Fragrance Stinks!

You probably think that the title of this weeks blog, “Fragrance Stinks,” is a mistake.

Why would I say that fragrance stinks?

We typically think of fragrance as a good thing that… smells good.

What do you think of when you see the word “fragrance?” Do you think of them smell of flowers in bloom? Maybe a bowl of fresh fruit, like oranges and strawberries? How about the smell of your favorite perfume or cologne? All of these thoughts make sense. Especially since the common definition of “fragrance,” is:

1 a : a sweet or delicate odor (as of fresh flowers, pine trees, or perfume)

1 b : something (as a perfume) compounded to give off a sweet or pleasant odor

2 : the quality or state of having a sweet odor

Merriam Webster Dictionary Online

However, do you know what the Cosmetics Industry thinks of when they see the word “fragrance?” How about what the FDA thinks? The government body who (sort of) regulates the cosmetics industry. Here is what they see:

The ingredient or mixture of ingredients acting as a masking agent, i.e., covering the undesirable off-odor of a product without adding a discernible odor to it, may be declared by their individual name(s) or as “fragrance” (in lieu of a better designation). A masking agent present in a product at an insignificant level may be considered an incidental ingredient under § 701.3(1)(2)(iii) in which case it need not be declared on the label.

FDA Cosmetic Labeling Guide

Did you catch that? To them, fragrance isn’t a scent taken from flowers in bloom or fresh fruit. Nope, they call it “a masking agent,” that covers up “the undesirable off-order of a product without adding a discernible odor.” Side note: I fixed their misspelling of the word discernible ;-).

Get to the point already!

Hold on… I’m getting there…

So, here is my point: The term “fragrance” in your makeup, your shampoo, your body wash, your baby’s shampoo and lotion, your household cleaners… (you get my point)… is not what you think it is!

Don’t believe me?

The International Fragrance Association (IFRA), the perfumers version of the FDA, recently released a list of ingredients that are hidden under the term, “fragrance.”

Want to know what those chemicals are?

It’s a long list of words you can’t pronounce unless you’re a chemist. In fact, they list 3,194 chemical ingredients in total. That’s right, 3,194!

IFRA Fragrance Ingredients – the list

Why should you care?

The Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep states that, “On average, consumers use about 10 personal care products containing 126 ingredients per day. The government does not require health studies or pre-market testing for these products. The Cosmetics Ingredients Review (CIR), the industry’s self-policing safety panel, does not make up for FDA inaction. In 2007 EWG analysis found that over 30 years, the industry panel has reviewed the safety of just 13 percent of the 10,500 ingredients in personal care products.”

EWG Skin Deep Cosmetics Database FAQ

The Enviroblog posts this about the newly released list of fragrance ingredients, “An analysis of these 3,163 chemicals in EWG’s Cosmetics Database shows that there is reason for concern. In fact, 1 in 20 earned a “high” hazard score (7-10 of 10), and a full 1 in 6 rated at least a “moderate” hazard score (3-10 of 10). 25 of them scored a 10, the highest score.”

They also say that, “of the 3,163 chemicals listed, several stand out as particularly toxic: phthalates, octoxynols and nonoxynols. Phthalates are potent hormone disruptors linked to reproductive system birth defects in baby boys. Octoxynols and nonoxynols break down into persistent hormone disruptors, as well. “


So, to me, the term “fragrance” in consumer products just flat-out stinks! It is misleading and causes harm to those who use it, those who come in contact with those who use it (it can transfer from your skin to another), and the environment.

What do you do about it?

  • First thing, when you are at home, go to every product that you use to clean your house. Does it have “fragrance” in it? I bet each one of them does.
  • Second, go to every body care and cosmetic products that you use. Look at their ingredients. Look at the ingredients of the products you use on your children, your infants, your pets. Fragrance is there, right?

Okay, now you know that it is bad for you and others. And, you now know that it is in practically every product you use on a daily basis. Let’s move on to the third and most important step.

  • Gradually replace the products you use with products that contain ingredients that you can recognize. For example, you may not know the term “Tocopherol” but, if it is in your product it is most likely followed with its common name (Vitamin E) on the label. If it says something like this, “2H-1-Benzopyran-6-ol, 3,4-dihydro-2,5,7,8-tetramethyl-2-(4,8,12-trimethyltridecyl)” you might want to look it up on EWG Skin Deep.
  • Only purchase products that list EVERY ingredient on their label.
  • Make your own! See our Saturday’s Snickety posts, we often provide DIY tips.
  • Stay informed!
  • Share the products you have found and/or the DIY products you have made with others so, they can benefit from them as well.


What do you think of this post? Did you know the truth about fragrance? When you looked, how many products that you use had the term fragrance in them?


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