‘Fragrance’ is an ingredient you’ll very often see on the ingredients lists of many, many products, including perfumes. But what exactly does ‘fragrance’ consist of?
Well, it turns out that while personal care product manufactures are required by law to disclose a complete list of the ingredients they use, fragrances and ‘secret’ formulas are exempt – meaning the ‘fragrance’ in a product could actually be a combination of a number of secret, hidden nasties, including parabens, phthalates, parfum, and synthetic musks. These chemicals have been linked to cancer, allergies, and damage to the reproductive system.
In fact, the average fragrance product combines 14 secret chemicals not listen in its ingredients. Chanel’s ‘Coco’ contains 18, and ‘Curious’ by Britney Spears and ‘Acqua di Gio’ by Giorgio Armani 17. The vast majority of the secret chemicals used in fragrances have not been assessed for safety, nor evaluated by the safety panel of the International Fragrance Association (or others). And many are capable of major hormone disruption.
There are many hormones in the body, but there are a few major hormones:
C O R T I S O L has many functions, but it is mainly responsible for ensuring an appropriate stress response in the body.
M E L A T O N I N affects sleep and sleep patterns, and so its proper function is vital to you receiving the rest your body needs in order to restore and rejuvenate.
T H Y R O I D H O R M O N E S control many of the body’s functions, including heart rate and the burning of calories for energy.
O E S T R O G E N S are the major sex hormones in females, responsible for puberty, menstruation and fertility.
P R O G E S T E R O N E is another female sex hormone, similar to oestrogen, and maintaining the menstrual cycle.
T E S T O S T E R O N E is the main sex hormone in males, and responsible for muscle strength, muscle mass, bone density, and male puberty.
All of the hormones of the body are vital in maintaining health, and the chemical disturbance or interference of any of the body’s hormones can have detrimental effects.
P A R A B E N S are synthetic preservatives capable of altering the production and release of hormones. Widely used, they can unbalance female hormones, cause male sterility, and bring on early puberty.
P H T H A L A T E S are carcinogenic preservatives, and can cause kidney/liver damage and birth defects, but also reduce hormone function and sperm counts.
P A R F U M can comprise a mix of chemicals, and works as a masking agent. The chemicals can cause asthma and allergies, but have also been linked to neurotoxicity and cancer.
S Y N T H E T I C M U S K S can accumulate in breast milk, body fat, umbilical cord blood, and also in our environment. They have been linked to hormone disruption.
Most synthetic perfumes contain around 12 hormone-disrupting chemicals, some listed on the label and some undisclosed. ‘Glow’ by Jennifer Lopez and ‘Halle’ by Halle Berry, for example, contain 7 each – 6 of which mimic oestrogen, and the 7th affecting the thyroid hormones.
As our skin is our largest organ, and what goes onto it goes into us too, the easiest way to prevent yourself from absorbing these potentially dangerous chemicals is by ditching them completely.
Scared to part with the sweet smells in your perfumes and other cosmetics, and dispensed around your home? Fear not, friend! There are a bevy of all-natural solutions out there, many including beautiful essential oils. Essential oils can be diffused throughout your home, each carrying an impressive range of benefits, added to a spray, and even applied to your skin directly or in a carrier oil like coconut or jojoba.
Weleda, Vanessa Morgan and a handful of other natural cosmetics companies offer safer, sweet smelling alternatives, but my favourite natural perfumes are by Australian company Flora Remedia. Flora Remedia use specific blends of flower essences to balance emotions, and then combine these blends with natural and essential oils to create beautiful perfumes that not only smell beautiful but work on a physical and emotional level to heal their wearer. My favourite blend is the ‘Let Go’ treatment, which combines willow, honeysuckle and star of Bethlehem essences with organic essential oils like sweet orange, geranium and ylang ylang to promote a deep letting go of deep-seeded and persistent thought and behaviour patterns.
Have you tried substituting your synthetic perfumes for natural alternatives? What’s your favourite?
References: Mercola, FoodMatters, Natural Beauty Week, Hormone Health Network.