Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ingredient Investigation: Perfumes & Fragrances

Do you feel that you're being nasally assaulted whenever you walk down the perfume aisle at your local department store?  There's usually a line of women waiting in suits ready to spray you like you're the cat that jumped on the kitchen table.

The art of perfume has a long history with humankind, from its use as a poison to it's ability to be people potpourri.  Just open your nostrils & take a deep whiff.

Did you know that some perfumes have up to 200 ingredients in their formulation?  Some of these are synthetic chemicals created to imitate natural aromas.  Fresh air scent, anyone?  Ocean?

Though they are frequently left out of many hypoallergenic products, perfumes cause a variety of allergic reactions in humans.

The FDA has received a number of perfume-related complaints, such as:

  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • rash
  • hyperpigmentation
  • violent coughing
  • vomiting
  • skin irritation
  • explosion of the perfume container

The fragrance industry is self-regulated; that means they have to answer to no one but themselves.  Some perfumes contain phthalates, animal secretions, a discomforting number of neurotoxins, & synthetics linked to birth defects & cancer.  

Now, to talk about the ingredients most commonly found in perfumes & other scented products.
The Truth About Fragrance-Free Claims
A product listed as Fragrance-Free means only that there is no perceptible odor.  These products may still contain fragrances to cover up any unpleasant odors within the product.

Fragrance is any natural or synthetic substance or substances used solely to impart an odor to a cosmetic product.  Think soap, shampoo, cleansers, air fresheners, cosmetics, and anything else that makes your nose tingle with delight or disgust. These ingredients may be used without full disclosure of what is actually in the compound.  Researchers have found that some fragrances actually allow for phototoxic effects in vitro, or in the outside environment.

Some fragrances likely to cause an allergic reaction in sensitive people are:
  • allyl alcohol
  • amyl cinnamal 
  • benzyl alcohol 
  • benzyl salicylate 
  • cinnamyl alcohol
  • cinnamal
  • citral
  • coumarin
  • eugenol
  • geraniol
  • hydroxycitronellal
  • hydroxymethylpentylcyclohexenecarboxaldehyde
  • isoeugenol
  • anisyl alcohol
  • enzyl benzoate
  • benzyl cinnamate
  • citronellol
  • farnesol
  • hexylcinnamaldehyde
  • lilial (2-(4-tertbutylbenzyl) propionaldehyde)
  • d-Limonene
  • linalool
  • methyl heptine carbonate
  • g-Methylionone (3-methyl-4-(2,6,6-trimethyl-2-cyclohexen-1-yl)-3-buten-2-one)
As the law stands, there is no way to differentiate which of these occurs in your products.  Manufacturers protect this information like the holy grail because they view their ingredients as "trade secrets" & they don't want their scents stolen.  The only requirement on the label of your products is to state "fragrance" or "fragrances".  The only way to know which of these you are allergic to is through trial & error, or by calling the cosmetic company to ask if a certain ingredient occurs.  Talk about getting a fragrance headache.

The bottom line: manufacturers are in the business of emulating what is already in nature.  The best advice I can give is to read your ingredient labels, & choose wisely.  Educate yourself so you can decide if that bottle of $$$ perfume is actually worth it, or if you can purchase a natural oil that might be a safer & less expensive alternative.

Did you know that the word perfume means "through smoke"?  This meaning comes from incense being the first perfume.

My resources are your resources:

A Consumer's Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients by Ruth Winter M.S.
No More Dirty Looks by Siobhan O'Connor & Alexandra Spunt

Did you find this post helpful?  Please share this information with someone you care about & leave a comment.  

My goal is to better serve each one of my readers.


Mary said...

I do get headaches. Sometimes all it takes is someone with perfume on
standing by me for a short period of time. There are days though that I seem to be able to take it without a problem. I don't wear perfume. Don't want to chance ruining a good time.