The dark side of fragrance —it is emerging as an annoying and insidious cause of allergic reactions. Common are modern climate-controlled offices shared with coworkers wearing their favourite colognes. And now, in hotel lobbies, we have GM’s who feel it necessary to perfume the room air for arriving guests.
This is really an issue of indoor air quality. Remember the days of cigarette smoke in workplaces and hotels? That battle has been won. And now we even see the rise of smoke-free CBD’s.
The issue is one of individual rights versus health. And also the health issues with perfume? These are becoming increasingly significant. Many suffer from headaches when exposed to fragrance.
The dark side of fragrance is a complex issue.
Progressive companies are making their office spaces “scent-free.” Employees leave their colognes at home. When employees find aromas “unpleasant,” this can have negative side effects. These include aggression, plus negative and low productivity mindsets.
However, there is another side to this argument. In some hospitals, for example, the sense of smell can be used to ease anxiety.
A distinction also needs to be made between synthetic fragrances and essential oil fragrances. Generally, there are more issues with synthetic fragrances. Many of these synthetics have not been assessed for safety.
Did someone say this was a complex issue? There are a few more years to yet to run on this debate. In the meantime, those sensitive to perfume continue to suffer.
Are fragrances a health hazard?
Many popular perfumes, colognes, and body sprays contain trace amounts of essential oils. They also typically contain a dozen or more potentially hazardous synthetic chemicals. To protect trade secrets, cosmetics brands may keep not disclose the fragrance ingredients. Therefore, consumers can’t rely on labels to know exactly what hazards are in products.
For example, a perfume may be something blended from many of the fragrance industry’s 3,000 stock chemical ingredients. The blend of which is almost always kept hidden from the consumer in particular products.
Cosmetic products must list all ingredients in what is called the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) format. However, when it comes to fragrance blends most brands lump these into a generic category of ‘fragrance’ or “parfum.” They do not identify the individual chemical components of a particular fragrance blend. This practice is due to loopholes globally in cosmetics regulations. It is all to do with fragrance secrecy where brands want to protect their fragrance blends. However, it keeps consumers in the dark about fragrance ingredients, even those with potential health risks.
Among these are chemicals associated with hormone disruption and allergic reactions. Plus, many substances have not been assessed for safety in personal care products. Examples include diethyl phthalate, a chemical found in 97 percent of the population in America and linked to sperm damage in human epidemiological studies. Another is musk ketone which concentrates in human fat tissue and breast milk.
At Indochine Natural we do things differently. First, we only use essential oils, and never synthetic fragrances. Second, we disclose every ingredient used in our product on the packaging ingredients list. It must be added that even some natural essential oils may cause skin reactions. Therefore, we always suggest that customers patch-test any products before using them.
A study, by the University of Melbourne, found that one in three Australians reports adverse health effects from fragrance products, including breathing problems, migraine headaches, skin irritation, and asthma attacks.
Among the findings in a nationally representative survey of 1,098 Australians, were that 7.7 percent of respondents lost workdays or lost a job in the past year due to the adverse effects of fragrance products in the workplace, while one in six said they would enter a business and leave as fast as possible if they smell an air freshener or fragrance products. Perfume counters in department stores are something that may need to avoid. These problems are not exclusive to any subset of the population. Some people have immediate health effects. But the effects can be very subtle and insidious and people may not realise they’re being affected until it’s too late. Indeed, there is the dark side of fragrance.
What to do?
These elements make cosmetic purchase decisions difficult. The Indochine Natural Australian Co-Founder and Master Formulator, Dr. Mike Thair, suffers from an intolerance to synthetic fragrances. This is the prime reason he started Indochine Natural, and why the company does not use synthetic fragrances. Many brands now formulate fragrance-free products. At Indochine Natural we produce our very popular top-to-toe No Fragrance Natural Soap Bar.
Want to know more? Talk to us. Remember, we are the guys who make the stuff. And we understand the dark side of fragrance.
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Dr. Mike Thair
Co-Founder & Master Formulator
Indochine Natural Sdn Bhd
Photo credit: velizar ivanov