What's that smell?
And is it making your skin itch?
Fragrance is EVERYWHERE!
And no, I'm not talking about perfume! Although, the way some products are scented, can sometimes seem that way. You may not have noticed, but a grand majority of the different products we buy have some sort of scent to them. Cleaning products, beauty products, even some kid’s toys, and office supplies! Heck, I'll admit I myself have been known to gravitate towards scented beauty products, especially makeup. A bronzer that smells like a tropical getaway complete with a Pina Colada? Sign me up and give me three of them!
There's something about specific scents that can bring about a feeling of nostalgia and really add to the user experience, that's undeniable. However, there has been a growing movement towards minimal, natural scents in skincare, or even no scent at all. What's the big deal? Who cares if the lotion I use smells like mangos or flowers or nothing at all? And beyond that, what's the difference between synthetic and natural fragrances in beauty products, does it actually matter?
“The short answer here is YES. There are a number of reasons to steer clear of fragrance, specifically synthetic fragrances, in your skincare. It's not about what it smells like but rather what ingredients are helping to create and sustain that scent and how your skin reacts to them.”
Let's get into the dirty details.
The FDA uses "fragrance" as a generalized term that covers...well pretty much anything that has a scent. This includes things like essential oils, aromatherapy, and synthetic and natural fragrances. For our purposes when talking about skincare we are most concerned about those synthetic fragrances and how they affect your skin. Synthetic fragrance is a VERY common ingredient in skincare that is made up of a cocktail of different chemicals and, in many instances, petrochemicals. Some chemicals in the mix are needed to make the scent while others are there to help that scent last in the product and, in some cases, on your skin.
Once it's been determined as a fragrance then the FDA goes a step further to categorize these fragrances into groupings to determine WHO gets to regulate them and HOW they'll go about it. For example, fragrance in skincare usually falls under the "cosmetic" category unless its main goal is therapeutic/treatment based in which case it may fall under the "drug" classification. Whichever group it falls under gets to regulate it!
The whole process sounds pretty thorough, and god knows I love organizing things into groups, but the truth of the matter is that there is very little in the way of fragrance formulation that is actually prohibited here in the United States...