October 7, 2019 | Abby Caviness
While getting ready in the mornings, you may grab your favorite perfume, cologne, deodorant, or lotion without giving it a second thought. However, there are plenty of hidden dangers of fragrance you may want to consider before picking up another bottle of your favorite product. USHEALTH Group® wants to provide you with the truth about the dangers of fragrance so you can keep yourself and your family safe from potential harm.*
What is Actually in Fragrance?
As we apply our favorite cologne or perfume, how good it smells is typically our main concern. The current culture in the United States is to always smell good—just think about all the products you use that are scented. American women alone use an average of 12 to 16 products per day, many containing fragrances. Unfortunately, while it is not bad to smell good, the chemicals used to help us do so are causing more harm than you may realize.
Currently, there are more than 4,000 chemicals used in products to create a fragrance; however, none of these chemicals are listed on the labels.1 This is because formulas for the different scents are considered “trade secrets” and are protected from disclosure. So, when you look at the ingredients listed on your perfume, body wash, or anything else you own with a scent, the only word you will see is “fragrance.” In reality, a single scent can contain between 50 to 300 different chemicals.1 The dangers of fragrance can even extend to unscented products because they contain “masking” chemicals, which produce a neutral odor.2
The main chemicals of concern are:3
- Ethanol and isopropyl alcohol
- Galaxolide ketone and other musk ketones
- Ethylene glycol
We all know chemicals have the potential to harm us, but what kind of problems can fragrance chemicals cause in the human body?
Possible Negative Effects of Fragrance
Due to a large number of chemicals found in fragrance and how they are hidden from the public, it is hard to know exactly what you are applying to your skin.4 So, if you have allergies or sensitive skin, that may sound like a nightmare waiting to happen. Exposure to these chemicals can set off contact dermatitis, allergies, skin sensitivities, and cause damage over time.3 In fact, some rare cases involve individuals suffering from “perfume poisoning” after only just one use of perfume or cologne, which caused irreversible damage to their health.
Unfortunately, while allergies and skin sensitivities are more common, there are other dangers of fragrance lurking beneath the skin. For example, phthalate exposure in women can cause polycystic ovarian syndrome, which includes the following symptoms:4
- Irregular periods
- Hormonal imbalances leading to irregular hair growth and acne
Other effects of these chemicals may include:2
- Birth defects
- Endocrine disruption
- Respiratory problems
To put all of this in perspective, many chemicals found in U.S. fragrances are banned in most other countries.4 This is because other countries—like England and France—regulate their products using a different process. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration uses a “harmless until proven harmful” reasoning—in other countries, the process is the opposite. This fact alone should be very telling.
So, how can we know these chemicals are affecting us?
Symptoms of a Negative Reaction
In case you are dedicated to your fragrances, here are some warning signs of perfume poisoning so you know when it is time to talk to your doctor:3
- Swaying while walking or trouble with balance
- Slurred speech
- Lethargy or lack of energy
- Breath that smells of alcohol
- Nausea or vomiting
However, sometimes the symptoms are less severe. In that case, you may just be suffering from contact dermatitis. Those symptoms are:3
- Hives or blisters
- Itchy, flaking skin
- Burning or redness on the skin
- Sensitivity to touch
With contact dermatitis, these problems usually go away on their own if you cease using the product. However, if your symptoms persist, here are a few tips to help you soothe your symptoms:3
- Wash your skin with gentle, dye-free soap, and lukewarm water
- Soothe the area with a hypoallergenic, natural product like calamine lotion, aloe vera, or coconut oil
- Using hydrocortisone cream, such as Benadryl, until the itching subsides
With more deeply rooted issues, like reproductive issues and hormonal imbalances, the symptoms are not always as obvious. Typically, individuals find out something is wrong after it is too late. So, it is important you do as much research as possible, consult your doctor, or use natural deodorants like baking soda, white distilled vinegar, and coffee beans to freshen up your space. As for perfume, essential oils you know you are not allergic to can be a great alternative.
While perfume may be great for masking unpleasant body odor, there is a great risk potential that comes with using fragrant products. If you can avoid fragrances by using fragrance-free products and natural deodorants, you can hopefully avoid some of these effects and the symptoms that come with them.
*This material is provided by USHEALTH Group® for informational/educational purposes only and should not replace medical/clinical advice or direction from your health care provider.
- Zanolli, Lauren, “Why smelling good could come with a cost to health,” TheGuardian.com, published May 23, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/may/23/fragrance-perfume-personal-cleaning-products-health-issues
- Bloomberg, “Your Scented Products May Be Hiding a Dangerous Secret,” Fortune.com, published September 28, 2018, https://fortune.com/2018/09/26/scented-products-health-dangers/
- Watson, Kathryn, “How to Know If Your Perfume Is Poisoning You,” Healthline.com, modified June 24, 3019, https://www.healthline.com/health/perfume-poisoning
- Heid, Markham, “You Asked: Is Perfume Bad for Me?” Time.com, published February 11, 2015, https://time.com/3703948/is-perfume-safe/