The Risk of using Artificial Fragrances and a Better Way to Smell Nice

The Risk of using Artificial Fragrances and a Better Way to Smell Nice

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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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.
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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”!

Smoke can be polluted and cause breathing problems

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.

Related: Why do you have a Soap Allergy? What are Promising Solutions?

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.

Related: Why is Coconut Oil good for your Skin, Hair and Body?

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?

Avoid artificial fragrances

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’.

Related: Natural Organic Essential Oils and How to Use Them

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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.

10 thoughts on “The Risk of using Artificial Fragrances and a Better Way to Smell Nice”

  1. Hi Hannie,

    It looks like we have something in common. I am also no fan of perfumes and there are very few I like, and they’re usually not the bestselling ones 😉

    Most perfumes make me sneeze. I know that I’m allergic to chemicals, so that component with that impossible-to-pronounce name (I tried! It’s hard, haha) is probably the reason why. I believe that you can smell good by taking care of your diet, by eating healthy. If you stuff your body with unhealthy food your body will emit the accompanying odors, right? However, if you eat healthily, your body won’t smell as bad and even your breath will smell better. Although perfumes are known to mask bad body smells, I think that we should tackle the problem with our diets and lifestyles and use perfumes as a nice extra when we go out or so, but not all the time.

    • LOL, I thought we had more than one thing in common, Christine? Just kidding. Thanks for your remark.
      And yes, I think too that our diet has a big influence on the way we small. It was one of the reasons the Japanese hated the Dutch in the 17th century (and who knows, maybe they still do) because the Dutch consumed a lot of milk and milk-related products, giving them a different smell than the Japanese were used to.

      We also can get used to smells. I remember I hated to smell garlic as a teenager. My mother never put that in the meals she prepared, so whenever I met someone who smelled of garlic I would step back. If my younger self would meet me now, she would step back as well probably. We eat loads of garlic nowadays. 🙂

      Good of you to try to pronounce that word. I did too and couldn’t either. 😉
      Anyway, take care and all the best.

  2. Hi Hannie. Very interesting article. I’m trying to live in an ecological way but sometimes it’s not easy to find a healthy, ‘green’ equivalent for common things. To be fair I never thought about the problem with artificial perfumes, but looking at your post it may affect the health of myself and my family. I need to look deeper into this topic and find natural equivalents. Thank you for bringing this to my attention!

    • Hi, Cogito, it pleases me I gave you food for thought. I do think we put ourselves at risk with a lot of artificial products, including fragrances. In the past, I too had trust in the way our stuff is produced but once I dove into it, I came to the conclusion that a lot is fueled by a lust for money. Certainly not by caring for our health. So we have to that ourselves.

      I gave some solutions in the article. The one I am especially pleased with is the use of organic essential oils. They smell great and they are pure. I buy mine in the organic store in the village.

      Take care of yourself and your family, all the best.

  3. Thank you for this very interesting and informative post.

    I must admit that I never really take much heed to what is in artificial fragrances.  I just go by whether I like the smell or not.

    I certainly agree that different perfumes smell different on different skins, so you have to choose carefully.

    The reasons you give for the causes of a bad odor are particularly interesting, especially the fact that it is the body’s way of getting rid of excess sugar.

    • Food does more than we would think at first, Geoff. I especially like the adage “food as medicine”. When we watch carefully what we eat, we take good care of our bodies. Why wait until we get sick before doing so?

      And you’re right, different skins react in different ways to what we put on them. This applies not only to artificial fragrances but also to essential oils. Because of that, fragrances are very personal, don’t you think?

      Take care and all the best.

  4. I love reading and I love new words but I could not get that one. I really don’t like perfumes. In fact, my husband used to always put on a scented aftershave after shaving each day and I couldn’t be around him. It always made my eyes water and I would sneeze uncontrollably. Even changing brands didn’t help. Thankfully he now doesn’t wear it which I appreciate.

    I am not sure if I can withstand the scents of essential oils or not. There are some flowers that while they do smell lovely my ever-sensitive allergies flair up.

    I remember when our youngest son was born. Rick brought me a beautiful bouquet of flowers. My eyes filled up, my nose got stuffy, and then the sneezing started. I ended up putting the flowers out at the nurses’ station so they weren’t in my room.

    As you know we try to eat healthily and make healthy life choices. For me, because of allergies, scented products can’t be a part of our lives.
    Scents are nice for an occasion though. Any suggestions for allergy sufferers?

    • I suppose if your allergy is bad, Deb, you have had a test somewhere in your life to discover what you’re allergic to? I had one when I was a teenager, so I know what I am allergic to. You could try an essential oil that is not on a basis of flowers but from leaves, branches, or roots. There are lovely herbal ones, like Tea Tree and Rosemary. Maybe you will like lemon, although you also might have the association with detergent then. In any case, I would try an all-natural product. It might give a different result.

      Such a pity your husband can’t even bring you flowers. 😉 So much for romantic gestures. Oh well, I am sure he found other ways to please you!

      LOL, your story about Rick’s aftershave brought back a memory that Tom had a couple of those as well. And like you, I am so glad he stopped using them.

      Thanks, Deb, and take care.

  5. Thanks for the suggestions, Hannie. Until I can go into the stores to actually see if I react to scents I will stick to unscented products. I can’t shop online if I don’t know what scents I will react to. I was tested when I was younger and the allergies are significant. Only 1 life-threatening allergy and that is bee stings, I carry 2 epi-pens for that and it doesn’t stop me from going out in my garden.

    • Oof, that’s quite serious! Yet good of you to not it stop you from doing the things you love.
      I can imagine you want to try them out first. I am not sure if that is possible. Unless you have a small shop with an owner who is willing to help you with it. The world of essential oils is not as promotion-minded as the world of perfumes. So I haven’t heard of samples or open bottles at a counter for customers to try.

      The advantage of the oils is though, that you can use them for other things as well. Like putting them in a diffuser or in homemade cleaning products.

      I hope you can find something to your liking! Let me know if you do, please. 🙂


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