Walking through a department store and viewing all the fragrances that they have to offer seems fun. From musky and masculine to feminine and floral, the choices are endless. Many people may not even realize what toxic ingredients are a part of that. So many of the scents we know and love contain toxic ingredients such as phthalates, parabens, and synthetic musk; and brands get away with it because they legally do not have to disclose what is in their “fragrance”.
What chemicals are commonly in perfume and how do they affect us?
The problem with traditional fragrance begins with lack of transparency. A wide variety of chemicals can be listed under the single term like “fragrance”, “parfum”, or “perfume” without any additional elaboration. The single word listed on the label as such, can be a blanket term used to mask hundreds of toxic chemicals, and in the United States, they legally have the right to do so! Laboratory tests run by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found 38 chemicals in 17 name brand perfumes not included on the ingredient label. These chemicals ranged from petrochemicals to hormone disruptors. Among these “secret” chemicals, 66% of them have not been tested for safety. This means even if every listed ingredient is safe, the dangerous loop hole that is “fragrance” could potentially contain hundreds of additional, untested chemicals.
Diethyl Phthalate is a chemical used as a solvent in perfumes. This toxic chemical is linked to abnormal reproductive development in boys and sperm damage to men. It has also recently been linked to cause Attention Deficit Disorder in children when pregnant women are exposed.
Synthetic musks used in perfumes are extremely damaging to humans and the environment. Galaoxide and tonalide are two and have been labeled as an endocrine system toxin. As seen in a study done by EWG, these two musks were even found in the blood of newborn babies.
Toluene is another chemical found in fragrances during a study done by the EPA. This chemical and so many more found in fragrance is actually on the EPAs hazardous waste list. It does damage to the central nervous system, not to mention is flammable and volatile.
Petrochemicals make up about 95% of fragrance according to the Committee on Science and Technology. These petroleum based chemicals are toxic to the immune and nervous system after prolonged exposure.
Additionally, according to the National Library of Medicine, these synthetic fragrances have been linked to numerous health risks including asthma attacks, severe migraines, respiratory issues, contact dermatitis, neurological problems, and mucosal symptoms. Mentioned previously, when a product is labeled with ‘fragrance’ or ‘perfume’, this is in substitute for actually labeling what specific ingredients are included in the product, some of which is harmful. This is where transparency needs to be key. To put this into perspective, according to the National Library of Medicine, about 34.7% of individuals in the U.S. have experienced some sort of health problem as a result of using synthetic fragrance. Your favorite fragrance could be having a major effect on your daily health.
What substitutes are available?
In substitution of these harmful chemicals, essential oils are often used instead in natural perfumes (rose oil, sandalwood oil, lemon oil can all be used as natural fragrance). It is safe for most skin types, often made from natural and organic ingredients, typically not mixed with synthetic chemicals, some are even known for having anti-inflammatory or antibacterial properties, can be used for aromatherapy, and are even moisturizing. However, it is important to be mindful of the strength of the essential oils because they can be irritating for sensitive or acne prone skin. Another downside is that this type of scent does not last as long as synthetic fragrances do; but all in all, it is the lesser of two evils.
Find your perfect natural perfume by reading more from our vetted list below!
Created in 2018, the French owned organic fragrance brand Dossier has been adding their twist to natural perfumes. Founder Sergio Tache's mission was to create a brand that gave the consumer accessibility to iconic fragrances that we know and love, at a fraction of the cost and excluding many of the toxic and harmful chemicals. Straight from the website, it states, “With Dossier, enjoying clean, ethically sourced, long-lasting, high-end perfume is within reach”. For example, MFK’s Baccarat Rouge 540 which retails for $325.00, is available via Dossier’s own take of the iconic and popular scent as Ambery Saffron for the price of $49.00 for 1.7 oz. Many of their own fragrances are heavily inspired by YSL’s Black Opium, Le Labo Santal 33, Carolina Herrera’s Good Girl, Tom Ford’s Jasmin Rouge, Gucci’s Bloom, and many more for women. As with men they include Montblanc, Paco Rabanne, Tom Ford, Armani, Prada, and more. With the exclusion of toxic artificial fragrance, being vegan and eco-friendly, sustainable and being sourced from only the highest of quality ingredients, Dossier is one to check out if you’re having a hard time parting with your conventional favorites.
Henry Rose, founded by Michelle Pfeiffer, believes that brands should be transparent and should be shrouded in lies and secrets. You should know what you are placing onto your skin. Their product includes an array of fine fragrances in various scents. From musky and woody to light and clean, they have one for you! Being cruelty-free and free from parabens, phthalates, as well as many more toxins, Henry Rose is a worthwhile option.
Made in California, Rosie Jane is formulated by only the highest of ingredients. The products consist of body care, fragrance, candles, and perfume oils. Not to mention Rosie Jane products are made without the uses of parabens, phthalates, other known carcinogens or endocrine disruptors. One of their best sellers includes a trial kit, named the “Fragrance Discovery Kit”, others who are skeptical about a more natural and organic alternative, find this a great way to try something new. Great variety of products and price points, Rosie Jane will be added to our list of organic fragrance!
Sofia Isabel, also known as DefineMe fragrances, formulate their products clean, naturally, organic, and cruelty-free. Their products include perfume sprays, body oils, travel sets, and body polish. In comparison to the high-end perfumes, the price range is very competitive. Sofia Isabel scents range from floral, fresh, gourmand, and genderless, making all feel included. Found through their website, Ulta, Amazon, and Macy’s, the accessibility along with the options and price make Sofia Isabel one to buy.
The 7 Virtues Beauty is dedicated to a safe perfume alternative for their consumers and does not sacrifice how long the scent will last. Formulated with only the best oils and sugarcane alcohol, these scents are sourced from the Earth. With various scents to choose from including orange blossom, lotus pear, rose amber, or santal vanille just to name a few, everyone is bound to find a favorite. Free from parabens, phthalates, sulfates, formaldehyde, and UV inhibitors. The 7 Virtues is an awesome alternative!
With countless other natural perfume options available, there really isn’t a need to purchase synthetic fragrances anymore. Other brands worth mentioning including:
- Sana Jardin
- Goop (Edition 04)
- White Vetiver
- Abbott (Sequoia)
With the toxic chemicals that are included in popular fragrances today, we are so appreciative of brands that want to deliver the consumer with non toxic fragrances that they will not only love but are most importantly safe and clean. With the options included, as well as many others, there is certainly something for everyone.