Toiletries and body care products labeled as “natural” give us the sense that what’s inside is safe and nontoxic. But with greenwashing on the rise, it’s more important than ever to read ???? those ????labels. Of all the chemicals The Big Guys are hiding in their not-so-natural stuff, fragrance is the one you should be the most worried about. You might be wondering, how much harm can a little scent do?

Turns out, quite a bit. The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) lists more than 3,000 chemicals that are known to be used in fragrance blends that scent everything from cleaning products to “natural” deodorant. And many of these are linked to negative health effects including cancer, reproductive toxicity, allergies and sensitivities.

Humans love scented stuff.

Our sense of smell is deeply connected to our emotions – it’s why that apple pie scented candle that smells just like the ones Grandma used to make gives you the warm and fuzzies. But, it’s not easy to find products scented with pure, organic essential oils. Instead, most manufacturers cut corners and add scent the cheap and easy way: artificially, with toxic chemicals.

Fragrance is hiding everywhere.

When you think of fragrance, you probably think of perfume and cologne. But many everyday products we have in our homes — like deodorant, soap, lotions, candles, baby wipes and even dryer sheets — contain synthetic fragrance blends made from known carcinogens.

Manufacturers don’t disclose the potentially thousands of chemical compounds used to make their scents. Instead, they simply list “Fragrance.” How can they get away with this? The FDA considers fragrance blends to be proprietary information, so it’s completely legal for manufacturers to hide hundreds of synthetic chemicals behind that one little word. Talk about a dirty little secret. This shady practice leaves consumers in the dark about what they’re really putting on their bodies.

Top reasons to go fragrance free. Like now.

So what could be hiding in your scented stuff? Here’s a few of the biggest concerns:


One of the most common synthetic fragrance compounds is xylene, a solvent — and a known carcinogen. The hazards of this volatile, aromatic hydrocarbon are so well documented, it’s listed as a potential occupational hazard for laboratory technicians.


Researchers at the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that more than 75% of products listing the ingredient “fragrance” contain phthalates, which have been shown to disrupt hormone activity, reduce sperm counts, and cause reproductive malformation.


Acetaldehyde is another toxic fragrance ingredient that adversely affects kidneys and the reproductive, nervous, and respiratory systems. California’s Proposition 65 listed it as known or suspected to cause cancer, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies acetaldehyde as potentially carcinogenic to humans.


Many synthetic fragrances are derived from petroleum or coal, which can irritate the skin and cause allergic reactions and can be dangerous for people with respiratory issues.

What you can do.

Steer Clear of “Fragrance”

If you see products with the term “fragrance” on the ingredient list—run. There’s no telling what could be lurking behind that one little word. But going fragrance-free doesn’t have to mean giving up smelling good. Look for products that use pure, organic essential oils to give you the scent you’re looking for.

Be a Skeptic

Don’t assume a product is safe if the packaging says “fragrance-free” — these products can still contain fragrance ingredients as a masking agent to cover unpleasant chemical smells. Always read the labels.



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