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'Fragrance', the secret scent

by Nina Hargrave |

What does 'fragrance' mean and why at times is it a loaded and often misused word?

The lure and glamour of the beauty industry is intoxicating. Its advertising is highly evocative and there is something so appealing about products that smell good and make you feel special and expensive. I, like most of us, was captivated from an early age. Most of the time we don’t really care about what’s in our products as long as they do their job, right? It’s not something most of us have the time to worry about, or even think about, and yes there are chemicals all around us, in our food, in our water, everywhere. And our bodies seem to have amazing capabilities of processing and hopefully eliminating these chemicals every day.

A lot of people are still very unaware that there are many unlisted ingredients that come under the word 'Fragrance' (or Parfum). The unlisted and potentially hazardous chemicals that are included under 'fragrance' and 'parfum' are present in many products including perfume, skincare, haircare and household products, like air fresheners.

'In 2010 The US non-profit lobby group Campaign for Safe Cosmetics in conjunction with the Environmental Working Group (a non-profit environmental lobby group), commissioned independent testing of 17 popular fragrance products (including men's and women's colognes and body sprays) to determine what chemicals they contain.  

The researchers found each product contained on average: 14 chemicals not listed on the label, 10 chemicals that have been linked with allergic reactions (such as headaches, wheezing, or asthma) and four compounds known to have the potential to disrupt the body's hormone system (including diethyl phthalate, a chemical linked to sperm damage in males).'

Some of these chemicals have been linked to conditions such as diabetes and certain cancers, such as breast cancer. A little spray of perfume here and there should be fine, but long-term use of some of these chemicals would surely be bad and what about all these thyroid issues that seem to be on the rise in women's health? Isn't this the place of the body most commonly targeted for the spray of perfume? And to date there is little research on the long-term exposure of these chemicals on humans.

Under Australian legislation, just as it is in the US, companies are required to list the ingredients they use, but they don’t have to list the individual ingredients used to create the fragrance or scent of a product. Often a concoction of ingredients or chemicals are used to try and mimic some form of natural scent.

So why is “Fragrance” such a loaded word? And why is there a loop hole in this area of scent? Is it because historically perfumeries never shared their secret scents for fear of others copying them so their rights were protected? Should that mean that the secret of scent lives on in our current world?

There is a strong shift among people to use less chemical and synthetic products and a move back to natural and organic ingredients in products. Importantly, these products are produced by companies that are willing to be transparent about their ingredients and with movements like 'green chemistry', which is helping companies to recognise more sustainable and non toxic ways to develop and test the chemicals they use, this will hopefully lead companies to switch to better and safer alternatives. 

I believe we have the right to know exactly what is in the products we purchase and use so we can make informed decisions about our own health. That is why we source the globe for the highest quality essential oils that are used in our Serene Body Health perfumes.

Reference – ABC Health and Wellbeing -The Pulse - Not so Sweet chemicals in fragrances. By Peter Lavelle published 15-07-2010.

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