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Ingredient Truths: Fragrance, Why Something That Smells Good Isn't Always Good For You

by kelly / February, 18 2015 01:30

Picture of fragrance bottles and samples

A few weeks ago we began our "Ingredient Truths" series and talked about parabens.  In my post on parabens I mentioned that parabens could be hidden within the ingredient "fragrance" (aka "parfum").  This week I wanted to provide more information on this ingredient for you - what is Fragrance, should you be concerned and how do you look out for it.

What Is Fragrance (aka Parfum)?

The fragrance ingredient in personal care products actually represents an undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients.  Fragrance is considered a trade secret and as a result companies don't have to disclose what makes up fragrance in their products.  Even products considered "unscented" may contain fragrance. Fragrance is used by many companies to make their products smell good.

So What's the Issue With Fragrance?

You would think that something that makes your product smell good is a good thing.  Well we hope but as mentioned above since fragrance is made up of any mixture of chemicals and ingredients, there could be not so good things in there too. 

Below are a list of chemicals that could be in fragrance according to The Campaign For Safe Cosmetics and the Environmental Working Group (EWG):

-Parabens - preservatives that have been linked to hormone disruption

-Neurotoxins - chemicals that are toxic to the brain

-Phthalates - chemicals that are linked to hormone disruption

-Synthetic Musks - aromatic chemicals that are linked to cancer

Also according to the EWG: "fragrance formulas are considered to be among the top 5 known allergens, and can trigger asthma attacks".

Finally, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) supports that disclosure of fragrance ingredients because their belief is that:

"Consumers should be provided with all of the product information that they need to make the best choices to protect their health. The addition of fragrance to a product, whether to enhance the appeal of the product or to mask an unappealing odor, creates an avoidable risk of irritant or allergic reaction to fragrance-sensitive persons.ii In the absence of identifying the common allergens of fragrances, the fragrance-sensitive consumer is often advised to avoid the use entirely of all cosmetics, prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs which list the generic term 'fragrance' in the ingredient labeling”

Where Does the FDA Stand on Fragrance?

The FDA does require the disclosure of ingredients according to the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act however fragrance is an exception because it is considered a trade secret.  According to the FDA:

"This law is not allowed to be used to force a company to tell “trade secrets.” Fragrance and flavor formulas are complex mixtures of many different natural and synthetic chemical ingredients, and they are the kinds of cosmetic components that are most likely to be “trade secrets.”

Does Block Island Organics Use Fragrance?

Block Island Organics products do not contain artificial fragrance nor do we or will we hide anything under the ingredient "fragrance" or "parfum". Yes, not all fragrance contains bad chemicals but we believe our products can smell great without this ingredient.

How Do I Avoid Fragrance In My Products?

It's easy to avoid fragrance in your products.  Just look for the word "fragrance" or "parfum" on the ingredient list of your product's label.  If you see these words in the ingredient list then your product contains fragrance.  Also look for products that are labeled "artificial fragrance free" but always double check the ingredient list.

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