Fragrances play a big role in our lives. Scent has the ability to illicit memories and feelings in a way the our other senses don’t. Remember what summer campfires smelled like? Or your mom’s lasagna she made every sunday night? Fragrance makes any sensory experience that much more visceral. We are just wired that way. The smell of your partner, or your baby is designed to enhance our bonding and connection. While the experience is relative, and one person may love a scent that another despises, we can all agree that the role of scent is a powerful part of our human experience. That is why fragrance has become a billion dollar industry. However the “fragrances” that we have come to know and love in our perfumes, cologne, and personal care products are LOADED with hidden toxins that are destroying our health as well as the environment. Sad I know. But there is hope. Knowledge is power, so read on to learn the hidden dangers in your perfume. And because I would never leave you hanging, I will also give you the names a few wonderful fragrance companies that are changing the game by eliminating most if not all of these deadly toxins.
What they aren’t telling you
The Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1973 requires companies to list the cosmetic ingredients on their labels but exempts fragrance from that requirement. This has allowed companies to lump together various hazardous chemicals that are simply labeled as “fragrance”. They are allowed to make these formulations “proprietary” allowing them to keep the ingredients a secret from the public. There are roughly 3100 “fragrance ingredients” in various personal care products (perfume, shampoos, lotion, soaps etc…), including those made for babies, that we are kept in the dark about. This makes it almost impossible to make healthy choices for ourselves and our families.
Toxic chemicals in synthetic fragrance that are harming us
1. diethyl phthalate (DEP) – This is one of the most destructive chemicals that is found in synthetic fragrances. Many of you have heard talk of Phthalates, well fragrances are one our biggest sources of exposure to these chemicals. Phthalates are a type of plasticizer. They are used in things such as PVC (vinyl), most soft plastics such as those found in food packaging, shower curtains, toys, and dozens of other household items. These plasticizers are responsible for a fragrance lasting so long. Ever wonder how your clothes still smell of your perfume months later even after washing? It’s because you aerosolized (…is that a word?) a bunch of plastic all over them. Phthalates have been banned in the European Union since 2005. Nine other countries, including Japan, Mexico and Argentina, have also outlawed the chemicals, but not the good old US of A. It took the US until 2012 to ban them in children’s toys because it’s been shown that children are extremely susceptible to damage from these chemicals. However it doesn’t really matter if you are still slathering your baby in baby lotion and using scented wipes because they are still being highly exposed. Here is a list of the toxic effects of phthalates.
- Endocrine disruptor for men and women
- DiNP (one type of phthalate) is correlated to male genital birth defects and impaired reproductive function in adult males.
- A study in the journal of pediatrics found a link between exposure and low birth weight as well as pre-term delivery.
- Increased incidence of diabetes in those with higher phthalate levels.
- Allergies and asthma in kids and adults.
- One study showed a possible link to childhood obesity.
- Reduced sperm count.
2. Synthetic musks – These are linked to hormone disruption and are believed to accumulate in breast milk, body fat, umbilical cord blood, and the environment. Here is a study that links musks to a toxic bioaccumulation.
3. Toluene (methyl benzene) – Toluene is considered hazardous waste. It is flammable, an asthma trigger, and can adversely affect the nervous system.
This is just a tiny sampling of the chemicals found in fragrances. The EWG did a study that found roughly half of the ingredients found in 17 top fragrances were “secret” undisclosed chemicals. So what do we do?
Alternatives that don’t stink
1.Essential oils – I have written about my love of essential oils before. Not only do they smell wonderful but they also have some really great health properties. It’s so easy to make your own signature fragrance. HERE is a simple tutorial on how to make you own.
2.Perfumes/colognes that use natural essential oils, or are guaranteed to be free of synthetic fragrances that contain phthalates. Here are a few I love:
- Strange Invisible Perfumes – This company is the creme de la creme of perfumeries. Their creations are not only completely natural, they are also incredibly complex, sophisticated, and are head and shoulders above any synthetic fragrance. From there website: “Botanical perfumer Alexandra Balahoutis formulates each original fragrance with certified organic, wildcrafted, biodynamic, and hydro-distilled¹ essences. Limited batches are then reverently hand-blended, set into a base of custom-distilled esprit de Cognac,² and aged for a minimum of six months. All Strange Invisible Perfumes are completely botanical and unfiltered.” Doesn’t get better than that.
- Tsi-La Organics – This company makes perfumes as well as perfume oils that are completely free of synthetic additives, preservatives or chemicals. They have many lovely scents to choose from.
- Honore Des Pres – All perfume ingredients are certified by Eco-cert and each blend is completely free of coloring agents, phthalates & synthetics. Their scents are beautiful and sophisticated.
- Rich Hippie – From their website “Rich Hippie perfume is made using traditional methods. Our “spirits of wine” or wine alcohol is all natural and better yet, it is made from organically grown grapes harvested from the great wine regions of California. All of the plant and flower extracts we use are organic or wildcrafted and carefully selected with the utmost attention to quality.”
3. Just go Au Natural! We have pheromones for a reason. Sometimes fragrance blocks those scents and interferes with the natural process. If your having trouble finding a date lately, maybe go fragrance free and see what happens? You never know!
So with all these awesome options, why on earth would we buy toxic synthetic fragrances? We’re smarter than that. Let’s clean up our bodies, and our world, and smell like a sexy beast while we do it.