The secret about Fragrance

“What is that fragrance you’re wearing?” 

“This lotion smells so good!  What fragrance is it?”

The oxford dictionary gives the following definition for fragrance.


noun: fragrance

  1. a pleasant, sweet smell.

The FDA defines fragrance as:

  1. a combination of chemicals that gives each perfume or cologne (including those used in other products) its distinct scent

However, do you really know what “fragrance is”?  My guess is no.  And I can guarantee you don’t know what is in fragrance.  At least, not the ‘fragrance’ listed in ingredients on products.  Why?  Because manufacturers don’t have to tell you.

The TSCA of 1976 (The Toxic Substances Control Act) grandfathered in approx. 65-100k chemicals currently on the market today (i.e. they haven’t had any safety testing & we know little about them). 

Of the chemicals tested, toxic labeling is required only if 50% or more of the animals tested with the chemical die. Under the TSCA, manufacturers are protected by trade secret laws that allow them to keep their ingredient list a secret. 


Those “trade secrets” are the multitude (hundreds, if not thousands) of chemicals used to achieve a specific flavor/scent.  

---If Company A had a top selling product, and Company B got the formula, Company B could produce the same product.  This divides the market and reduces profit.  To keep the competition from being able to duplicate their product, Company A simply sums up all the compounds that make up that smell under “fragrance” on the ingredients. ----

The real kicker is when we realize that this cover up is being used on products we use on a daily basis. 

Drugs, cosmetics, foods, food additives, pesticides, and nuclear materials are exempt from TSCA.  Learn More about the TSCA

This means that by the time you’re having breakfast, you have likely applied hundreds (if not thousands) of chemicals to your body.  And our skin is porous, meaning it absorbs what is applied to it.

If you want to get an idea of what could be lurking under that “fragrance” label, go check out the International Fragrance Association (IFRA).  They have recently produced a list that includes over 3,000 materials (chemicals) that are reported as being used in fragrance compounds.  Some of these have evidence linking them to health effects including cancer, reproductive toxicity, allergies and sensitivities.  

I don’t know about you but I prefer to NOT expose myself or my family to any unnecessary risks.  Especially those known to cause cancer.

Side note, to date, the EU (European Union) has banned 1,300 chemicals in cosmetics; the FDA in America has banned only eleven.  

Just because it is on the shelf does not mean it is safe!  Become aware.  Read labels.  

And get “fragrance” out of your home.

If you enjoyed this post, go check out my series on Candles here.  Psst... Fragrance is in candles too!


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