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The Truth Behind Fragrance in Skincare

A sweet smelling soap or moisturizer can really help you to relax on your selfcare night. So then why are so many shoppers shifting toward fragrance-free skincare products? The truth behind the matter is that fragrance has not only been known to be irritating to the skin, but also quite harmful to our environment.

Oftentimes you’ll scan through those long lists of ingredients and see ‘fragrance’ listed– it really is quite general, especially when this umbrella term can be a combination of mystery ingredients. Due to intellectual property laws, these terms can actually be used to conceal a secret concoction consisting of hundreds and even thousands of chemicals– any of which could be a harmful carcinogen. So why should we care?

Regardless of if these fragrances are from natural or synthetic sources, they often can be irritating to the skin.

What we are all itching to know is how exactly fragrance is tied to skin conditions like eczema and, in some cases, dermatitis. One of the most common causes of dermatitis, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, is fragrance, and it affects around 1% of the population. Many, regardless of their skin sensitivity, are avoiding fragrance altogether for this reason.

Whether it’s synthetic, natural, or scented by essential oils, it is important to know your skin and what irritates it. Natural scents and essential oils are often much cleaner and milder, but still can cause irritation for the most sensitive skin types.

Thinking Earth Conscious

Individuals with sensitive skin are not the only ones to worry about fragrance. The effects of fragrance can actually be harming our environment as well. Products with fragrances, whether skincare or perfume, can cause a small amount of emissions. Chemical fragrances, as a whole, now rival vehicles as a pollution source in places like LA, according to a new study by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). A 2018 study revealed that petrochemical products accounted for around half of all fossil fuel VOC emissions– that synthetic fragrances are a derivative of.

Though natural fragrances seem to have a lesser emission, they are not 100% clean. Take rose oil for example– it takes around 200,000 petals to make just 5mL. This is a significant amount of roses which take a significant amount of land and water to grow, which is quite problematic when it comes to our climate.

For perfume ingredient farming, many trees are cut down to open land for the crops. Many perfumed cosmetics contain palm oil, which is a known contributor to deforestation according to a report by The Economist.

Who to trust?

If you are having trouble navigating the sea of ingredients on your products label, a reliable source is the ESG Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. This resource has an extensive list of fragrances and rates them on how harmful or irritating they are.

Another great resource is the Yuka app, where you can scan products to reveal their ingredients & fragrances with a ranking of how harmful they are.


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Meet The Brand Behind The Blog!

Explore the brand behind the blog! We are ESW Beauty, a clean skincare brand inspired by healthy living! All of our products are formulated with clean & vegan ingredients, are cruelty free, and made sustainably. Learn more about us below!

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