Synthetic fragrances have seemed to make their way into most households today. Countless products, including artificial candles, cleaners, air fresheners, colognes, and perfumes fill the residences and daily routines of people around the world. However, are people unknowingly welcoming harmful and potentially cancer-causing products into their homes and bodies? According to the science, the short answer is, yes.
According to research, 95 percent of chemicals used in synthetic fragrances are derived from crude petroleum oil. They also happen to contain an absurd variety of carcinogenic chemical additives like benzene derivatives, aldehydes, toluene and a myriad of other toxic substances which have links birth defects, allergies, cancer, nervous system disorders and more.
To make matters worse, the most toxic substances of all happen to be hidden in the most commonly used products such as body and face lotions, shampoos, perfume and cologne, laundry detergent, and many other common household products.
Avoiding synthetic scents is vital if you care for the well-being of you and your family. These poisonous fragrances are known endocrine disruptors, which disturb the delicate balance of your entire system.
The endocrine system is your body’s internal calibrating system, it consists of precious glands like the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal glands, pineal gland, reproductive glands (ovaries and testes) and pancreas. These are the glands responsible for calibrating your system, producing important hormones that keep homeostasis. When it is disrupted, a cascade of diseases can manifest, including obesity, cancer, diabetes, and more. In short, you want a healthy endocrine system and anything that threatens it should not be dismissed.
What Are Synthetic Fragrances?
The interesting thing about synthetic fragrances is that no one really knows exactly what they are. What we do know is that they are essentially a chemical cocktail of harmful, anonymous substances including everything from carcinogens, allergens, respiratory irritants, endocrine disruptors, neurotoxic chemicals and environmental toxicants derived from petroleum oil. One product containing artificial fragrance can contain up to 3,000 different toxic elements.
Artificial fragrances are used heavily in commercial body care and cosmetic products, like shampoo, lotion, creams, moisturizers, cologne, and perfume. They are also staple ingredients in air fresheners, cleaning products, soaps, and detergents. According to statistics, these popular products have an average of 14 known toxic chemicals. But the worst part is that none of them are even labeled on the ingredients list. That is because it is “legal” for a company to utilize terms like “fragrance” and “proprietary blend” to get away with using thousands of ingredients they do not have to have verified for safety.
This type of information comes as a bit of a shock but it is a fact that the FDA does not require fragrance producers to share the ingredients they use to make their products. You would think that if producers were honest and proud of their products, they would disclose their ingredient list. Many argue that they don’t want anyone to steal their ingredient list; however, only a crook can be crooked. The motive to use such harmful ingredients is apparent; money. Toxic ingredients can be produced in massive quantities and for cheap.
So, if you suspect whether the company’s products you are using are safe or honest, look at their labels. If the company is honest, they will likely very proudly share with you what goes into it. There might be a premium on such products but keep in mind, cheap doesn’t necessarily mean good for you.
Detecting Synthetic Fragrances
Due to the loose regulation in most industries, honest moral and ethics is left up to individuals. Sadly, when we get into the shark-infested waters of big business, we typically find a “profit over people” scenario. This often goes overlooked as clever marketing utilizes abstract, meaningless, catch-all phrases like “fragrance”, devoid of any transparency of what the term actually means.
For example, when a company puts “fragrance” or “parfum” on their labels, it can legally contain up to 3,000 plus ingredients. This sort of trickery causes for people to be highly aware when selecting products today. The last thing anyone wants is to be unknowingly spraying a plethora of carcinogenic, cancer-causing chemicals onto their body, which are absorbed directly into the bloodstream.
So, be careful to not be tricked by fancy marketing words and instead, always buy from a trusted source, read the labels in detail, never going past an ingredient you do not know or make your own products from natural raw materials.
The Toxic Health Effects of Synthetic Scents
It’s probably obvious by now that synthetic fragrances are not good for your health, but just how unsafe are they? When we consider the fact that the human body is but a piece of Mother Nature, it makes sense that something as unnatural and fake as synthetic fragrances would greatly disrupt the health of the body.
Here are just a few specific, scientifically backed health consequences of synthetic fragrance use:
- Cancer – If you are concerned with cancer, avoiding synthetic fragrance is an important factor in prevention. Toxicology reports have proven that synthetic scents include hormone-disrupting phthalates, known to cause breast cancer. One chemical known as styrene, commonly found in cigarette smoke and car exhaust, is actually present in many cleaning products. Styrene is just one of the thousands of ingredients in synthetic fragrances known to cause cancer. Phthalates are carcinogenic compounds that are often present in the cocktail of ingredients under the name “fragrance”. There are numerous studies verifying their connections to cancer and endocrine disruption. Interestingly enough, it didn’t take long for Europe to ban these ingredients after finding out their effects. The US on the other hand still uses and hides phthalates in many products under the name fragrance, DEP, DBP, and DEHP.
- Autism & Other Birth Defects – One of the more popular carcinogens present in synthetic fragrances is phthalates. They are linked to many other diseases aside from cancer. They are also linked to a variety of birth defects including autism, ADHD, and neurological disorders. Pregnant women should be extra careful about the toxic burden they are exposed to. A detoxification protocol under the supervision of a Functional Medicine Doctor would be recommended in this case. However, you can start by eliminated all things unnatural and commercially made containing synthetic ingredients. Environmental chemicals and synthetic ingredients like phthalates can have a detrimental effect on the developing fetal brain. Exposure to these harsh chemicals can interfere with brain development in a fetus causing a lifetime of negative consequences. 7. One study recently found that women with high levels of phthalates are more likely to give birth to children that develop behavioral disorders. These harmful toxins can accumulate in fat deposits in the body where they are stored and later released into breast milk of women, which is later passed onto the newborn.
- Allergies & Neurotoxicity – Allergies are common in today’s world, which only showcases how unnatural our world has become. At basic, allergies are an immune response to some foreign particle that the body either hasn’t had enough of or has had too much of. In the case of commercial products, there are tens of thousands of new chemical ingredients used in manufactured goods that weren’t around 60 years ago. This, of course, would cause anybody to have an immune reaction to. Amongst that list of foreign, manmade material, we have synthetic fragrances making the top ten list of allergens. Ingestion or inhaling of these artificial scents is known to cause a variety of toxic reactions including headaches, migraines, respiratory and sinus irritation, dermatitis, and even sign of neurotoxicity.
- Asthma & Respiratory Issues – It’s common knowledge that asthmatics suffer when exposed to different perfumes, cologne, and other artificially scented problems. However, this sort of condition is generally just accepted and considered to be medically normal. However, let it be known that wellness is our natural state, nagging symptoms thought natural, are not normal and should not be tolerated. In the case of asthma, we just have the sensitive immune system which is outwardly protesting the toxic effects of the modern world. Where in other individuals, it is not that they are not affected negatively, it is just not so obvious. Studies even confirm the negative effects synthetic fragrances have on respiratory health. One study showed a decline in exhalation volume decline by 58 percent when exposed to synthetic cologne. Whether you suffer from asthma or respiratory problems or not you should be cautious of artificial scents. According to TCM, our breath is a primary source of Qi energy. The lungs specifically nourish the immune system and carry oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. So if you care for your health, you should take action to avoid synthetic fragrance and instead, use organic, essential oil-based products.
The Healthy Alternatives to Harmful Synthetic Fragrances
IF you’re new to this sort of information, it may be a bit overwhelming. You might also feel that without your commercial products that you’ll never smell good again. Quite the contrary, luckily, there are healthy, ethical, nature-focused products today that give you the best of both worlds.
The fact of the matter is that Nature solutions for all of our questions. Living naturally is not a fad, but the way our bodies are designed to do so. And doing so does not mean giving up smelling good and living primitively. There is an abundance of botanicals, flowers, and other plant matter that produce the most divine fragrances. With a bit of intelligence, awareness and time, you can easily nourish your skin, grace it with lovely aromas and avoid the dangers of synthetic products. Essential oils, flower essences, and extracts are just a few examples of this. The benefits of using these natural fragrances are great.
If you’re not the DIY type, there are plenty of buying options as mentioned. Here are a few things to look for when purchasing healthy alternatives to synthetics:
- Avoid any product that uses the words fragrance, parfum, phthalate, DEP, DBP, or DEHP in its ingredient deck.
- Buy from a trusted, known source – a friend who is an herbalist, makes their own essential oils and essences, etc.
- Look for products that use essential oils as their primary source of scent, along with only using organic, recognizable plant material. For more on essential oils, please see this prior blog.
- Buying certified organic products or wild-crafted and homemade products.
- Buying natural perfume
- DIY – there are countless ways to easily prepare your own fragrances using essential oils alone. A simple blend of essential oil in an organic plant-based oil makes a wonderful roll-on fragrance.
- Avoid products marketed as “natural”, which are often still highly refined, man-made version of natural products.
- To freshen up your house, open up the windows, bring plant life into the house, which detoxifies the air, fill it with flowers and use organic incense, sage or Palo Santo.
Final Thoughts on the Dangers of Synthetic Scents
When you compare the risks of synthetics to the cost and time of healthier alternatives, there’s really no logical reason to continue the use of toxic synthetics. Typically, the primary reason people continue to buy cheap products containing these harsh ingredients is due to money. However, a single bottle of essential oil can make countless products when paired with a few bulk ingredients like coconut oil, apple cider vinegar or just water. Whats more, essential oils come in a large variety of incredible scents and have additional therapeutic benefits.
If you are currently using commercial products, you might have developed a tolerance to the scent. However, as you make the switch, you might begin to notice how disconnected you were to your body during that time. It is normal to experience shifts in your awareness and senses, especially your sense of smell. You might start to notice how awful synthetic scents make you feel and might not tolerate the same environments you used to. This is a good thing, your body is becoming more alive and your awareness is increasing.
While your responsibility will increase – reading labels, researching products, asking questions or making your own products – the good news is that so will your power. With responsibility comes power; specifically, the power to control your own health and life. As goes with anything else, every loss brings a gain. For this specific scenario, with the loss of convenience comes the gain of wellness and the avoidance of future chronic disease.
So, hopefully, it goes without saying to throw away those synthetic fragrances. I know this seems wasteful, but sadly, these products weren’t helpful to begin with. And to remind you of what is true, go for a walk outside, find a park, a forest or a trail and smell the nearest flower, knowing that all this time Nature has had your best interested in mind.
At Alitura Naturals, we never use any synthetic fragrances. Instead, our products are scented with essential oils such as Organic Australian Sandalwood, Organic German Blue Chamomile, Wildcrafted Calendula, Wildcrafted Vanilla, Wildcrafted Palo Santo, Organic Ylang Ylang and Wildcrafted Violet. Find out more here!