What is in Your Fragrance?

How often have you looked at the ingredients label for a skin care or makeup product and was baffled by how to pronounce the crazy long names? They’re usually the names of chemicals that have been mixed together for the formula, and it’s hard to tell what exactly they’re made of straight from the ingredients label, or what they do to you.
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Photo credit : Gmo Gus
Don’t be so quick to purchase something “high end” or “in trend” or “western” products thinking they are using the best products on the market. Most cases, that is wrong!
Once you start looking for it, you’ll quickly realize this toxic mix of ingredients known as “fragrance” is added to nearly every product on the market, from laundry detergent to dish soap, shampoo to all-purpose cleaning spray, candles, perfumes, deodorant and even tampons.
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photo credit : Dr Axe
Toxins entering your body through cosmetics are being stored inside your fat cells. These fat cells release the toxins back into your body, which imbalances hormones, imbalances gut flora and much more.
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If you’re wondering why this is allowed to happen just know that as of 2009, the EU has banned 1328 chemicals from being put into their personal care items. In contrast, as of 2018, the US has banned only 30. Its cheaper for companies to use these ingredients. It always comes back to money. Now if you’re saying to yourself, “no way would the U.S. be that behind,” we totally understand because we did too
We wanted to get a better grasp on what’s going on and why the US isn’t stepping up. Throughout our research we’ve found that the biggest difference between the EU and US is that the EU bans chemicals in a way that is preventative. They begin taking measures to ban a chemical as soon as there is evidence of its harm. The US on the other hand has a higher expectation of evidence showing the harm of the chemical before they put any regulations on it. This obviously can take time and can be difficult to produce, thus limiting their ability to begin shutting its use down before it’s way too late.
Doesn’t the US Government Protect My Products?
Well, not really. A strong example of how the US fails to take action against toxins in our cosmetics is in the case of talc. Its soft texture and ability to absorb moisture make it a popular ingredient to use in conventional cosmetic products. But these perks come with a huge dangerous downer – talc is often contaminated with asbestos, a substance that has been directed linked to causing cancer and a whole range of lung issues. The EU reacted to this link by adding talc to their no list for cosmetics. However, the US FDAcan’t take action against a chemical unless they have “sound scientific data to show that it is harmful under its intended use,” even though they also say that they cannot prove that cosmetics with talc in them are completely sans asbestos! That means you could unknowingly be putting asbestos on your skin right now, but the FDA can’t do anything about it until they obtain proof – in other words, it’ll be way too late.
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photo credit : 100% pure cosmetic
Ok, So FDA is to Blame.
While we all want to perhaps point fingers at the FDA, they themselves complained that they are not allowed much independence when it comes to putting regulations on cosmetics. They note that because there is no requirement for companies to report adverse side effects of products, it limits the FDA’s effectiveness as it slows the process of hearing about chemicals that are hurting people. There’s a lot more in this letter that helps shed light on how they aren’t to be solely blamed and is worth a read. Because of this, you very well may be putting formaldehyde – another known human carcinogen – on yourself while hoping to pretty up your nails. That’s right, formaldehyde can be found in conventional nail polishes.
Who can we hold Accountable for these dangers?
So, if not the FDA, who? It appears Congress is partly at fault. Even though they’ve updated the FDA’s ability to regulate other type of products, they haven’t done so for cosmetics since 1938. We think that’s pretty bonkers. If Congress were to update it, companies would be required to register their products with the FDA, thereby allowing them to approve the ingredients for being safe or kick them to the curb if they aren’t. Without this in place, companies can pick and choose whatever chemicals they want in their stuff without anyone keeping an eye on it. You might be thinking to yourself that there are no safety guidelines for cosmetics, but they actually do exist, it’s just that companies aren’t legally bound to adhere to them. Sounds pretty crazy!
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photo credit : 100% pure cosmetic
What about Canada?

Canadian cosmetics regulations, like European Union regulations, are much stricter than those in the United States.

Health Canada, the federal department responsible for helping Canadians maintain and improve their health, regularly reviews the safety of cosmetic ingredients and prohibits or restricts the use of ingredients that present health risks, according to their website.  The Canadian government regularly updates a Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist that includes hundreds of chemicals and contaminants prohibited and restricted from use in cosmetics such as formaldehyde, triclosan, selenium, nitrosamines and 1,4-dioxane — all of which are allowed in U.S. products.

In addition, cosmetic manufacturers, by law, are prohibited from selling cosmetics that contain ingredients that present a hazard to the health of Canadians; must disclose all cosmetic ingredients to Health Canada; and are required to register their products. Labeling requirements that went into effect in 2006 require ingredient lists to appear on all cosmetic product labels. Increased disclosure is making choosing safe products easier for Canadian consumers.

What about Europe?

The European Union, now 28 countries strong, has more stringent and protective laws for cosmetics than the United States. The hazard-based, precautionary approach of the EU acknowledges that chemicals linked to cancer and birth defects simply don’t belong in cosmetics – regardless of the concentration of the chemical being used.

The United States has much to learn from the EU example. The EU Cosmetics Directive (76/768/EEC) was adopted in January 2003 and most recently revised in 2013.  The EU law  bans 1,328 chemicals from cosmetics that are known or suspected to cause cancer, genetic mutation, reproductive harm or birth defects.  In comparison, the U.S. FDA has only banned or restricted 11 chemicals from cosmetics. Unlike the United States, EU law requires pre-market safety assessments of cosmetics, mandatory registration of cosmetic products, government authorization for the use of nanomaterials and prohibits animal testing for cosmetic purposes.

Back to understanding “Fragrance”

Many products list “fragrance” on the label, but very few name the specific ingredients that make up a “fragrance.” This lack of disclosure prevents consumers from knowing the full list of ingredients in their products. While most fragrance chemicals are not disclosed, we do know that some are linked to serious health problems such as cancer, reproductive and developmental toxicity, allergies and sensitivities. Clearly, there is a need for stronger regulations, more research, and greater transparency.

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photo credit: Natural Blaze

FOUND IN: Most personal care products including sunscreen, shampoo, soap, body wash, deodorant, body lotion, makeup, facial cream, skin toner, serums, exfoliating scrubs and perfume.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR ON THE LABEL: Fragrance, perfume, parfum, essential oil blend, aroma.

WHAT IS FRAGRANCE? Fragrance is defined by the FDA as a combination of chemicals that gives each perfume or cologne (including those used in other products) its distinct scent. Fragrance ingredients may be derived from petroleum or natural raw materials. Companies that manufacture perfume or cologne purchase fragrance mixtures from fragrance houses (companies that specialize in developing fragrances) to develop their own proprietary blends. In addition to “scent” chemicals that create the fragrance, perfumes and colognes also contain solvents, stabilizers, UV-absorbers, preservatives, and dyes. MORE…

HEALTH CONCERNS: The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) lists 3,059 materials that are reported as being used in fragrance compounds.[1] Of these 3,059 ingredients, some have evidence linking them to health effects including cancer, reproductive toxicity, allergies and sensitivities.

A 2016 study assessed self-reported health effects from fragrance. This survey of a random sample of US residents found that 99.1% of participants are exposed to fragranced products at least once a week from their own use, others’ use, or both. Participants also reported an extensive list of health effects experienced when exposed to fragrance ranging from migraines and asthma to gastrointestinal problems and cardiovascular problems. The findings showed that a high percentage of the participants did not know of the chemicals included in fragrance and would not continue to use a fragranced product if they had previously known it emitted pollutants.[2]

Acetaldehyde: Acetaldehyde adversely affects kidneys and the reproductive, nervous and respiratory systems.[3] This chemical is listed as known or suspected to cause cancer in California’s Proposition 65.[4] Both the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the National Toxicology Program classify acetaldehyde as potentially carcinogenic to humans.[5], [6]

Benzophenone: Benzophenone is linked to endocrine disruption and organ system toxicity,[7] and experimental studies suggest benzophenone may lead to several kinds of tumors.[8] Derivatives of benzophenone, such as benzophenone-1 (BP-1) and oxybenzone (BP-3), are potential endocrine disruptors.[9]Benzophenone is listed as a possible human carcinogen under California’s Proposition 65.[10]MORE…

VULNERABLE POPULATIONS: All, especially pregnant women, infants

REGULATIONS:  Current laws do not provide the FDA with the authority to require disclosure or public safety of fragrance ingredients. In the U.S., companies are required to list ingredients on the label; however, this regulation excludes the individual constituents of fragrance in order to preserve fragrance trade secrets. This sustains a loophole that leads to disclosure gaps.

The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) and the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM) develop and set voluntary standards for chemicals in the “fragrance” component of products. The US, Canada, and Europe rely on IFRA and RIFM to identify ingredients for use in fragrance. In effect, this means the international Fragrance industry is self-regulating.

HOW TO AVOID: Read labels and avoid products when no information is given other than “fragrance”.

Is there any Solution?
The solution is to find cleaner and more natural products that use essential oils as fragrance or a product that is fragrance free. Vote with your dollar / money, check labels or even make your own products if possible. We must also hold these companies accountable. Ask the company if they are using safe ingredients. If companies are using safe ingredients, then they should want you to know that. If they won’t fully explain how their products are scented, it’s likely a red flag.
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