Gwen Leron: 50 Shades of Green


Ingredient to Avoid: Artificial Fragrance

Stop and Smell the (Real) Roses

Wouldn’t it be great if that vanilla-scented air freshener you hang from your car’s rear-view mirror was actually scented with real vanilla? Or if the citrus room deodorizer you use to freshen up your house contained real citrus extracts? Chances are, they don’t contain any natural fragrances. They are most likely scented with a chemical concoction that could be making you or your family sick. Some of these concoctions can contain hundreds of harmful ingredients—just to create that one vanilla or citrus scent.

It’s hard and pretty much impossible to stay away from artificial scents completely, because they are all around us at all times, but thankfully, there are ways to decrease your exposure to them. Here’s what you need to know:

Why are artificial fragrances unhealthy?

Unfortunately, the ingredients that go into making up artificial scents are a closely guarded secret because the recipes are proprietary to the companies that create them, so we have no clue what they contain.  What we do know is that many of the chemicals used to make up artificial scents can trigger allergic reactions and asthma. We also know that up to 95% of the chemicals used in creating artificial fragrances are petroleum based and contain phthalates.

Phthalates are a group of chemicals that are harmful to both us and the environment. It’s wise to stay away from them because they are carcinogens and they are linked to hormone disruption, infertility, birth defects, insulin resistance and genetic abnormalities. Phthalates are used in fragrances because they cling to the skin or hair giving the scent staying power.

Most mainstream shampoos, conditioners, perfumes, lotions, hair products, body washes, makeup, candles, laundry detergent, dryer sheets, deodorants, household cleaning products, and a whole lot more contain phthalates.

(Note: Phthalates have many other uses outside of artificial fragrances—we’ll talk about those in another post)

How to know if a product contains artificial fragrance

Artificial fragrances have several different names. When reading your ingredient list, if you see the words: artificial fragrance, fragrance, parfum, or fragrance oil, your product contains artificial fragrance.

It’s important to not confuse fragrance oils, which are not natural, with essential oils—100% essential oils ARE natural and safe.

Buying “unscented” or “fragrance-free” products does not mean that your product is free from artificial fragrances. You still need to pay attention to the ingredient lists because they may contain masking chemicals to cover up their scent to make them seem unscented.

How to avoid artificially fragranced products

If a product is not certified organic, there is a good chance that it is scented artificially. But, there are some cases where a scented product may not be certified organic and is scented naturally. This is usually the case with smaller manufacturers. If you aren’t sure, go to the source. Ask the retailer you are buying from or ask the manufacturer directly if their product is scented with synthetics.

  • Look for products that say “no artificial fragrance” and “phthalate-free.”
  • Use home cleaning products that are scented naturally.
  • Make your own home fresheners. You can find some natural home deodorizer recipes here.
  • Buy soy based candles that have been scented with essential oils
  • Use common sense when buying—scents with names such as coffee cake, forest rain, tropical breeze, praline etc. are most likely derived using a mixture of chemicals.
  • When it comes to perfumes, use natural perfumes that are scented with essential oils. I don’t personally use a lot of fragrances, but when I do, this is my favourite all-natural perfume line.

Do artificial fragrances cause you to have a reaction? Do you already avoid artificial fragrances?