What's In It Wednesday: What Smells?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

We're going to talk about scent today....or lack thereof.



This topic stems from a chat I was having with a friend last week. I had recommended a Fragrance Free product to her and she remarked that she was surprised because her nose picked up a scent.

My first thought: "A-ha! My next blog post for What's In It Wednesday!"

This one is for my friend Susan.

Yes, she is right. Sometimes you DO pick up a scent from a product which has been labeled "Fragrance Free". This is not a bad, thing, though.

Labels can be confusing. Afterall, there are Unscented products and Fragrance Free products.  It's important to differentiate between the two because there is a major difference in terms of safety.

Fragrance Free is what you are looking for. This means that no artificial (synthetic) fragrances have been added to the product.  As we know, artificial fragrances are one of the most potentially harmful ingredients we can encounter and they are linked to many health issues, from asthma to cancer. Nothing has been added to remove the natural scents from the butters, oils, and other natural ingredients in the products.  In other words, you may smell some of the product's ingredients such as the olive oil or shea butter.

Unscented does not mean fragrance free.  In fact, if you smell absolutely nothing in your skin care or beauty products, it may be even MORE harmful than you believed. Why? It sounds silly, but unscented products typically have added fragrance agents used to mask the other smells. These masking fragrances are usually composed of toxic phthalates. 

Phthalates are an industrial plasticizing agent. Here is what is on the Cosmetics Database page about phthalates: "More than two decades ago, scientists began building a body of work indicating that phthalates are reproductive and developmental toxicants in laboratory animals, particularly in males. Early studies focused on phthalates' ability to cause testicular atrophy (e.g., Gray and Buttersworth 1980). New studies are confirming these findings in humans (Swan et al. 2005, Main et al. 2005)."


Phthalates have been linked from everything to testicular cancer to liver cancer, but they are still in almost all synthetic fragrances, including masking agents which cause a product's other natural scents to disappear.



So when you're shopping for skin care, be sure not to fall for the "unscented" label.  It must say "fragrance free" or "free of artificial fragrances" to actually mean it.
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