The word “fragrance” is common in skincare, and there’s a lot of confusion on what that actually means. Skin is our biggest organ, so we want to make sure the ingredients we are putting on our bodies are safe to be absorbed. Here’s the 411 on fragrance.
What does “fragrance” mean?
“Fragrance” can mean so many different things when put on an ingredients list. Natural fragrance, synthetic fragrance, and essential oils are all used to create the scents in all of your favorite products. It can be confusing, and difficult to determine what is safe and what isn’t. Essentially, when it comes to fragrance, natural doesn’t always mean safe to put on skin, and not all synthetic fragrances are harmful.
So what is a synthetic fragrance and how do I know which ones are safe?
Synthetic fragrances are essentially fragrances that are created or modified in a lab. Synthetics can get a bad rep- but they are not all bad! The harmful synthetic fragrances usually contain petroleum-derived ingredients, formaldehyde, and phthalates that can cause harm and disrupt a lot of systems in your body. Studies show that these potentially harmful chemicals can cause cancer, birth defects, nervous system issues and allergies. They can also disrupt our endocrine systems and interfere with our natural hormone production- so we want to avoid these.
There are synthetic ingredients that are very safe to put on your skin, and some are actually structurally identical to those found in nature. A safe synthetic fragrance is created simply by modifying the structure of naturally occurring compounds. That way, a natural compound is being used, but the ingredients that can cause irritation are removed from the compound giving you a safer option.
How do you determine if a synthetic ingredient is safe?
All of our ingredients are thoroughly tested- we consider an ingredient safe if it can be used without causing harm or disruption to your body AND if it’s safe for the environment. We use natural fragrances where we can, and safe synthetics when we can’t. Some of the non-phthalate synthetic ingredients we use that have been tested and proven to be safe for skincare use are Triethyl Citrate, Sodium Caproyl/Lauroyl Lactylate, Dipropylene Glycol, Ethyl Linalool, Citrus Terpenes (extracted from citrus, without the skin irritating effects of citrus fruit juice), and Ethylene Brassylate. A great resource for checking the safety of the ingredients in your products is the Environmental Working Group, and Paula’s Choice.
What about essential oils?
Natural doesn’t always mean better. Essential oils are commonly used in skincare products, and while they seem like the most natural choice, sometimes they aren’t best suited for your body. Some essential oils aren’t ideal to put on your body because they can cause irritation and allergic reactions, especially on delicate areas like freshly shaved pits. More information on why essential oils are not always your best friend when it comes to skincare can be found here.
Bottom line is, not all essential oils are safe to put on your skin, and not all synthetic ingredients are bad. We use a combination of essential oils and safe synthetics in our products so they smell good and are safe for you and the environment. You can read more about our safety standards and our no-no list of chemicals you’ll never find in our products here. For more useful information on “fragrance” and how to be an educated consumer of fragrance containing products, check out these useful links: