A fragrance is a collective term that refers to a blend of different chemicals that are intended to give a particular odor to cosmetic items.
The chemical substances in fragrances can be essential oils extracted from plants or man-made, synthesized compounds. A large proportion of scented chemicals used in producing cosmetic products are man-made, petroleum-based chemicals.
The main reason aromatic fragrances are added to cosmetic products is to give them a nice smell which the consumer will love. They are listed as “fragrance” or “perfume” on the label of such products.
Fragrances can also be added to personal care products to mask the bad odors of some substances used in the production of some cosmetics, and these categories of fragrances are not always reflected on the label.
Fragrances can be found in most hair care and skin care products. A large proportion of shampoos (96%), conditioners (98%), and hair styling products (97%), contain fragrances.
These chemicals are not usually closely monitored for their safety and they also have little or no government regulation guiding their use. Ensuring their safety before advertising is not required, neither are the manufacturers compelled to reveal the particular fragrance used to give their products the “signature smell”, simply because this is considered a “trade secret”. Over 3,000 chemicals used under the label fragrance are not revealed to the public and are generally indicated on the label as “fragrance” or “perfume”. Quite a number of these secret scents have been found to use phthalates in order to make the smell last longer. Phthalates are compounds that are known for their endocrine-disrupting effects, but consumers have no idea that these compounds are included in their cosmetics. Due to undisclosed fragrance ingredient information, phthalates in fragrance formulation are not required to be labeled either.
“Unscented” v’s “Fragrance-Free” Hair Shampoo
It is important to note that there is a difference between cosmetic products that are labeled “unscented” and those that are labeled “fragrance-free”.
The term “unscented” means that only the aromatic fragrances intended to give lovely smells are excluded from this term on the label. “Unscented” products still may contain functional fragrances that are used to mask odors even if there is no evident smell.
The term “fragrance-free” implies that all forms of fragrances are not included in that product. Such products are free of artificial and natural scents, including essential oils.
Prolonged exposure to certain fragrances can lead to worsening of some health conditions, but a large percentage of the population is unaware of the danger their everyday cosmetics pose to their health. Some of the conditions that have been linked to the synthetic chemicals used in fragrances include neurotoxicity, infertility, birth defects, cancer, hormone disruption, and exacerbation of allergies, sinus attacks, asthma, and other respiratory conditions. With the increased use of man-made fragrances in personal care products in the last ten years, a corresponding increase in the incidence of these health issues has also been observed.
The Ways of Exposure
There are several ways for these fragrances to enter the body and have varying degrees of effect.
Dermal exposure is considered the primary route of exposure to fragrances. When they get absorbed into the skin, they may result in eczema, allergy development, inflammation, or rashes. In addition to being harmful to the skin, some of these compounds gain entrance into the bloodstream and the fatty tissues, where they are then able to affect the liver and the kidneys as well as other body organs. It is important to note that for heavy users, residues of fragrances remain on the hair and skin even after repeated washings.
Another way you can be exposed to fragrances is through inhalation. Fragrances are made of small molecular weight materials that dissipate quickly in air. When inhaled, the fragrance compounds go into the lungs and affect the brain and nervous system. This has an effect on hormone control and is a potential source of health hazards for people who have migraines, allergies, sinus problems, asthma and lung diseases.
Regardless of the route of entry, these chemicals can build up in the body.
Fragrances are majorly volatile substances that have an effect on the quality of air both indoor and outdoor. The chemicals may get dispersed into the environment as a result of being washed into groundwater, and the waterways, resulting in them being ingested by fishes and other aquatic life forms, leading to an eventual contamination of the ecosystem.
How to Protect Yourself and Others?
The ideal approach is to opt for fragrance-free and less toxic cosmetic items whenever possible. Hair shampoo is used repeatedly and in combination with other personal care products that also contain hazardous chemicals can pose a health risk. Therefore, it is best that you use hair shampoos that are labeled “scent-free”, “fragrance-free” or “unscented”. These can be purchased easily at any pharmacy, supermarket or online.
In order to further ensure your safety, always look at the ingredients on the label of the products you choose, and when convenient, you can check the product for smells with your nose. This is a way to ensure that a product is unscented regardless of what the producer writes on the pack.
By opting for cosmetic products that are fragrance-free, you will be doing a great service to your body. In addition, you will be contributing your quota towards creating an environment that is both safe and healthy.
Fragrance-Free Shampoo Brands
The following is a list of hair shampoos which don’t include synthetic fragrances and other harmful chemicals in their formulation:
JASON Fragrance-Free Daily Shampoo
Since 1959 the JĀSÖN team has been creating personal care products with natural ingredients that are safe for users and the planet. Their products have become a healthy and environmentally friendly alternative to chemical-laden products.
JASON Fragrance-Free Daily Shampoo will benefit any type of hair, but it is particularly suitable for people who have scalp sensitive to fragrance and chemicals.
Fragrance-Free Shampoo Conditioner Bundle by Desert Essence
Desert Essence uses natural and organic ingredients to create high-quality products that deliver a healthy and effective beauty experience.
Fragrance-Free Shampoo and Conditioner Bundle is gentle yet effective unscented duo and like all their products it doesn’t contain artificial fragrances or colors, parabens, phthalates, sodium lauryl/laureth sulfates, silicones, EDTA, phosphates, glycol or petroleum-based ingredients, and is not tested on animals.
Pharmaceutical Specialties Free & Clear Hair Shampoo for Sensitive Skin
Pharmaceutical Specialties Free and Clear Shampoo is another mild shampoo for sensitive skin and scalp formulated without fragrances or any harsh chemical irritants found in ordinary shampoos. This shampoo has no smell at all.
Ava Anderson Non-Toxic Shampoo
Ava Anderson Non-toxic is committed to creating safe products without any harmful chemicals. This shampoo isn’t scent-free, but it is worth mention because it is formulated only with natural pure and nontoxic ingredients. It doesn’t contain any harmful and damaging chemicals, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) rating. The light citrus scent comes from essential oils.
Image courtesy of nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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