Have you ever wondered exactly what you're smelling when you encounter a scent? Whether it's the aroma of fruit or the scent of petrol, what sets them apart and how does it impact you? You might have come across the term "Fragrance-free," but why does that hold significance?
Fragrances consist of a blend of aromatic compounds and molecules. When it comes to products found on store shelves, seeing "Fragrance" or "Perfume/Parfum" listed in the ingredients indicates the presence of synthetic compounds derived from petroleum in the product.
Does this matter? The short answer is yes, but why?
What sets synthetic fragrances apart from natural ones?
Synthetic fragrances are typically derived from petroleum, and even so-called natural fragrances contain numerous chemicals, making them not as natural as they might seem. The most genuinely natural scents are often essential oils, which are extracted oils from plants or fruits, containing fewer unique molecules that are generally well-studied.
What's the distinction? At present, the long-term effects of many chemical additives in cosmetics remain unknown. During fragrance production, a combination of hundreds of chemicals is used, many of which are not disclosed to consumers.
Should we be concerned?
Not overly so. We shouldn't be overly apprehensive about every fragrance. Regulatory agencies like the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) and health organizations evaluate fragrance ingredients for safety, including potential by-products.
However, at the same time, it usually takes a minimum of 10 years of research data to extensively study the long-term effects on biology. With numerous molecular components in fragrance products, while the safety of each chemical alone might have been studied, the combined effects of these chemicals on long-term health largely remain unknown.
There are also concerns regarding allergic responses to these molecules. Given the vast number of them, too many to fit on an ingredients list, the potential allergens within synthetic fragrances are numerous. Since individual responses to certain chemicals can vary greatly, synthetic fragrances are actually a leading cause of allergies.
This doesn't imply that natural fragrances are universally hypoallergenic. They are generally considered to be more hypoallergenic and easier to test due to their fewer components. However, it's important to note that some natural components can also act as irritants (Think Poison Ivy!).
Given that each of us is uniquely different, some individuals might still experience allergic reactions to natural essential oils as well. After all, you probably know someone with a nut allergy, and nuts are completely natural!