They say looks can be deceiving, but so can scents.

We come across so-called natural fragrance or essence of apple, strawberry, vanilla, green tea, heaven, bliss, summer and other creative names that you have come across.

But, have you ever wondered what are these fruity, flowery, musky or woody fragrances made of? Are they natural as they claimed to be? What exactly are you smelling and getting into? Why does some so-called natural fragrance have a strong, pleasant scent that can last up to months and years?

According to Dr. Mercola, a bottle of fragrance could contain up to 3,100 or so stock of synthetic chemical ingredients! What a number of synthetic chemicals just to produce a fragrance! These synthetic chemicals have been linked to being causes of cancer, endocrine disruptors, reproductive toxicity and many more. To think that the sweet smelling fragrance that we smell, is all made up of harmful synthetic chemicals that do us no good!

Now, fragrance can also be made with natural scents from plants, and there can be a huge possibility of only a minor ratio usage as compared to a heap lot of synthetic toxic chemicals to come up with a particular fragrance. By adding in some natural fragrance from plants, these manufacturers are allowed to label their fragrances as ‘natural’!

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has stated that when we see ‘fragrance’ listed as an ingredient in products, we might as well read it as ‘hidden chemicals’. This is because companies are not liable to list out the ingredients of fragrances and most use it as a loophole not to declare other ingredients in their formulation by categorising it as ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’. Majority of manufacturers do so as they want to protect their trade secrets to their formulation by not revealing the ingredients.

Synthetic chemicals are cheap and easily mass produced. Manufacturers prefer them because the outcome can be easily controlled to get that consistent fragrance as opposed to expensive extract from plants of flower, which yield are subjective to a lot of external environmental factors. In other words, it is a cheap, easy option to maximise their profit.

Consumers who are not informed would have no clue that fragrances are so bad for their health. And did you know that many of the chemicals used in popular fragrances have NEVER been tested for safety?

And from there, we heard of people being allergic to fragrances. All these synthetic toxic chemicals from fragrances can potentially cause severe and painful headaches, sinus swelling, and itchiness in the respiratory system from the nose up to the throat. Some people suffer allergic reaction by having their throat clamp up and therefore, restricted their breathing flow. The possible health side effects of these fragrances can happen to both adults and kids.

To name a few, here’s a list of common synthetic toxic chemicals found in fragrances and the side effects affecting humans.

  • A-terpineol: A highly irritating substance to mucous membranes.
  • Acetaldehyde: Probable human carcinogen.
  • Acetone: Causes dizziness, nausea after inhalation, may cause acetone poisoning when breathing higher levels of it. A highly flammable chemical that would irritate your skin.
  • Acetonitrile: Cause weakness, headaches, tremors, numbness and nausea.
  • Benzyl Acetate: Causes irritation to the respiratory system.
  • Diethyl Phthalate (DEP): Autoimmune disorders, Hormone disruptors, including testosterone. It has shown that phthalates are linked to developmental disorders and defects, such as autism and ADHD from exposure of Phthalates in the womb. Also linked to poor lung function and reduces motility in sperms.
  • Ethanol: Can cause fatigue, even in low concentration. Inhalation of ethanol may cause irritation to the upper respiratory tract.
  • Linalool: This is a narcotic that would cause respiratory disturbances.
  • Musk ketone: Can irritate skin and has bioaccumulation properties in people, is also a suspected hormone disruptor.
  • Musk tetralin (AETT): Shown to cause brain cell and spinal cord degeneration.
  • Parabens: Synthetic preservatives that interfere with hormone production and release.
  • Toluene: The main effect of toluene is on the brain and nervous system.

As mentioned earlier, a fragrance can contain up to over 3,000 synthetic chemical ingredients, and in fact, up to 90% of fragrance ingredients are synthesized from petroleum! Imagine using all these synthetic chemicals on our body daily. Some people might brush it off saying that they are only using a small amount and wouldn’t think it would have a big impact on their health. However, some of the synthetic chemicals used in fragrance have bioaccumulated properties, which means it stays in our system every time we use it!

The synthetic chemicals from fragrances poised a risk as environmental hazards. For eg, synthetic musk from fragrances may end up in drinking water, in the drain, or soil. Synthetic musk also bio-accumulates in the fatty tissue of aquatic wildlife, and travels through the food chain, into the fishes, shrimps and etc that we consume.

Fragrance can be described to be as harmful as second-hand smoke by Joy Maccarthy from Joyous health. She mentioned “there are MORE chemicals in perfume and cologne than in cigarette smoke. Each puff of cigarette smoke has 250 chemicals while perfume and cologne can have up to 3000 different chemicals that make up a signature scent.” Now, that sure says something to be thought about!

Now that we know how fragrance can be harmful to our health and skin, it can easily be found in many personal care products to beauty products, from soaps to laundry detergent to air freshener. We should be more cautious when choosing our personal care and beauty products by trying to avoid those with ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’ in the label list.

Pregnant ladies and couples that are trying to have babies, should try avoiding using high doses of fragrances, such as perfumes. Yes, it can be really bad news for some people who have a collection of expensive, luxury perfumes. These expensive, luxury perfumes are not excluded from the usage of harmful synthetic chemicals too as part of their formulation to come up with their signature scent. It is known that synthetic chemicals in perfumes are a hormone disruptor including testosterone, and would slow down the motility of sperms. It can also cause developmental disorders and defects to the foetus when these synthetic chemicals are exposed to the womb.

Know what you apply every day to your skin by simply checking the ingredients labels and learn to know the ingredients. Be an informed consumer and choose your personal care and beauty products wisely. A small step to healthier wellbeing starts within us!







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