Fragrance in skincare has become a polarizing topic of debate in the industry. Many are arguing whether you have to avoid products with it or not. After all, brands only add a small amount to make the product smell nice, right?
While pleasant-smelling products can be enticing to use, fragrances can cause harm to your skin. It can sensitize your skin and cause irritation.
With this, experts have a consensus that fragrances are bad for your skin, no matter your skin type. Here are some reasons why you should avoid products with fragrances added to them.
Why Do Brands Use Fragrances?
You may be asking: Isn't it counterintuitive to add a harmful ingredient to skincare products?
When creating a formula or product that nourishes your skin, many brands may use natural or synthetic ingredients. Unfortunately, most of the time, such ingredients don't have a pleasant smell. This is where brands bring in fragrances.
Not everyone is aware of the harmful effects of fragrances on your skin. Many don't experience the side effects. Meanwhile, those who do not know fragrances can cause harm might blame the side effects of certain products on other ingredients used in the formula.
Manufacturers use good-smelling perfumes and essential oils to mask unpleasant smells. This makes the products more enticing for people to use and more marketable to the public.
5 Harmful Effects of Fragrances in Skincare Products
1. It May Cause Contact Dermatitis
The American Academy of Dermatology has named fragrance one of the country's leading causes of allergic contact dermatitis. In 2007, the American Contact Dermatitis Society dubbed it the "Allergen of the Year." According to a 2003 study, around 1.7% to 4.1% of Americans are sensitive to fragrance allergens.
Allergic contact dermatitis is the rashes or hives from a person's skin reaction to an allergen they're sensitive to. While allergen typing has improved through the years, many fragrances still contain them, which may cause a reaction among many people.
Some people react more seriously to such allergens. There are cases, albeit rare, of people experiencing eczema after being exposed to fragrances in skincare.
2. Can Sensitize and Irritate Your Skin
Do you know where the pleasant smell of fragrances comes from? Fragrances are cocktails of different substances that give off a good smell. However, it does so through a volatile reaction. A byproduct of this reaction is the scent our noses smell.
This volatile reaction happens on your skin when you apply fragranced products. Even though it's technically a natural reaction, it can still sensitize and irritate your skin.
When this happens, your skin's protective barrier may break down, letting in more harmful substances – including more fragrance molecules – that can damage your skin further.
3. It Can Worsen Hyperpigmentation
Yes, fragrances in skincare can cause hyperpigmentation. If you aim to brighten your skin and even out your skin tone, you should avoid fragranced products.
As previously mentioned, fragrances can trigger an inflammatory response in our skin. This triggers our pigment-making cells to produce more melanin. With frequent sun exposure, using fragranced products can cause darker coloration in your skin instead of helping it become brighter.
Steering Clear of Fragrances in Skincare
Who Should Avoid Fragrances?
Everyone. Whether you haven't experienced irritation from fragrances before or not, it's always a safer option to use fragrance-free products. However, those with sensitive skin and proven sensitivity to fragrance components should be extra careful about the skincare they buy.
How Does One Know if a Product is Fragrance-Free?
Read the Label; Remain Vigilant
While someone may say, "just smell it" to answer this question, we can't always trust our noses.
Some skincare ingredients may have a pleasant scent, but smelling this doesn't mean your product has fragrance.
The best way to know if your product is fragrance-free is by reading the ingredients list. Unfortunately, not all brands are transparent in listing the substances they use. This is more evident in fragrances as they're only usually listed as "parfum."
Instead of being simply listed as "parfum" or "aroma," brands could add specific substance names that ordinary consumers can easily miss. With this, it's important to know of the many skin care fragrance components that you might miss on the list.
Some common substances to look out for include:
- Essential Oils
- Citrus Extracts
Fragrance-Free V.S. Unscented
Do remember that fragrance-free and unscented products are not the same. Some products may not have any fragrances, but the natural ingredients used in the formula have an enticing, pleasant scent.
Meanwhile, a product might not smell like anything. Still, it may contain fragrance components to neutralize any unpleasant scents one of its ingredients may naturally give off.
Are Natural Fragrances Safer?
There are two types of fragrances added to skincare: natural and synthetic.
Natural fragrances are those derived from natural ingredients. Meanwhile, synthetic fragrances are chemically made in a lab. The former can smell as good as the latter, but it has a shorter lifespan than lab-made perfumes.
Unfortunately, whether it's nature-derived or synthetic, a fragrance can trigger adverse skin effects for those sensitive to it. So, it's best to avoid any type of fragrance altogether if you want to avoid repercussions.
You Don't Need Sweet Smells in Skincare
While sweet and pleasant-smelling products may seem more enticing, they can do more harm than good. Unfortunately, great scents in skincare only serve as a component that makes it more marketable among people.
Strictly speaking, in skincare, fragrances don't have a place. They only bring cons and no pros. They don't have a positive role to play in helping your skin become or remain healthy.
Luckily, given the many studies on fragrances and their effect on the skin, many big-name brands have started removing fragrances from their formulas. So, today, fragrance-free skincare products are easier to find.
Ready to leave fragrances out of your skincare routine? Start reading the label and ship to more skin-friendly products free of this notorious irritant!