Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Akruti Khandkar (Journalist)  on 17th Oct 2020

We prefer fragrance-free! Why you should avoid fragrance in skincare products 

avoid fragrance in skincare products

Healthy skin isn't just about how it feels on your skin. It should contain ingredients that make your skin free from any contamination. Everyone wants to use a product that smells pleasant, right? Fragrance can be fortifying, calming, and fresh. But in the case of skincare, it's your biggest enemy. Want to know how? Read below-  

Why your derm says fragrance-free products are beneficial 

It's been researched that fragrance, regardless of whether synthetic or natural, is a sensitizing ingredient for all skin types. However, despite this data, many skincare items have a fragrance component in it. Several individuals struggle to accept the reality about fragrance being a troublemaker, so we are here to clear all the fuss over fragrances used in skincare. 

How skin responds to fragrance

Almost all fragrances release scent through an unstable reaction. Shockingly, this response in turn, causes a sensitive reaction on the skin. Research proves that in the skincare industry, fragrance is among the most widely recognized causes of allergies and other harmful skin issues. This is valid for all skin types, not only those with sensitive or redness-inclined skin.

You could be misled into thinking that because your skin doesn't show any indications of being irritated or disturbed by the fragrance in skincare items, the harmful compounds aren't affecting you.

You probably won't see the harm on the skin's surface, yet it tends to be quietly happening each day.

It's more like damage caused to the skin when you step out without wearing sunscreen. You will not feel or see anything happen visibly to your skin. However, the damage is still there and won't appear on the exterior of the skin until a few years.  

Why do several skincare products still contain fragrance?

The answer to this question is straightforward: It's because many of us like when our haircare or skincare items smell good. It is the ultimate marketing strategy; cosmetic companies understand the power of pleasant smells in a product and how it influences consumers' buying decisions.

According to Dr. Andrea Suarez

 There are at least 300 ingredients in a fragrance that make it challenging to identify and cause problems for users.  

 Another explanation for skincare fragrance is that several products usually don't smell decent without the assistance of fragrance. A delightful fragrance can diminish a natural not-so-good smell.
It doesn't mean that adding a fragrance is a necessity. Some formulas and ingredients bring a neutral- smell or fragrance-free product.

Natural fragrance or essential oil is no exception to this rule. Although, several plant extracts or essential oils have beneficial properties for the skin. Owing to their volatile nature, the smell they release isn't beneficial for the skin.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, fragrance has been a source of irritation in the skin, which prompts over 5.7 million doctor visits each year.  

Who should stay away from fragrance in skincare? 

Although skincare products containing fragrance are harmful to all skin types, few people with allergenic skincare conditions like acne, eczema, or rosacea should not use these products at all!  

How to discover fragrance in your skincare? 

Sadly, few brands shroud their full ingredient lists and manipulate the FDA loophole clause that permits personal care brands to list ingredients as "perfume" or "fragrance."  

So how should we solve the mystery of fragrance?

There are many fragrant ingredients to look out for- geraniol, eugenol, limonene, and citronellol. Most skincare specialists advise buyers to know what ingredients are in their skincare to settle on more educated choices about their usage.

As per Dr. Andrea Suarez, when it comes to personal care products, the fragrance is the number one cause of allergic contact dermatitis. Other ingredients can cause allergic contact dermatitis, so don't mislead that it is only caused by odor, she adds.  

How to detect a fragrance allergy?  

If we talk about preventive measures, then always stay away from the product that causes inflammation to your skin. A report in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology shows that 1.7 - 4.1 percent of individuals are sensitive to cosmetic products' fragrance.

You should always consult your dermatologist to foresee any allergic reactions. If you feel any triggering or burn in your skin, stop using it and consult your doctor. To avoid these burns, particularly those new to skincare or have a sensitive skin type, try a patch test before using any product. 

Did you know that your skin is marginally acidic?

To stay upbeat, healthy, and have glowing skin, the pH level needs to be kept acidic at generally 4.7. Usually, we have an acidic film on our skin's external layer (the acid mantle), which shields the skin from microscopic organisms, contamination, and allergens. Nonetheless, utilizing too many acidic items (like AHAs and BHAs) can aggravate your skin, while using excessively alkaline items and can cause redness and even accelerate aging. 

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Types of fragrances in products 

You'll discover three sorts of aromas in skincare items: 

  • Synthetic fragrance: Made up of 20+ ingredients, it generally utilizes benzene, petrol chemicals, and phthalates derivatives. No, they're not as toxic, but they do irritate your skin. 
  • Natural fragrance: Extracted from organic ingredients, similar to citrus flowers or fruits, through distillation, fermentation, and cold-pressing. It can still activate a lot of irritation in the skin. It's typically recorded as a "natural scent/fragrance" with the allergens (like limonene and citral).  
  • Essential oil: This is the WORST sort of fragrance you can use on your skin. Extricated from seeds, leaves, or flowers, fragranced essential oils are everyday allergens that effectively trigger negative responses (mainly when utilized in high portions). You'll discover their name on the ingredient list with the allergens recorded independently, such as Angustifolia oil, limonene, Lavandula, or citronellol. 

Hey, Wait! Don't Fragrance-Free Skincare Products Smell Too?  

It's hard to believe you've ever run over an unscented product. Every ingredient has its smell (some are not so good to smell), and your nose recognizes an aroma originating from fragrance-free skincare items. But these scents are just coming from the ingredients that are in the product.  

Safety procedures:

Fragrant ingredients in skincare or cosmetic items must meet similar guidelines for security as other ingredients. The law doesn't need FDA approval before the product reaches the market. However, they should be safe for buyers when used according to the labeled directions. Individuals or any company marketing or developing a product have a lawful obligation to guarantee the items are secure and appropriately labeled.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) upholds recognizable proof of the common allergens of fragrance in all skincare, prescription or non-prescription drugs. The Academy asks the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association (CTFA) to work with fragrance trade companies, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the AAD to acquire the revealment of the ingredient list. The Academy believes that customers should be provided with all the information that is important for wellbeing.  

Fragrance and labeling 

FDA requires the rundown of ingredients under the Fair Packaging and Labeling ActExternal Link Disclaimer (FPLA). This law cannot be used to compel or force an organization to tell "trade secrets." Flavor and fragrance formulas are perplexing blends of a wide range of regular and synthetic ingredients, and they are the sorts of cosmetic components that come under "trade secret." If you want to know more about labeling and how FDA works, visit the Federal Register notice for this regulation and regulation on cosmetic ingredient labeling 

Fragrance Allergies and Sensitivities

A few people might be hypersensitive or delicate to a specific ingredient in cosmetics, food, or different items, regardless of whether the vast majority accepts those ingredients.

A few segments of fragrance formulas can cause sensitivities or allergic reactions for some people.

If you are worried about sensitivity to certain fragrances, you might need to pick fragrance-free items and check the ingredient list cautiously. If purchasers have questions, they may contact the manufacturer directly.

Phthalates as Fragrance Ingredients

Phthalates are a gathering of synthetic compounds utilized in several items. The phthalate commonly used in fragrance items is diethyl phthalate or DEP. 

The Bottom Line  

Added fragrance is one of the most bothersome ingredients in skincare products. If you have delicate skin or a messed-up skin barrier, keep away from it at all costs. Please don't be scared, fragrance won't destroy your skin, but it is advisable to keep a distance as a preventive measure.