Why Fragrances Tend to Irritate the Skin

Why Fragrances Tend to Irritate the Skin

There are many reasons why our skin becomes irritated: overexposure to sunlight, using certain cleaning products, eating certain foods, or using certain cosmetics or skincare products.

Fragrance is used in a plethora of products, specifically skincare products, in order to make the product smell good, or to mask the smell of other ingredients that lack a pleasing scent. After all, who would want to put a product that smells bad onto their face or neck? Fragrance is part of the whole experience when it comes to skincare, but unfortunately, it can have potentially damaging effects on the body. It can cause allergic reactions, irritation, or even organ toxicity, depending on the type of fragrance and its origin (synthetic or natural).

Many of us tend not to think of skincare products being dangerous or potentially harmful, because we don't ingest them. The problem is, we forget that the skin is an organ, too (the body's largest) and anything that you put on your skin is going to have some sort of effect on your physical system. Therefore, it is important to know all of the ingredients present in your skincare products (including body lotion and perfume, shampoo and conditioner, soap and bodywash). There is also fragrance in your laundry detergent and softener, and all of your cleaning products. Fragrance is everywhere, and it is almost impossible to avoid inhaling it -but when it comes to putting it directly on your skin, you have choices. They are more promising as time passes, and more and more companies are realizing the negative physiological effects things like fragrance and preservatives have on a person.

We can tell you right now that unless you're living an all-natural life (a pretty tough thing to do), your products have fragrance in them. In this article, we'll break down just what fragrance is and how it can adversely affect your body. 

 perfumes contain solvents

"Fragrance" Defined

Fragrance is defined generally as a combination of chemicals that give off a distinct scent.

According to Safecosmetics.org, "In addition to "scent" chemicals that create the fragrance, perfumes and colognes also contain solvents, stabilizers, UV-absorbers, preservatives, and dyes. These additives are frequently, but not always, listed on product labels. In contrast, the chemical components in fragrance itself are protected as trade secrets and described on the label only as "fragrance."

Fragrance, indeed, is everywhere. And not only that, it's invisible.

How would we know that our skin care products contained not just things like retinoids and hyaluronic acid, but actually quite dangerous things like carcinogens and chemicals? And how are we as consumers supposed to protect ourselves from the potential harm that fragrance in our skincare products poses? It is important to arm yourself with information, and read the ingredients list carefully. If you come across a product listing 'fragrance' as one of the ingredients, a red flag should go up immediately, as that fragrance or mix of fragrances, could include potentially harmful chemicals.

fragrance bad for you

The Effects of Fragrance On The Body

Fragrance can affect the skin itself via allergic reactions or skin disorders such as eczema. It can also affect the body via inhalation, causing physiological effects -including those neurological in nature. Fragrances can be toxic, and when they come into contact with the skin, can be potentially harmful- even if you don't experience an immediate negative response to it. Your integumentary system is still processing that toxin every time it comes into contact with your skin. Some common physical responses to those with fragrance sensitivity are:



-An itchy, red rash appearing on the skin

-Asthmatic symptoms


-Worsening of allergic symptoms

One famous website, EWG (The Environmental Working Group), stated in 2012 that certain fragrances could even cause cancer, per a report by the National Toxicology Program. This shouldn't be surprising, since many fragrances are simply mixtures of carcinogenic chemicals, such as styrene. Not experiencing any respiratory discomfort or skin irritation upon applying your skincare product does not mean that it isn't adversely affecting your body. If you want to make sure that the products you're using are safe, EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database is a good source of information.

natural fragrances

Fragrance and Preservative Free Skincare Products

When looking for fragrance-free skincare products, be wary. Some skincare lines will tout their products as 'fragrance-free' but the products will still contain traces of essential oils or natural fragrances that can have similar to identical harmful effects on the body. Use your nose, and try to test out the product on the inside of your wrist before purchasing. Do your due diligence on a brand before buying, and make sure that the product list is legit before you leap into purchasing an entire skin care line from a company that lists only 'fragrance' as one of the ingredients. It might smell good, but it doesn't, and won't feel good in the future.