter the body through inhalation, ingestion or absorption. Fragrances can trigger the following reactions:
- asthma, headaches and nausea;
- eye, nose and throat irritation (symptoms include watery eyes, sore throat, cough and sneezing);
- skin reactions including Irritant Contact Dermatitis (itchy, scaly skin, or a red rash), Allergic Contact Dermatitis (redness, itching, swelling or hives), Eczema (dry and flaky skin appears over red areas, itching, burning), Hives (red and swollen bumps, may burn, itch or sting)
What does fragrance-free mean?
Nowadays you can find lots of products labelled as fragrance free or unscented. Fragrance-free means that the product has no perceptible odor. However, some chemicals used in the products have an odor and so a small amount of fragrance is often added to mask it.
Tests and regulations
Even though about 3000 chemicals are used in the beauty industry, most of them haven’t been fully tested. The ingredients are usually tested for allerginicity and toxicity but rarely for respiratory and neurological effects.
Fragrance formulas are considered trade secrets, therefore manufactures are only required to state fragrance or perfume on the label and not the list of ingredients used to formulate the scents.
How to prevent a reaction to fragrances
The only way to prevent a reaction to fragrances is to avoid the offending substance. However, fragrances are made of a mixture of ingredients, which aren’t required to be listed on the label, so it is not easy to say which substance is causing the problem and avoid it . Sensitive people should avoid all products that contain fragrance. You should always consult a physician when you experience a reaction to a product to identify the type of reaction, provide a cure and recommendation for fragrance-free products.