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Just Say NO to Fragrance: Revisiting the Industry’s Deceptive Use of the Word

Kristin Bauer / April, 2th

The term “fragrance” is a blanket industry loophole for cosmetic companies to put whatever they want in their products. This loophole has been granted by the FDA to protect the companies it's designed to regulate so that they may include whatever cheap, chemical or even toxic ingredients in their products. As if that isn’t offensive enough, thousands of harmful chemicals can be listed under “fragrance”, so that “straight poison” doesn’t have to be listed on their products. The laughable justification of this is so companies do not have to reveal their “trade secrets” so competing companies won’t have access to valuable recipes to replicate. The FDA openly promotes a greater responsibility to protect the cosmetic industry rather than the consumers who are purchasing said cosmetics. The consumers aren’t paying the FDA, but the lobbyists for the industry most certainly are. It's this particularly egregious offense that makes some holistic-minded people wary of anything the FDA does deign to approve.


Phthalates are the worst of it, and they’re everywhere. Phthalates are chemicals that make plastic soft and malleable. There have been more tests conducted on animals than humans and so the effects are still being assessed. New research has been expanded to include sensitivity and severity through individuals and to address the surge in chronic diseases with the rise in use of these chemicals as compared to the countries that have had the sense to ban them. Like China.  Consider that folks. China banned phthalates from their cosmetics to protect their population along with Mexico, Japan, the EU, Canada and Argentina.


Phthalates are endocrine disrupting chemicals that offset hormonal balances and could wreak havoc on the body's systems. In animals, exposure to phthalates can lower sperm count, cause birth defects and even infertility. Miscarriage and gestational diabetes are both at higher risks in pregnant women after exposure to these chemicals. In children, the list is devastating: premature puberty, eczema, asthma, ADHD, lowered IQ and even male genital deformities. 


Synthetic musks, styrene, methyl eugenol, octoxynol, nonoxynol, acetaldehyde, benzyl salicylate and many more ingredients commonly used in fragrance are known to cause cancer, alter hormones, cause allergic reactions, disrupt endocrine, nervous, kidney and/or liver function, known to be a human carcinogens and are suspected to cause birth defects.  


In spite of the known toxicity, American cosmetic products are loaded with phthalates and other chemicals hidden under the guise of “fragrance”. Read your labels, if the word fragrance or parfum is there, something is being hidden from you, the consumer. It's likely not the fruits they’ve added, but the chemicals they'd prefer to use as a cheap alternative.

I am passionate about transparency in the skincare industry.  If products are going to go on your body, then I believe they should be clean enough to go in your body.  And I believe that companies should tell you exactly what you are putting in/on your body.  Everyone should know that there is potential harm to their organs or health from a product that they use on their body, especially one that is being used daily as with most cosmetics.  These chemicals (or poisons really) also compound in our environment and cause long term environmental damage.  So, make the decision for yourself, but fragrance scares me and so I vehemently stay away from it. 

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