This week, Mary decodes: Fragrance in beauty products.
HOW BRANDS CAN CHEAT
In Canada and US, manufacturers are not required to disclose their fragrance ingredients on their beauty products, as this is considered a ‘trade secret’.
WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?
Without full disclosure of fragrance ingredients on product labels, this means a great deal of things can be hidden from you.
1. Chemicals such as phthalates, oxybenzone, BHT, Octinoxate, Musk Ketone, which are considered hormone disruptors, can be hidden from the label.
2. Beware of brands that say they are “ALL NATURAL”. They can also cheat on their fragrances and replace expensive essential oil fragrances with synthetic fragrances. Brands can simply label them as “fragrance” on the label.
NATURAL VS. SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCES
The beauty industry has long favored using synthetics fragrances vs natural fragrances for these reasons:
1. Synthetic fragrance is significantly less expensive than natural.
2. It’s much easier to manufacture synthetic fragrances, as the ingredients are more reproducible because they are not replicating nature, which can vary depending on growing season.
3. Manufactures have greater ability to create more complex scents with synthetics (almost all of the most famous scents in the world are derived from synthetic compounds).
HOW SYNTHETICS FRAGRANCES ARE CREATED
The biggest divide between natural and synthetic fragrances lies in the way they are created.
The Solvent Extraction is performed by putting plants into big, rotating drums. The plants are then covered with petroleum ether or benzene. The plant parts eventually dissolve in whatever solvent is used. This leaves a waxy substance that contains the oils. This substance is then placed in ethyl alcohol. The oil dissolves in the alcohol, which is then burned off, leaving a highly concentrated perfume oil. The solvents that are used along with the preservatives in synthetic fragrances are considered chemicals of concern and this is not disclosed to the consumer as the label claim is simply ‘fragrance’. There is no standard for production in the fragrance industry in terms of what solvents can be used.
The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) has a standard by which manufactures must follow in order to call their fragrances natural. The standard requires that aromatics are made by physically extracting the volatile fractions from plants WITHOUT chemically altering them. Natural aromatic raw materials must be physically obtained from plants using distillation, expression and extraction. Synthetically reconstituted essential oils, synthetic nature-identical ingredients and intentionally chemically modified natural raw materials (e.g. chemical acetylation of essential oil) cannot be used in fragrance compounds that are described as being natural.”
HERE’S WHAT YOU SHOULD LOOK FOR:
If your ingredient label says ‘natural fragrance’ or if it lists out the essential oils that were used, you know exactly what you’re getting – no dirty secrets. If it just says ‘FRAGRANCE’, then buyer beware.
Scents are integral to personal mood and wellbeing, so we never want them to go away. This is what makes the experience of using beauty products so special. We deserve to know what is in the fragrance we choose to put on our body. So keep this in mind the next time you pick up a beauty item with just ‘fragrance’ listed on the label.
If you have any questions, let us know in the comments.