When it comes to perfume, the only thing with an air of mystery should be the scent that lingers when you cross the room. Unfortunately, the greater mystery surrounding perfume these days is the elusive nature of what is actually in your fragranced products! Because fragrance recipes are considered trade-secrets, many beauty companies are able to sweep whatever less-than-desirable ingredients they wish under the cover of simply “fragrance” in their product labeling. While this may seem like a frustrating fact as a consumer, there is still much that can be done to avoid amping up your chemical load from your daily spritz of fragrance.
Perfume can trigger our memory, inspire and stir attraction. But many of today’s popular fragrances also stir unnatural hormonal activity with some unintended and often dangerous results. Our sense of smell is closely related to the part of the brain responsible for releasing many key hormones. These hormones control our fight-or-flight response, energy levels, digestion, heart rate and emotions. The disruption of these hormones is where our vulnerability lies in relation to some of the common synthetics in popular fragrances.
Here are a few of the worst offenders…
- Phthalates: a dab of allergens behind the ears. Phthalates are one of the top 5 known allergens. Linked to hormone disruption, phthalates are thought to lead to increased risk of cancer and thyroid imbalance. Phthalates are not often listed in a product’s ingredients, but are hidden beneath the term “fragrance” when mixed with other ingredients.
- DEP/DEHP : not so sexy. This ingredient is banned in Europe. In the “Not So Sexy” Report released by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, warnings about DEP include the risk to the fetuses of pregnant women who use products including the ingredient. The root issue with DEP is, once again, the risk of hormonal imbalance. DEP’s hormonal effects are said to be especially dangerous for men.
- Synthetic Musks: hot summer fragrance. This is one of the most controversial ingredients in perfumes. Preliminary research shows the possible disruption of hormone activity due to synthetic musk, as well as the possibility of photosensitivity in the product, meaning the musk becomes more toxic when exposed to the sun.
While certain synthetic perfumes can be detrimental to our health, the opposite can be said of natural fragrances. In fact, there is an entire field of study on the issue: aromatherapy. Instead of causing potential harm to our minds and bodies, these natural scents can actually be healthful, uplifting and mood-enhancing.
There is no need to cut fragrances out our daily experience. As with so many areas of our lives, healthy choices are available if we are willing to become more educated and responsible consumers. Learn more about your favorite beauty products and make informed decisions about the products you will allow on your body and in your home.
Three things you can do to avoid harmful fragranced products:
- Read labels! Although not all ingredients are disclosed in labels, you can certainly avoid products with harmful ingredients clearly listed.
- Support beauty brands who fully disclose their ingredients.
- Fall in love with a natural fragrance! Natural fragrances have come along way from patchouli, incense and one-note essential oils.