We all like to smell good and perfumes have long been used by humans. For centuries across the world, civilisations have used a range of herbs, foliage, bark, resin, flowers, fruits, rinds and oils in celebrations and rituals to adorn themselves, protect from evil, bring luck and hide odour from irregular bathing routines. This saw the beginning of tinctures, infused flower waters, colognes as well as the alcohol based products we have today.
The 20th Century saw the first synthetic fragrance produced commercially. This helped with consistency in scent, affordability and availability as natural ingredients availability can vary from year to year.
What is fragrance?
Fragrance is a mixture of synthesised compounds and molecules which imitate and mimic natural scents. Now with a long list of completely new scents and flavours purely created synthetically which are not known naturally.
Why are they bad?
There are around 4000 synthetically produced chemicals used in common perfumes, cosmetic products, shampoos, clothes, air fresheners, furniture, even toys. These contain a mix of phthalates, parabens and solvents which cause scents to last longer and stay on the skin or material. We know that many of these man made chemicals are linked to headaches and migraines – have you ever shared a lift with someone who is wearing a lot of perfume and felt light headed or dizzy after? These synthetic ingredients are carcinogens, causing allergies and sensitivities to the respiratory system and skin eg. eczema, dermatitis, hives.
There are also ingredients that can mimic our hormones – these endocrine disruptors can impact fertility in both men and women causing a number of health issues. On top of that, the sheer volume of these individual chemicals can bio-accumulate as we are unable to break down and eliminate them as quickly as they are being absorbed.
Under the ingredient ‘Fragrance’ on the back of your shampoo, face cream or perfume can be a mix of tens to hundreds of different chemicals without being listed without the consumer knowing exactly what they are putting on their skin.
In the 1930’s there was a law to protect perfume houses, manufacturers and suppliers so as to not disclose ‘trade secrets’ which prevents them to disclose individual ingredients.
Harmful Ingredients to avoid
Phthalates – This multi functioning ingredient can be used as a preservative but mainly for its durability and longevity which gives more staying power to the fragrance so it lasts longer. Phthalates are not only used in creating synthetic fragrances but also plastics and solvents.
Diethyl phthalate (DEP) is often used as part of the “fragrance” component of the perfume which is not listed on the label. And these phthalates have been associated to a number of health issues including – cancers, asthma, breast cancer, obesity, male fertility issues and birth defects.
Parabens – Used as preservatives to prolong the shelf life of products there has been concern that these chemicals can interfere with hormones. Is thought to be linked to breast cancer and have a negative impact on fertility and reproductive organs. It is also causes skin sensitivities and may cause other allergic reactions.
If parabens are listed under the ingredients list then keep an eye out for Methylparaben, Butylparaben, Propylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Ethylparaben, Polyparaben and Isobutylparaben. However these would most commonly be covered under the term ‘Fragrance’ on perfume lists.
Other ingredients include artificial colours, acetone, benzaldehyde, benzyl acetate, ethanol methylene chloride as well as synthetic musks, stabilisers and a whole host of petroleum-based derivatives causing a real toxic concoction of ingredients that are impacting our skin, health and environment. Remember these ingredients and chemicals are mainly untested especially when blended and used together.
Natural perfumes are a much healthier and better choice for our health and the environment. Created from organic ingredients such as essential oils, absolutes and resins, they are blended with alcohol or water and may contain glycerine and a natural preservative. These natural perfumes have a much more delicate aroma with the added bonus of medicinal and therapeutic benefits that can enhance mood, uplift, help focus and energise without the harmful toxic chemicals mainstream fragrances contain.
It can be an adjustment when transitioning from your favourite bottle of Chanel or Dior but once you make the switch you will feel the benefits knowing you are eliminating harmful ingredients from your body and home while enjoying the true natural beauty and scent of organic ingredients.