Fragrance - A stinky Little Secret

Fragrance.  Ever read that on an ingredient list?  It's one of the last words you'll see at the end of your lotions, soaps, cosmetics and skin care products.  Seems pretty innocent all dressed up in thoughts of fields and flowers. Right?  Nope!   Fragrance is the black sheep of traditional beauty products and its bad behavior can cause painful skin rashes like dermatitis or allergic reactions like headache or even asthma.  And the worst part is that it's hard to avoid.  It's in almost everything you buy from hair, makeup and perfume to skin care.  

I'm going to tell you the stinky secret the FDA doesn't want you to know.  

FRAGRANCE GETS A FREE PASS ON LABELS.

After an A'del product has been produced, the next step is a label.  The FDA has rules for this and how ingredients are labeled is one of them.  Most of you are probably aware that the first ingredient has the greatest concentration and it goes down to the least, followed by colorants and then fragrances.  Seems simple and transparent right?  But if you are a thoughtful person, and I believe you probably are since you're reading this blog post:) you might be thinking...."What IS the fragrance?" Is it an essential oil?  Is it a synthetic scent?  What is it?  

This is where the FDA and the laws meant to protect us really start to smell!  

Under the law, "fragrance" is the only ingredient that doesn't have to be specific.  

So you may say, "well it's only one little ingredient and it's right at the end of the list.  Can't be too harmful, right?"  Sorry to say, it's often not one fragrance but rather a blend of many ingredients...up to 5000 are rotated under the little term "fragrance", according to the AAD (American Association of Dermatology).  It can contain synthetic preservatives or allergy-provoking substances you just might want to know about.  And if you pride yourself in knowing EXACTLY what's in the products you use and the word "fragrance" is listed, you can't ever be sure.  

So now you might be wondering how this can be happening!  

Unfortunately it's all about an outdated loophole.  Originally, the law was developed to protect a company's perfume blend or trade secrets under the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1966.  In essence, it protected companies like Chanel No. 5 from copycats!  

So in an attempt to protect a company from corporate competitors, this law has inadvertently concealed ingredients to those of us who want to know if there are parabens, petroleum by-products and synthetics in the beauty products they're buying.

So what can you do.

Other than lobbying the FDA to change this, which some groups are doing, look for cosmetics, skin care, etc. that plainly state what scents they're using.  And if you see the word "fragrance", there should be a list of ingredients following it describing the fragrance in parentheses.  Then the choice is yours whether to buy it or not.  

And before you're tempted to snag "fragrance-free" products,  hear me out.  There are some companies using that term who add scent-masking chemicals to their products so that the end product has no smell at all, but then claim to be "fragrance-free."  In this case we're exchanging one set of toxins for another.  

And to really confuse you, some holistic companies use the term "fragrance-free" in an attempt to protect their formulas, but use only essential oils.  So how do you know?

Do your homework.  Ask questions and read, read, read.  

But it's not all hopeless.  

Look for companies that are transparent.  They are open about who they are and the ingredients they use.  They're proud of who they are as a company and have nothing to hide.   

It's too bad we can't completely trust the laws that are meant to protect us, but hopefully now you have a few more tools to help you protect not only your skin but the skin of your family.  

 


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