Is there a risk of using artificial fragrances and how would I notice? Now that we live in Spain, I am good most of the time, unless they burn the wood and plastic waste in the campo. Or when – especially the young – people pass me by with either their cigarettes or their perfumes and deodorants. Oof.
Between age 3 and 6 I had severe bronchitis. One of the recommendations of the lung specialist was to put me on a diet for which I am still grateful because I have hardly experienced the weight problems my mother and sister had all their lives.
A less positive result of that period is my vulnerability to dirty air.
So I am really glad we quit the polluted area where we lived in the Netherlands, which was right in between the industrial harbors of Rotterdam and Antwerp. I coughed a lot and had a running nose all the time.
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Table of contents
What is a fragrance?
In English, there is a difference in scent between fragrance and odor. A fragrance is a pleasant or sweet smell. Perfumes are called fragrances. Where the word odor means a bad smell. Most people love fragrances like the fragrance of flowers, apple pie, or good food.
Sweating is healthy, yet usually seen as an odor. Showering and washing do not prevent us from sweating, but it does prevent us from stinking. Sweat starts to smell because bacteria grow through moisture and heat.
If your sweat smells really bad, there is usually another problem:
- Stress. If you ever had to perform in front of a crowd, you know what I mean;
- Medication. Ask your doctor because you can’t just quit medicines if you need them;
- Wrong diet. An excess of sugar will be removed, among other ways, through the sweat glands;
- Clothes. Both Tom and I need to have clothes that are of natural material to prevent odors;
- Illness. Diabetes, iron deficiency or hypoglycemia can be a cause;
- Perfumes in personal care products. Test a new brand by means of a ROAT, a “repeated open application test”. Apply the product in the elbow crease twice a day for up to 14 days. If no skin irritation can be seen within 14 days and no itching occurs, you can be more or less sure that you are not allergic to that product.
The scent of sweat should be masked?
Of course, as an adolescent, I went along with the urge to put on perfume and other nice scents. After all, who wants to smell sweaty? I didn’t put on a lot though, as it turned out I didn’t like most perfumes.
Probably I liked fragrances that hardly anybody else liked. Because every time I did find a brand to my liking it had been taken off the shelves by the time I was ready for another bottle.
I did notice the rash on my skin. It just took me quite a while before I made the connection between that rash and the perfumes I used. Why was I so sensitive to perfume?
What can cause a fragrance allergy?
Can you believe that one of the substances in a perfume often is Hydroxymethylpentylcyclohexenecarboxaldehyde? Some say “If you can’t pronounce it, don’t use it”!
Anyway, this substance is believed to be one of the causes of perfume allergies. It’s a synthetic fragrance that also goes under the name Lyral. Which is deceptive because it’s easy to pronounce, isn’t it.
By the way, there is also perfume in unexpected products such as eye drops, food, and clothing. Even in paper handkerchiefs and toilet paper. Making it very hard to avoid it.
Another problem causing product in artificial perfumes are phthalates. Phthalates are in many plastics and artificial products because they are plasticizers. In packaging, nail polish, shampoo, toys, adhesive tape, medical material, and also in perfumes, in which they make sure the smell is present for a longer time.
It’s getting more and more clear that phthalates are asthma triggers, endocrine disruptors, causing allergies, birth defects, neurotoxins, and carcinogens. In other words, unnatural fragrances are really toxic.
Why does perfume make me smell bad?
Perfume can even make you smell bad because of the chemistry of your body. Each person’s skin is unique, and therefore also his or her natural scent.
Your skin can be oily, greasy, dry, or ‘normal’. Perfumes react with the skin and the oils it produces with the intention of creating something special, but if the chemistry isn’t right, the result is far from seducing.
The risk of using artificial fragrances
- Health risks;
- Pass quickly through the skin, into the blood;
- No proper regulation because fragrances are considered trade secrets;
- The fragrance industry controls itself;
- ‘Natural fragrances’ are not required to be natural;
- A list of ingredients, like a nutrient list, is not required.
How can you avoid the wrong chemicals?
There are many easy options to go toxin-free, even zero waste, and still have a wonderful fragrance around you:
- Choose natural cosmetics, shampoo, soap, and personal products. This eliminates your exposure to dangerous fragrances, and is also better for the environment;
- Change perfume for essential oils. These oils, and combinations of them, are marvelous natural perfumes and won’t harm your health. They even have healing qualities;
- Buy toxic-free and biodegradable products to clean your house. It’s also easy to make them yourself. They won’t contain harmful chemicals, so both your health and the environment are protected;
- Don’t buy paraffin candles. Beeswax candles are without petroleum and chemicals, keeping the breathing air in the house clean;
- Don’t fall for commercial air fresheners. Apart from the plastic waste, they usually work one of two ways: they either neutralize your receptors, anesthetizing them so your nose is not smelling anything anymore, or they send out a stronger scent, thus covering up the present fragrance. Invest in an essential oil diffuser to immerse your home in a wonderful fragrance in a natural way;
- If you don’t have the time or the skills to make a fragrance yourself, choose a product that says ‘hypo-allergenic’ or ‘perfume-free’.
The artificial fragrance industry, as well as the industry for cleaning products, are not properly regulated. Not enough research is done into the effects of chemicals on our health and the environment.
The effects range from mild symptoms such as headaches, shortness of breath, and fatigue to much more serious illnesses as cancer and autoimmune diseases. We can conclude that there is a risk of using artificial fragrances and they are not good for your health.
Put yourself first and take care of yourself and your family. Switch to scents that are more natural today.
What fragrance do you use? Tell us in the comment box below.