Could Your Perfume Be Poison?
I have a confession. I have a stack of perfumes sitting in my bathroom cupboard. Yes – conventional, toxin-filled, chemical-loaded perfumes. Most of them were gifts so I can’t bear to throw them away. And to give them to someone else, now that I know how toxic they are? Tipping them out would only pollute our waterways or add to landfill. So I’m in an eco-lover’s catch 22. Meanwhile, they remain sitting there taking up valuable bathroom real estate.
The problem is, these beautiful looking bottles are filled with chemicals that have been proven to poison our bodies. As I’ve written about before, the skin is the body’s largest organ and absorbs up to 80% of what you apply to it (you can read that article here). You only have to look at nicotine patches to realise that. Therefore if you’re taking care of what you’re ingesting into your body, you should also be interested in what you’re placing on it.
The Sweet Smell of 3000+ Chemicals
The word ‘fragrance’ can actually refer to up to an incredible 3,100 different chemical ingredients, most of which are synthetic and artificial. Many of these chemicals have been proven to cause asthma, respiratory disease, skin irritations, cancer, and disrupt the nervous, immune, endocrine, hormonal, and reproductive systems. Dermatology researchers in fact rank ‘fragrance’ as one of the top five human allergens. These chemicals also have the power to accumulate and store themselves in the body, with traces having been found in new born babies, having been transferred from the mother.
What’s more, this catch all baddy called ‘fragrance’ isn’t just in your favourite perfume or cologne. It’s also in almost every other skin care, beauty and household cleaning item on our supermarket and beauty store shelves.
The Label Does Not Reveal All
The problem with ‘fragrance’, is that consumers have no way of knowing exactly which of the 3,100 fragrance ingredients may be hiding in their products. Just like all skin care, there is very little government regulation on what ingredients can be used, or what has to be represented on product packaging.
In particular, fragrance secrecy is legal due to loopholes in labeling laws, which require companies to list cosmetic ingredients on product labels but explicitly exempt fragrance. This means manufacturers can effectively disclose some of the chemical constituents in their ingredient list, but lump anything they don’t want to disclose in ‘fragrance’.
Furthermore, large skin care companies are continually petitioning governments to require less information on ingredient labels, not more. They of course argue that this is so they’re able to protect their proprietary fragrance combinations.
A recent study by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and Environmental Working Group showed that 17 top brand name fragrances contained 38 different undisclosed chemicals in their formulations. Among them were chemicals associated with allergic reactions, sperm damage, abnormal fetal development, increased risk of Attention Deficit Disorder in children, hormone disruption, and thyroid disease.
Even more worrying is that neither the fragrance industry, independent bodies, nor our governments have assessed the majority of these secret fragrance chemicals for safety.
The peril of greenwashing means that big brands are increasingly advertising their products as ‘healthy’, ‘natural’, or ‘made with organic ingredients’. However they can legally contain as little as 1% of these good ingredients, while the remainder consists of harmful ones.
Products can even claim to be ‘unscented’ or ‘fragrance free’, and still contain artificial fragrance. Their nondescript unscented odour is in fact typically achieved as a result of a chemical masking agent.
How You Can Protect Yourself
- Always read product ingredient lists. If you wouldn’t eat it, you shouldn’t be putting it on your skin. If you can’t be bothered (or don’t want to turn a 1 hour shopping trip into a 3 hour one), then make sure you buy your perfumes and other skin care products from an organic supplier who has carefully researched the products for you.
- Look for products that are labelled as being made with “no artificial fragrance“. This then sets them apart as only containing naturally derived fragrance ingredients.
- Better still, opt for certified organic perfumes and skin care that are scented with 100% essential oils such as jasmine, neroli, patchouli, lavender and ylang ylang.
- When in doubt on a product or ingredient, visit the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. You can enter any ingredient, as well as a number of brands, companies and products, and find out the health hazard rating.
Luckily for us, what I’ve found is just because you’re taking care of your health, doesn’t mean you have to go without. In fact once you switch to organic natural perfume alternatives, you’ll realise how much more captivating and beautiful the scents can be.
My personal favourite at the moment is Annmarie’s Love perfume – it has a beautifully light yet entrancing scent, and is made solely with the goodness of 100% natural essential oils! This perfume, and all the others from the Annmarie range smell amazing, contain over 95% certified organic ingredients, and fit perfectly in your handbag.
They make great Christmas and birthday gifts too, so next time you’re on the present hunt, think about treating your loved ones with something that will serve their health, not hinder it.
THIS WEEK’S BE GOOD CHALLENGE:
As consumers, the greatest way we can instigate change is by using our buying power as a vote. Take note this week of all the products you’re using that contain ‘fragrance’, including perfumes, skin care, body lotions and body washes. Then as each one runs out, replace it with a truly organic non-toxic alternative.
Click here to browse our favourite organic fragrances and skin care.
Sources: Environmental Working Group, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, Sally B’s Skin Yummies