For thousands of years, natural oils, plants and flowers have perfumed the bodies of royalty and the well-to-do to help mask unappealing scents between baths – which, depending on the era, could mean bath-free stretches of days or weeks! More recently though, as bathing has become more of a daily ritual, perfume has become less of a necessity and more of an accessory, a finishing flourish for millions of people, regardless of socio-economic level.
As scent has become democratized, it’s also become a industrial, virtually plant-free affair, far removed from its nature-bound beginnings. Modern day perfumes and fragrances, be they the ones you spray on, shampoo into your skin or moisturize post-shower, have morphed into vehicles that deliver numerous petroleum-based synthetic toxins into our bodies, making most scents little more than ugly subverters of health, wrapped in pretty packaging.
As I encourage everyone to take steps to reduce their toxic load and minimize daily chemical exposure, dropping perfumes and scented personal-care products from your daily routine is an essential first step.
Here’s a glimpse at some of what’s going on inside those fragrance bottles – and a few reasons why it’s time to step away from them:
Perfumes have an air of mystery – and it’s not good
Ingredients matter, but when it comes to scented products and perfumes, consumers have no way to know exactly what’s in the bottle, making an informed decision about what you are or aren’t willing to tolerate on your body, virtually impossible. Unlike food manufacturers who must list the majority of their ingredients, fragrance manufactures don’t have to. They’re allowed to hide behind ‘trade secret’ blends to protect their concoctions, and leave consumers in the dark about the allergens, irritants and toxins contained in every spritz.
No flowers were harmed in the making of your perfume
Here’s a rather startling thought to many perfume-lovers: your brew may not include any flowers, plants or fruits at all! More likely that gardenia or rose or citrus scent you adore didn’t come from Mother Earth, but instead was created in the lab, using a mysterious combination of any of the 2500+ ingredients in the fragrance industry’s palette. With the right combination of a few of those mostly petroleum-based chemicals, manufacturers can deliver a synthetic scent that smells just like the real thing, but is far more unhealthy to douse yourself in.
They also have sickening ingredients
No matter the fragrance, be it an inexpensive drugstore brand ’body spray’ or Chanel No. 5, it’s almost a sure bet that there are at least a few disturbing ingredients in the brew. Fragrance manufactures are free to blend in any number of chemicals, including a number of those defined as carcinogens by California’s Prop 65 Program and the National Toxicology Program (NTP), such as pyridine, benzophenone, methyleugenol and styrene. Add to the mix a few more hormone-disrupting chemicals – like synthetic musks and diethyl phthalate, which are associated with reproductive and fertility problems in men and women – and fragrance becomes a very ugly business. What else can fragrance do for you? Expose you to chemicals that can trigger allergies, migraines, kidney and liver problems, to name a few. If that weren’t enough, there’s also evidence to suggest that some of the toxins found in fragrances may also contribute to neurological degeneration.
But Doc, I want to smell nice
If you want to support your health but still enjoy the scents that make you happy, be smart about it and incorporate these ideas into your routine:
– Assuming you are not allergic, use up your perfumes and scented personal care products slowly, over time – and don’t replace them.
– Don’t dump old perfumes and scented personal care products down the drain – take them to a hazardous waste center whenever possible.
– Believe it or not, many unscented personal care products may still contain numerous dangerous chemical ingredients, to make them smell ‘unscented,’ so buyer beware!
– When replacing personal care products, do so with the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database as your guide to help you buy the healthiest fragrance and personal care alternatives possible.
– Instead of buying fragrances, make your own, using your own blend of organic, essential oils. Try this recipe. No time to make your own, try this completely natural line of skincare and scents, Living Libations.
Still not quite ready to ditch the Chanel No. 5? Then use it only for very special occasions, use a light touch to minimize the potential damage to yourself and others, and wash it off at the end of the day.