Fragrance Unmasked: Separating Fact from Fiction in the Beauty Industry
The Phthalate Myth
Phthalates have come under fire in the beauty industry because there is this big misconception about being an endocrine disruptor. Phthalates, more specifically diethyl phthalate which is a solvent for fragrance, are commonly used in fragrances to enhance their longevity. But not all phthalates are created equal. Diethyl phthalate is the most widely used worldwide because of its very high safety profile. It has been rigorously studied and proven time and again not to be endocrine-disrupting. It's important to differentiate between the various types of phthalates and which ones are used in fragrance formulations and in the beauty industry. The beauty industry is also witnessing a shift towards more phthalate-free fragrances, giving you more options aligned with your preferences and concerns (endocrine disruption should not be one of them).
Should you still be concerned, all of our fragrances used in our products are phthalate-free.
Essential Oils vs. Fragrance Oils
There has also been a growing trend towards "natural" beauty products, often promoting essential oils as the alleged safer alternative to synthetic fragrance oils. While essential oils have their merits, they are highly concentrated, potent, and should be used with care (and never undiluted). There are countless cases of people having very severe and dangerous skin reactions from improper essential oil usage, because people have been led to think these are more natural thus safer.
We also need to consider the environmental impact of essential oil production, like habitat destruction, overharvesting, and water usage, all of which are valid concerns. Synthetic fragrances, in some cases, can offer a more sustainable alternative, but no one wants to talk about that.
Many essential oils are extracted via steam distillation or cold pressing. In order to produce a single pound of an essential oil, enormous quantities of botanicals are required. It has been said it takes over ten thousand pounds of rose petals to produce one pound of oil, which sheds light on the cost of rose absolute, making the cost excessive and, in some cases, prohibitive. Rose absolute can cost upwards of $100 or more for a mere 5 mL bottle.
Synthetic Fragrances: A Necessity for Diversity
One of the key advantages of synthetic fragrances is their ability to diversify scent profiles. Not every fragrance note is available in essential oil form, such as most fruits like apple, blueberry, and others (citrus being the exception), which means synthetics fill an important gap. Synthetic fragrances undergo rigorous safety testing and are subject to the same strict regulations in the beauty industry, in spite of what fear mongers are trying to scare you into believing.
Companies are allowed to use fragrance as an umbrella term in their ingredient lists as blends are often proprietary, but this is not an excuse or ruse to fill the product with a bunch of scary ingredients.
This is why I only work reputable and trusted suppliers and am extremely selective with whom I choose to do business.
The Complexity of Ingredients + Personal Preferences
In the world of skincare and cosmetics, it's crucial to remember that a single ingredient should not be hastily labeled as either "good" or "bad." Ingredients are multifaceted, and their impact depends on various factors such as formulation, concentration, molecular size, function, and delivery.
So when you’re assessing the effects of a product on your skin, it's important to consider factors beyond just the presence of fragrance. Concentration, the duration applied to your skin, the condition of your skin barrier, and the frequency of use can all influence how your skin reacts to a product.
It's worth noting that the need to avoid products with fragrance may be more relevant if you have sensitive skin, compromised skin, or a damaged skin barrier. You may also come across dermatologists who consistently recommend fragrance-free products. It's important to recognize that dermatologists often deal with a wide range of clients, including those with the most severe skin issues. They frequently encounter cases where fragrance compounds may exacerbate skin problems. For many of us, fragrance in skincare products can actually enhance the experience and can be a valuable and enjoyable part to our beauty routines. It's truly about finding the right balance and product that suits your individual needs and preferences.
Enhancing the Sensorial Experience
Fragrance can serve a vital role in skincare and cosmetics, beyond just adding scent. In some cases, the base formulas of products do not have the most pleasant odor. Imagine using a lotion that smells like crayons; it's not an enjoyable experience and you’d be hard pressed to buy that product again. Fragrance can mask these undesirable scents, making the product more enjoyable to use.
Fragrance is part of the sensorial experience. A pleasing aroma can transport you to a spa-like atmosphere, elevate your self-care routine, and foster a sense mindfulness. The right fragrance can evoke feelings of happiness, tranquility, or confidence, making you more likely to repurchase and add the product into your daily routine.Fragrance is a beautiful yet essential part of the beauty industry. Just as it’s important to buy from brands committed to ethical sourcing and production, it’s also as important to navigate through the myths and misconceptions to make informed choices and find the right balance. This is not a case for or against fragrance oils, or for or against essential oils. If you want to avoid fragrance for whatever personal choice, do what makes you feel happiest, just don't do it out of fear.