Top 10 Chemicals to Avoid in Perfumes

April 19, 2018

As a beauty editor, I used to love when the latest mainstream perfumes would land on my desk for review. All dressed up, with promises of making you more popular, prettier and without a doubt more feminine. Who wouldn’t swoon?

Yet, take away the packaging of most synthetic perfumes and what you’ll find is a toxic combination of chemicals that have been shown to cause a number of serious health risks, from cancer to reproductive issues.

It’s said that it takes just 26 seconds for what you apply on your skin to enter your bloodstream, and that includes perfume, even if you apply it to your clothes.

What’s most alarming, is perfume companies are not required to disclose on any label what they put into their expensive, and the not-so-expensive, products. So, avoiding ingredients such as camphor or ethyl acetate is almost impossible, unless you decide to abstain from wearing synthetic fragrances. And it’s not just eau de parfums or perfumes that pose all the risks.

Wherever you see fragrance or parfum listed on any label, unless it comes from a natural source (even then, there are still allergy risks), it’s wise to reconsider handing over your hard earned cash to buy it.

It’s said that it takes just 26 seconds for what you apply on your skin to enter your bloodstream, and that includes perfume, even if you apply it to your clothes.

Avoiding questionable fragrance ingredients in personal care products, under current laws, is nearly impossible. Fragrance is found in a wide variety of consumer products including cosmetics and personal care products, cleaning products, air fresheners, candles, toys and more.

Increasingly, personal care products bear claims like natural fragrance, pure fragrance, or organic fragrance. None of these terms has an enforceable legal definition. All can be misleading. One study found that 82 percent of perfumes based on natural ingredients contained synthetic fragrances (Rastogi 1996).

Moreover, just because a fragrance ingredient is derived from a plant or an animal source does not mean it is safe for everyone, since many all-natural and herbal products contain fragrance allergens (Scheinman 2001).

Also, an unscented or fragrance-free personal care product may contain a masking fragrance, a mixture of chemicals meant to cover up the odour of other ingredients (Scheinman 2000; Steinemann 2009). Not So Sexy: The Health Risks of Secret Chemicals in Fragrance report by The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the Environmental Working Group.

It’s said that it takes just 26 seconds for what you apply on your skin to enter your bloodstream, and that includes perfume, even if you apply it to your clothes.

Top 10 Ingredients to Avoid

1. Benzaldehyde found in perfume, cologne hairspray, laundry bleach, deodorants, shaving creams, shampoos, soaps, dishwashing detergent and more.

Health risks: possible kidney damage and irritant to the mouth, throat, eyes, skin, lungs and GI tract.

2. Benzyl Acetate found in perfume, cologne, shampoo, fabric softener, air freshener, hairspray, aftershave, deodorants and more.

Health risks: A carcinogenic linked to pancreatic cancer. Irritant to eyes and respiratory passages.

3. Benzyl Alcohol found in perfume, cologne, soap, shampoo, nail enamel remover, air fresheners, deodorant, fabric softeners and more.

Health risks: Irritant to upper respiratory tract. Can cause headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, drop in blood pressure and, in severe cases, death due to respiratory failure.

4. Camphor found in perfume, shaving cream, nail enamel, fabric softener, dishwashing detergent, nail colour and some air fresheners.

Health risks: Irritant to eyes, nose and throat. Is readily absorbed through body tissues. May cause dizziness, confusion, nausea, twitching muscles and convulsions.

5. Ethanol found in perfume, hairspray, shampoo, fabric softener, dishwashing liquid, laundry detergent, shaving cream, soap, air fresheners, nail colour and remover and more.

Health risks: Can cause fatigue, irritation to eyes and upper respiratory tract, even in low concentrations. Can also cause impaired vision, ataxia and stupor.

6. Ethyl Acetate found in aftershave, cologne, perfume, shampoo, nail colour, nail enamel remover, fabric softener and dishwashing liquid.

Health risks: Irritating to eyes and respiratory tract, may cause headache and narcosis, may cause the skin to dry and crack as well as anaemia with leukocytosis and damage to liver and kidneys.

7. Limonene found in perfume, cologne, disinfectant spray, bar soap, shaving cream, deodorants, nail colour and remover, fabric softener, dishwashing liquid, air fresheners, aftershave, bleach, paint and varnish remover.

Health risks: Carinogenic.

8. Linalool found in perfume, cologne, bar soap, shampoo, hand lotions, nail enamel remover, hairspray, laundry detergent, dishwashing liquid, air fresheners, fabric softeners, shaving cream, aftershave, solid deodorant and more.

Health risks: In animal tests it has caused ataxic gait, reduced spontaneous motor activity, depression and development of respiratory disturbances leading to death.

9. a-PINENE found in perfume, cologne, shaving cream, deodorants, dishwashing liquid, air fresheners, soaps.

Health risks: Damaging to the immune system.

10. a-TERPINEOL found in perfume, cologne, laundry detergent, bleach powder, laundry bleach, fabric softener, some air fresheners, cologne, soap, hairspray, aftershave and roll-on deordorant.

Health risks: Highly irritating to mucous membranes. Aspiration into the lungs can produce pneumonitis or even fatal edema. Can also cause loss of muscular coordination, hypothermia and respiratory depression.


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