Why is There Fragrance in My Facial Products?
Facial care products are meant to perform one task, and one task only: to care for the delicate skin on your face. That is actually a pretty hefty task, though. I mean, there's the dirt and grime that we're exposed to on a daily basis, the makeup sludge we paint ourselves with, all of the environmental pollutants, cigarette smoke, unhealthy eating, and too much sun exposure. Phew! That puts a heavy burden on our skin care products to cleanse, correct, hydrate, and protect our skin from all of that insult. You owe it to your skin to seek out only the best products, and ones that are going to be effective in their treatment. You know how to read your ingredients list to find antioxidants and retinol, and to avoid harsh chemicals like PEG and formaldehyde derivatives. So, why are you so accepting of fragrance in what you apply to your skin?
What Is Fragrance?
"Fragrance" signifies a wide array of both naturally-derived additives and synthetically-created compounds (unnatural, manmade materials) added to a product to either a) make it smell good, or b) cover up the unpleasant odor of other ingredients in the mixture. They're used to impart a pleasant aroma, mask the inherent smell of some ingredients, and to enhance the experience of using the product. The fragrance formulas are complex mixtures of many different natural and man-made chemical ingredients. Companies don't have to disclose which chemicals they actually use to create their scent, so they're listed on the label with general terms like "fragrance" or "floral." Fragrance formulas are considered trade secrets, so they don't have to disclose exactly what's in there.
Does It Have To Be There?
Not so much. Though, to be fair, the argument for or against fragrance is complicated. We all gravitate towards what smells good to us; a certain smell that takes us back to the beach, or gives us a sense of relaxation. Things that smell good to us put us in a good mood and a relaxing state. Fragrance is often used to invoke a certain feeling or desire. On the flip side, smells can really turn us off. If we don't like the scent of a certain product, our brains believe it's no good or not effective. In the cosmetics industry, many of the beneficial ingredients actually have unpleasant odors, so fragrance is added to mask (aka, cover up) the stinky smells. Consumer research shows that fragrance is one of the key factors that affect people's preference for cosmetic and personal care products. The brain's limbic system is where our sense of memory and our emotions are stored. It's directly linked with our olfactory (smelly) senses. Numerous studies confirm that fragrances enhance well-being and have a positive impact on the psyche. It's no wonder that particular fragrances often become strongly associated with product identity and acceptability.
So, What's the Problem?"Synthetic fragrances contain man-made materials, possibly petrochemicals. There is no transparency to the consumer - they could contain anything, including ingredients that someone is allergic to, or phthalates, a synthetic chemical that makes a fragrance last longer but may impact the body's hormones," explains Emilie Davidson Hoyt, the founder of LATHER Skincare. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), fragrance is the biggest cause of cosmetic contact dermatitis. That ranks it right up there with nickel and poison ivy! Fragrance can be one of the most irritating and allergenic ingredients in your facial products, triggering things like allergies, asthma, eczema, headaches, hives, irritations, nausea, psoriasis, and more! In 2007, the American Contact Dermatitis Society named fragrance the "Allergen of the Year." There are nearly 3,000 different chemicals used to create synthetic fragrances, and they're derived from petrochemicals like aldehydes, benzene derivatives, and phthalates (especially diethyl phthalate, DEP).
- Let's define this.
Petrochemical: Adjective - relating to or denoting substances obtained by the refining and processing of petroleum or natural gas
Noun - a chemical obtained from petroleum and natural gas
Sounds good, doesn't it? Just take a look (page 24) at the listing of "secret" chemicals that were detected through product testing and not listed on labels. Many of these ingredients have been found to cause big problems including cancer, wreaking havoc on the reproductive system (both male and female), and neurotoxicity. YUCK!! Who wants to apply that to their face?! The problem is that using these chemicals is still sadly legal, and it's cheaper and easier for companies to utilize.