The Harmful Effects of Fragrance

Fragrance, parfum, perfume, cologne, eau de toilette, scent.  Call it what you want.  I prefer “chemical $h!tstorm,” for the sake of transparency.

Fragrance = unidentified mixture of ingredients including carcinogens, allergens, respiratory irritants, endocrine disruptors, neurotoxic chemicals, and environmental toxicants.

Air fresheners, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, dryer sheets, disinfectants, dish detergents, all-purpose cleaners, scented candles, wax melts, fake essential oils, sunscreen, soaps, hand sanitizers, lotions, cosmetics, deodorants, wipes, shampoos, conditioners…

  • A single fragrance in a product can contain a mixture of hundreds of chemicals.
  • A survey of selected scented consumer goods showed the products emitted more than 100 VOCs; some are classified as toxic or hazardous by federal laws.
  • Even products advertised as “green,” “natural,” or “organic” emitted just as many hazardous chemicals as standard ones.
  • Manufacturers are not required to disclose any ingredients on the label, including fragrance mixtures.
  • “Unscented” does not mean fragrance-free. “Unscented” products typically have added fragrance agents used to mask smells.  These masking agents contain phthalates and are linked to a host of known health concerns, including various cancers.
  • Fragrances set people up for a lifetime of chemically induced illnesses.
  • Repeated exposure to small amounts of these chemicals can trigger symptoms to previously tolerated chemicals.


  • Common health effects of fragrance have been proven to include:

Irritability, mental vagueness, muscle pain, bloating, joint aches, sinus problems, fatigue, sore throat, eye irritation, gastrointestinal problems, laryngitis, headaches & migraines, dizziness, swollen lymph nodes, reproductive system harm, spikes in blood pressure, skin irritations (i.e., contact dermatitis, eczema, etc.), allergies, anxiety, mood swings, depression, respiratory distress (i.e., asthma, cough, lung damage, etc.), hormonal issues, diabetes, obesity  and various types of cancer.

*Fragrance chemicals cross the blood-brain-barrier.

*When applied to the skin, they enter the bloodstream.

*A 2010 peer-reviewed study found that women with higher levels of certain phthalates gave birth to children that, years later, were more likely to display disruptive behavior.

*Research demonstrates that fetal exposure to phthalates is linked to autism, symptoms of ADHD and neurological disorders.

*Fragrance materials can accumulate in human fat tissue and are also present in breast milk.


  It’s time to ditch these products.  Opt for fragrance-free or consider making your own.  It’s easier than you’d think! Saves $$$ too!


-READ LABELS.  Even if the product says, “fragrance-free.”  I’ve been deceived before by a product that listed “essential oil blend”.  It turns out; this blend contained essential oils AND synthetics.

-Stay vigilant.  Just because the last time you bought a particular product with a legit ingredient list, doesn’t mean they didn’t quietly change it.  I’ve made many product returns because of this. 

Talk to people at your child’s school, your workplace, and any other location that you or your family frequent, about getting rid of fragrances.

              If you’re looking for safer product recommendations, comment below!


Potera C. Scented products emit a bouquet of VOCs. Environ Health Perspect. 2011 Jan;119(1):A16. doi: 10.1289/ehp.119-a16. PubMed PMID: 21196139; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3018511.



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