Toxic Fragrances

Did you know perfumes actually create oxidative damage? Whenever you are wearing that lovely scent, plugging in your glade, or burning your scentsy,  free radicals are being put into the air. The kind of oxidative damage that turns your apples brown and the kind that turn your cells (where your DNA is) into damaged, aged cells. Unless you are taking a large amount of antioxidants everyday, your cells are being damaged daily by toxic perfumes that make you and your house smell pretty. What does oxidative damage cause? Inflammation, headaches, aging and so much more, sometimes the effects take years to feel.  What do synthetic smells cause that you actually feel right away? Sinus pressure, breathing issues, brain fog and even pain. When you are inviting free radicals into your home on purpose, its causing oxidative damage to your cells. What happens when you take a lemon and pour the juice on the apple? It prevents it from turning brown. If you were to diffuse pure essential oils (not the ones sourced from brokers and sold in grocery stores) but real ones like doTERRA. certified pure by third party and in house labs, you are actually preventing free radical damage to your cells. Today I take a deeper look into synthetic fragrance........

It’s time to get down and dirty with fragrances. Fragrances are the sweet smelling chemical cocktails we infuse into our daily living. Beyond the cloying haze we’ve all experience when walking through department store beauty sections, perfumes are also in our laundry detergents (as I’ve discussed in my October 5th Weekly Drops of Wisdom post), facial and body care products, lotions, candles, and basically anything else we use to improve the scent in our homes. We think we know what we’re buying when we grab the fresh scent fabric softener but have we ever really given much thought to these chemicals we inhale, ingest, and rub on our skin? When was the last time we asked what goes into making the “fresh scent” and how is it interacting with our bodies? Could these fragrances be negatively impacting our lives and, if so, how do we combat them? 


The Making of the Fragrance

The majority of the fragrances that permeate our household products are not labeled for consumers to understand what they are. Grab that bottle of Tide and you’ll see it says “Fragrance” to indicate that there is perfume in it. Look at your Oil of Olay and you’ll see a list of difficult to pronounce ingredients, none of which are the perfume that is obviously in the bottle. This type of labeling is intentional. According to the FDA, “regulations do not require the listing of the individual fragrance ingredients ... Fragrance and flavor formulas are complex mixtures of many different natural and synthetic chemical ingredients, and they are the kinds of cosmetic components that are most likely to be ‘trade secrets’” In order to know what goes into making a fragrance, we as consumers have to dig deeper. 

Women’s Voices for the Earth published an article that delves into the hidden chemical list that constitutes fragrances in many of the name brand household products we use. “Any one fragrance can be made up of potentially hundreds of different ingredients.” These ingredients include allergens, synthetic musks, and phthalates. 


The types of allergens in fragrance may include alcohols and additives sure to do more than make you smell pretty. GCI Magazine assembled a list of 26 fragrance allergens commonly found in perfumes that sounds more like items you’d use in a lab with gloves, goggles, and a face mask. Some of these ingredients include benzyl alcohol and extracts from tree and oakmoss. If you or a family member has tree allergies, your good smelling air freshener could be bringing those allergens into your home without you ever being aware and potentially making them sick.

Synthetic Musks

Synthetic musks are easy for our bodies to absorb but wreak havoc in the process. According to, musks accumulate in our bodies through skin absorption, inhalation, and ingestion and have been found in abundance in our bodies in places such as breast milk, blood, urine, and even umbilical cords. They have a noted health concern that includes endocrine disruption, organ system toxicity, reproductive toxicity, and more. For example, according to an EWG research study, “Galaxolide and Tonalide, two synthetic musks, [were found] in the cord blood of newborn babies (EWG 2009). Both musks contaminate people and the environment worldwide, have been associated with toxicity to the endocrine system (van der Burg 2008) and were identified in the majority of products tested for this study.” Since at least 80% of our personal care products contain some kind of synthetic musk, we are constantly exposed to these chemicals and avoidance is difficult.    


Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to make plastics more flexible and harder to break (plasticizers) or are used as solvents that break down other materials. They are commonly used in vinyl flooring, food packaging, and building materials but they may also be present in personal care products, either as part of the chemical constitution of the product or part of the product’s fragrance or both. Phthalates are a hot topic in the chemical community as there is evidence to suggest that increased exposure to them causes infertility in males but no action has been taken to ban the chemical, yet.

The Impact on Our Bodies

As mentioned earlier, the FDA suggests minimal exposure to these chemicals is safe but, with the increase of metabolic, mental, and reproductive disorders, it’s no wonder we need to reexamine just how toxic these chemicals are to us.  “Most chemical safety studies look at the toxic effects of higher doses of chemicals and then assume decreasing toxicity with lower doses. Yet substances that disrupt the body’s own hormones — known as endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs) — can exert important biological effects at low doses similar people’s real-life exposures. These effects are often qualitatively different from those found in traditional toxicology testing.” What is more, most of us (especially us ladies) use as many as 20 or more personal care products every day thereby constantly barraging our bodies with chemicals that far exceed what is measured in a lab. Further testing needs to be done that includes this important variable.

As if rubbing these toxic chemicals into our bodies wasn’t bad enough, there is also evidence to support that inhaling fragrances can have similar effects as breathing in secondhand smoke. According to the article Fragrance: The New Second Hand Smoke from, “a recent analysis found that fragrance was the official culprit in a number of  work-related reports of asthma. The study looked at asthma associated with exposure to air fresheners, perfumes, colognes, and other personal care products in the workplace… [and] helps demonstrate that scents are not just a nuisance for people who are averse to them, they actually cause health problems.”

The extent of the health problems that may arise from exposure to fragrance chemicals can run the gamut from immediate reactions, such as itchy watery eyes and runny nose, to more serious issues such as cancer. According to the EWG article, Expert Panel Confirms that Fragrance Ingredient Can Cause Cancer, the National Academy of Sciences confirmed that styrene, a chemical found in many common household products is carcinogenic. You might think of styrene in terms of polystyrene cups and food containers but it “also turns up in automobile exhaust, cigarette smoke and … in the various sprays and liquids you’ll find in the cosmetic and cleaning aisles of your supermarket.” Since the FDA does not require disclosure of the ingredients used to make fragrances and does not currently recognize styrene as a carcinogen, this toxic chemical continues to be used in common household products. 

Until the FDA changes the regulations on fragrance ingredient listing and how it views chemicals, such as styrene, we as consumers will suffer the ill effects constant exposure presents. Fortunately, there are ways that we can limit contact with these fragrance chemicals and it starts with being informed.

Limiting Exposure

There is no sure-fire way to eliminate fragrances from our environment. Efforts are being made to get the FDA to change its regulations about fragrance labeling and allowing chemicals into products but the process is slow and not likely to change soon. Nevertheless, there are ways in which we can minimize exposure and combat those fragrances we do encounter in our homes. Women’s Voices for the Earth has a list of 10 Steps for avoiding toxic chemicals in your home. Several of their suggestions include making your own cleaning products, avoiding synthetic fragrances, and keeping chemicals out of the house. While we think their list is great, we feel that adding doTerra to your arsenal is essential.

Using doTerra products as the foundation for your cleaning and daily hygiene practices also helps to minimize and even eliminate fragrance chemical exposure. Melody explain.

Additionally, there are several online resources that provide articles and reports on topics vital to staying current with health and beauty news that mainstream media shies away from. Visit any of the links below to learn more or shop products they’ve researched and tested:

Women’s Voices for the Earth
EWG Cosmetics Database
Safer Chemicals
Safe Cosmetics

There is also an app for checking your in-store beauty care products called Think Dirty. Visit your app store to download the app on your smart phone or device and take it shopping with you to find safer products for your home.


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