See Ya Toxins | Part 4 – Fragrance. This one is the worst friend. If you have been following along with the See Ya Toxins series, you will definitely want to pay close attention to this one. Keep reading to see why!
Many products list “fragrance” on the label, but very few name the specific ingredients that make up a “fragrance.” Why? Well… This term was created to protect a company’s “secret formula.” So as a result, they can hide a myriad of ingredients behind the Fragrance and not disclose them. This can include a host of banned and toxic chemicals… so something can LOOK like a clean label, but if you see the word Fragrance (or a variation, see below) listed on the label – PUT IT BACK.
This lack of disclosure prevents consumers from knowing the full list of ingredients in their products. While most fragrance chemicals are not disclosed, we do know that some are linked to serious health problems such as cancer, reproductive and developmental toxicity, allergies and sensitivities. Clearly, there is a need for stronger regulations, more research, and greater transparency. But as of right now, it is perfectly LEGAL for companies to list the word “fragrance” on their ingredient label without having to disclose which chemicals make up that fragrance.
Fragrance is found in most personal care products including sunscreen, shampoo, soap, body wash, deodorant, body lotion, makeup, facial cream, skin toner, serums, exfoliating scrubs and perfume. It is important to know that if a product is labeled as “unscented”, that does not mean that it is fragrance free. Unscented and Fragrance free are NOT the same thing. As a matter of fact, if you look on the ingredient label of an unscented product, chances are you will still see “fragrance” listed on the ingredient label.
Fragrance is defined by the FDA as a combination of chemicals that gives each perfume or cologne (including those used in other products) its distinct scent, or even its “lack of scent.” Fragrance ingredients may be derived from petroleum or natural raw materials. Companies that manufacture perfume or cologne purchase fragrance mixtures from fragrance houses (companies that specialize in developing fragrances) to develop their own proprietary blends. In addition to “scent” chemicals that create the fragrance, perfumes and colognes, they also contain solvents, stabilizers, UV-absorbers, preservatives, and dyes. These additives are frequently, but not always, listed on product labels. In contrast, the chemical components in fragrance itself are protected as trade secrets and described on the label only as “fragrance.”
In other personal care products, fragrances that are added also include the combination of ingredients that give the product a scent and that stabilize the scent. These are typically only indicated by the term “fragrance” or “parfum.”
The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) lists 3,059 materials that are reported as being used in fragrance compounds. Of these 3,059 ingredients, some have evidence linking them to health effects including cancer, reproductive toxicity, allergies and sensitivities. Check out the link at the bottom of this post if you want to see the list and studies done on many of these chemicals. It’s WAY more than I can post here!
Current laws do not provide the FDA with the authority to require disclosure or public safety of fragrance ingredients. In the U.S., companies are required to list ingredients on the label; however, this regulation excludes the individual constituents of fragrance in order to preserve fragrance trade secrets. This sustains a loophole that leads to disclosure gaps.
The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) and the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM) develop and set voluntary standards for chemicals in the “fragrance” component of products. The US, Canada, and Europe rely on IFRA and RIFM to identify ingredients for use in fragrance. In effect, this means the international Fragrance industry is self-regulating.
ON THE PRODUCT LABEL
Fragrance, perfume, parfum, essential oil blend, aroma.
WAIT… “Essential Oil Blend”????? What the heck. But oils are PURE and FROM NATURE, right???!!!! UM NO. Not an assumption you can make unless you know the company! In fact we know from all our awesome EO education that crazy high percentages (estimates as high as 95%) of the oils in the US are adulterated with solvents and chemicals meant to either add to the smell of a diluted oil or to stretch the natural product’s quantity. I’ve even heard that EO bottles at the store may say “pure essential oil” yet have less than 10% actual plant-derived oil in them. So if that’s the case, what’s to make us think that a conventional product label listing “Essential Oil Blend” is going to be pure?
Bottom Line… Avoid fragrance! If you see the word fragrance on an ingredient label of any of your products, just know that it more than likely contains chemicals that are very harmful to your health. Until the FDA has the legal right to force companies to disclose every ingredient that makes up their trade secret fragrance, it is not safe.
(Info on Fragrance adapted from: http://www.safecosmetics.org