A beauty product wouldn’t feel complete without a floraly, delicious or sweet smell to it, but little do we know what makes of these scents. Those with sensitive skin tend to suffer strong reactions towards fragrances. Turns out, the effects fragrance has can go skin-deep, and anyone can be at risk. 

We explain below why it might be better for everyone — not just for those having sensitive skin — to stay away from eye, lip, and facial products containing fragrances. 

‘Fragrances’ Can be Anything

‘Fragrance’ isn’t just one ingredient. Any combination of chemicals can hide under the label. According to the EWG, fragrance usually contains about 14 secret chemicals, and shockingly, 80% of them are not being tested for human safety in personal care products. 

How can ingredients be kept hidden? Fragrances are considered a trade secret under the Fair Package and Labeling act of 1966, so companies are allowed to not list all their ingredients, to protect other companies from re-creating their formulas.

Products that aren’t vegan could contain animal anal secretions (musk), sperm whales (ambergrisk), and even fossilized badger urine (hyraceum). Harmful chemicals can pretty much make their way in as well. 

Companies Can Get Away with Harmful Ingredients

Fragrances only have two functions in cosmetics: to make the product smell good or to mask the odors of other ingredients (usually labeled as ‘unscented’). No one wants a weird-smelling beauty product, no matter how high-performing it is.

Since companies can sneak any chemical under the label, mainstream cosmetics would use petroleum-based ingredients such as phthalates, also other toxic ingredients like acetone, benzophenone, and styrene.

Cited from The Guardian, Janet Nudelman, policy director for Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP) and co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, warns that “No state, federal or global authority is regulating the safety of fragrance chemicals.” 

The Effects Fragrance has on Us

If you have sensitive skin, It’s typical for dermatologists to recommend avoiding cosmetics containing fragrances as much as possible. They can create symptoms such as itching, small reddish bumps, and increased skin sensitivity.

Many of these ingredients that make up ‘fragrance’ are linked to hormone disruptions and allergic reactions. In the long run, they can bring more severe effects such as extreme migraines and cancer. 

Can We Avoid Fragrances?

Avoiding fragrances can be tricky for the average modern consumer. We’re exposed to it in our daily lives, from trash bags to house cleaning products. We inhale, apply, and lather ourselves with it when using moisturizers, creams, cleansers, and make-up.

In an interview with Byrdie, Karen Fernandez, lead aesthetician of SkinSpirit, gave away a simple tip: “Any product meant for the face, neck, or eye area should be as added-fragrance free as possible.”

Are natural fragrances a safer option? Since the term ‘natural’ and ‘clean fragrances’ aren’t regulated either, the best option is to lean on cosmetics that use essential oils and herbs to scent their products. Opt for fragrance-free products whenever you can. After all, a beauty product shouldn’t be detrimental to smell good.