Perfumes, colognes and aftershaves are popular cosmetic products for both men and women, and form part of the daily beauty routine for many of us. Unique blends of fragrances may evoke different emotions or feelings, from sexy and seductive, to fresh and energized. This personal aspect of choosing our own perfect scent adds to the attraction of wearing a fragrance. We will often stick to using the same fragrance for years and view it as “our’’ scent. Soon, it becomes part of the identity, and we feel naked without it.
The global perfume market is huge, reaching a value of $32.8 billion in 2020 - even celebrities get involved and create their own iconic scents. But, we rarely stop to think about the chemicals that are responsible for the pleasant scents we spray liberally on to our skin every day. Unfortunately, everyday perfumes and fragrances contain a number of harmful chemicals, which aren’t disclosed on the bottles. As such, a newer movement has begun to create “clean” fragrances, which are free from these chemicals. Here, we explain a little more about how perfumes are toxic and suggest an alternative all natural, non-toxic perfume for you to try.
Why are perfumes potentially harmful?
Perfumes and colognes contain fragrance chemicals which are organic compounds that volatilize, or vaporize into the air, to allow us to smell them. Volatile organic chemicals (VOC’s) can have negative impacts on the body and cause eye, nose and throat irritation, shortness of breath, headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizziness and skin problems. They can also trigger asthma attacks, sinus problems and allergic skin reactions, such as contact dermatitis.
Other toxic ingredients include ethanol or isopropyl alcohol, which act as carriers for the scented ingredients. These alcohols are toxic, especially if ingested. A study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) estimated that only a shocking 34% of ingredients found in fragrances have been tested for toxicity.
Fragrances also contain endocrine disrupting chemicals known as phthalates, which cause disruptions to the normal function of hormones. As hormones are crucial for our everyday health and are involved in regulating most of our bodily processes, when they don’t function as they should, our health suffers. As a result, the risk for developing problems such as diabetes and infertility increases. Phthalates can be especially harmful to the development of growing fetuses and children and increase the likelihood of allergies and other health problems.
Another common ingredient in fragrances is a carcinogen called styrene, which can increase risk of cancer. Perfumes contain chemicals to help the skin absorb the fragrance better and make it last longer. However, this also increases the potential to absorb these harmful chemicals.
The problem with traditional perfumes
You may be thinking, “but my perfume doesn’t have all of those bad ingredients you listed”. Actually, it’s likely it does contain those chemicals and more, as by law, manufacturers aren’t required to list every single chemical in their products, and are exempt from testing by the Food and Drug Administration. Their unique fragrance formulations are considered ‘trade secret”, which unfortunately for us, means we have no clue what is actually in them. Instead, chemicals are lumped together as “fragrance”. One bottle of perfume can contain between 50 and 300 chemicals. This is concerning for us, as it is always important to know what you are exposing your body to. If you experience any adverse reactions to a fragrance, you’ll have a hard time working out exactly what it is that caused it. So, is there an alternative we can stand by and start to swap our traditional fragrances for?
Our favorite non toxic perfume
The fact that chemicals in fragrances aren’t regulated, or even listed on the bottle, is rightly a bit alarming. But don’t worry, you don’t have to give up on smelling nice. There are “clean” alternatives out there which don’t include harmful chemicals and also list all their ingredients. One clean fragrance brand we love in particular is Sigil Scent. Their natural, gender-fluid fragrances are free from harmful chemicals and are made from flower and plant extracts, bringing a fresh perspective to perfumery. Sigil's products are inspired by ancient and esoteric traditions, re-interpreted through a contemporary lens. Take a look at their fragrances in our Awake Collection.
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