For years I wore perfume, all different brands all very strongly scented. I used to douse myself in it before I left the house not even thinking about what I was putting on my skin or breathing in. Then about 6 years ago I read an article which made me think about finding a more sustainable scent solution.

Without me knowing what I was putting on my skin I spent years of spraying perfume all over my neck, my wrists and then one final walk through before I left the house. Not knowing that the scent I was wearing was actually full of synthetic fragrances, toxins, parabens, chemicals and also most likely to have been tested on animals.

So why can Perfume be toxic for us?

According to Scientific America, here is what they are saying about the secret scent in your fragrance.

Ahhh…the sweet smell of petrochemicals! The Environmental Working Group (EWG) reports that, while many popular perfumes, colognes and body sprays contain trace amounts of natural essences, they also typically contain a dozen or more potentially hazardous synthetic chemicals, some of which are derived from petroleum. To protect trade secrets, makers are allowed to withhold fragrance ingredients, so consumers can’t rely on labels to know what hazards may lurk inside that new bottle of perfume.

“The average fragrance product tested contained 14 secret chemicals not listed on the label,” reports EWG, which analyzed the Campaign’s data. “Among them are chemicals associated with hormone disruption and allergic reactions, and many substances that have not been assessed for safety in personal care products.” 

(Scientific America, September 29, 2012,

So what are the health risks?

Contrary to popular belief, most exposure to hazardous pollutants that affect health and well-being occurs indoors (Ott et al., 2007Brown, 2007).

A primary source of these indoor pollutants and exposures is common fragranced consumer products, such as air fresheners, cleaning products, laundry supplies, and personal care products (Cheng et al., 2015Nazaroff and Weschler, 2004Steinemann et al., 2011). Exposure to fragranced products has been associated with a range of adverse human health effects, including migraine headaches, contact dermatitis, asthma attacks, respiratory difficulties, and mucosal symptoms (e.g., Kelman, 2004Caress and Steinemann, 2009Elberling et al., 2005Millqvist et al., 1999Johansen, 2003Kumar et al., 1995).

In two previous surveys, Caress and Steinemann (2009) found that 17.5% and 20.5% of the general US population (between 2002–3 and 2005–6 respectively) reported breathing difficulties, headaches, or other health problems when exposed to air fresheners and deodorisers.

Fragranced consumer products emit dozens of different volatile compounds, including terpenes (e.g., limonene, alpha-pinene, and beta-pinene) that are primary pollutants, and that react with ozone to generate secondary pollutants such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde (Nazaroff and Weschler, 2004).

(Anne Steineman, Health and societal effects from exposure to fragranced consumer products,2016 Nov 14)

So research suggest that actually breathing in these toxic chemicals and spritzing them all over our skin can actually lead to health problems. So if you are wondering why you keep getting that reoccurring headache or why you are having respiratory problems or even why your eczema is flaring up! Your perfume and the fragrances you use around your home ranging from your air freshener, cleaning products to washing detergent could all be a contributing factor.

I have to admit that since removing all artificial scents from my home, that includes the fragrances I wear to the cleaning products I use. That when I do visit friends or family’s houses who use lots of air freshener, or wear heavy perfumes, aftershave and use strong cleaning products, I can really notice the strong scents.

If you think this is all a load of waffle, give it a go and see for yourself! I can assure you that if you make the change to more natural scented fragrances on your body and around your home, you will never turn back!

Some important but boring stats that might make you change your mind…

Importantly, 33% of the general population reported one or more types of health problems associated with exposure to one or more types of fragranced products. The most common types of adverse health effects were as follows: 16.7% of the population reported respiratory problems; 14.0% mucosal symptoms; 10.0% migraine headaches; 9.5% skin problems; 7.6% asthma attacks; 4.5% neurological problems; 4.1% cognitive problems; 3.3% gastrointestinal problems; 3.3% immune system problems; 3.0% cardiovascular problems; 2.6% musculoskeletal problems; and 1.9% other.

Some more Sustainable Scent suggestions…

I would recommend doing your research when buying any perfume or aftershave, to see what the ingredients are i.e. if they include any synthetic fragrances, parabens and if the product has been tested on animals. Luckily nowadays there are way more sustainable options on the market, which are actually affordable. I have put together a small collection of fragrances here in all different price brackets. Enjoy!

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