Is there a difference between products that are labelled unscented or fragrance free? Yes, and if you want to avoid scented products then fragrance free is what you’re looking for.
Many consumers are under the misconception that unscented and fragrance free are the same thing. They are not. Fragrance free means no fragrance or masking fragrance was added to the product.
Unscented products are products that use a masking fragrance to hide the scent of the product.
What does fragrance mean?
Fragrance can be a combination of either natural or synthetic ingredients. In truth the list of chemicals used in a scent can be quite lengthy. In addition a scent can be considered a trade secret and therefore companies can use the term “fragrance” or “parfum” on a product label without disclosing specific ingredients.
Why should I be concerned if a product has fragrance?
There are more than 2,500 chemical ingredients used in fragrances such as perfumes, lotions, detergents, fabric softeners and other consumer products. They are added to give products a pleasant smell. Many however can also cause asthmatic reactions, allergies and skin irritations.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, fragrance allergy is the number one cause of skin irritation and because they contain phthalates, it can carry additional risks.
Fragrance can be composed of dozens or even hundreds of synthetic chemicals. Why is that a problem? Because you truly have no idea of what you are buying or using. If you have respiratory problems such as asthma or are chemically sensitive, these chemicals can have a potent and negative effect on your health.
Without proper labeling, how are you the consumer to know if a particular product contains an ingredient that is a known allergen or irritant for you?
Isn’t fragrance regulated?
The FDA gave companies a loop hole in labeling back in 1966. It was originally created so that a company would not have to list proprietary ingredients on their label. This would prevent others from copying their formulas and recreating a product under their own label. So under the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1966, companies do not have to list all of the ingredients used in their products.
Fragranced ingredients must meet the same safety requirements as other cosmetic ingredients. However, they do not require FDA approval before they go on the market. Under U.S. regulation, scented products can simply use the word “fragrance” on their ingredients list. Each chemical ingredient used to create a particular scent does not have to be listed on the label, they simply fall under that one word “fragrance”.
The FDA does not have the same legal authority to require allergen labelling on cosmetic products as they do for food products. So if fragrance is an issue for you, your best bet is to stay with fragrance free products.
Unscented doesn’t mean free of fragrance
Unscented products traditionally have a masking fragrance. A masking fragrance is a scent that covers up unpleasant odors. If you don’t smell anything when you open a product, that’s another indication that a masking agent has been used to cloak or hide the smell. A fragrance free product will have some natural fragrance to it, usually related to base materials used in a product such as olive oil, coconut oil or shea butter.
In addition to masking fragrances, fragrances are created with phthalates; an industrial product that is known to cause hormone disruptions and is linked to numerous health issues, including various cancers. Yet they still remain in synthetic fragrances and numerous personal care products.
Allergies and asthma are common and significant reactions to fragranced products. The problems can be compounded as fragrances are layered by using multiple products. Consider the amounts of products that are used daily by consumers: scented detergent, scented dryer sheets, scented shampoos, conditioners, deodorants, cologne, perfume, etc. It all adds up and it all adds to your toxic body burden.
What are phthalates?
Phthalates are a group of chemicals that are commonly used in numerous consumer products such as nail polish, hair sprays, toys, vinyl flooring, wall papers, food packaging, after shave, cologne, perfume and other fragranced products.
What is a masking fragrance?
Fragrance and masking fragrance are the same thing. They are each a fragrance but with different purposes. Fragrances are used to give a product a pleasant smell. A masking fragrance is used to hide or cover up the smell of a product that may have an unpleasant or bad odor.
In addition, masking fragrance is used to create the illusion that a product is unscented, when in reality it is not. So while it is smell free, it isn’t fragrance free.
What does fragrance free mean?
Fragrance free means that no masking scents or fragrance are used in the product. The product should have a clear label that says “fragrance-free” somewhere on the label. Words that are indicative of fragrance such as “natural fragrance” “fragrance,” “perfume,” or “parfum” should not be listed anywhere on the label or in the ingredients.
You have the right to know what is in the products you use. Become a label reader. If in doubt contact the company directly to ask questions or voice your concern. Your health matters!