Facts on Fragrance

Fragrance is the ingredient that gives perfume it’s unique scent. When people mention the word fragrance, they usually refer to a specific perfume that they love. Creating great fragrance is both an art and a science and there are many decisions that must be made along the way. Scentsy’s Fragrance Development Team is the group that is behind this process, making sure the fragrances we offer are high quality, safe and just right for you.

Scentsy’s Facts on Fragrance Infographic

A fragrance is a combination of aromatic chemicals that produces a distinctive smell or odor and can be from natural essences (like extracts from flowers, herbs and spices) or synthetic aroma compounds. There are many different types of perfume, cologne and other personal care products that contain fragrance. They can be classified into 5 main groups loosely based on their concentration of perfume: Eau Fraiche (1% to 3% fragrance), Eau de Cologne (2-4% fragrance), Eau de Toilette (5- 15% fragrance), Parfum or extrait (20-30% fragrance).

In addition to a wide variety of cosmetics, fragranced chemicals are used in household and personal care products such as laundry detergents, fabric softeners and dryer sheets, air fresheners and room sprays. They can also be found in some cleaning products and even in food. Roughly two in five products we test in our Skin Deep database have some form of the word “fragrance” or “fragrance oils” listed in the ingredients.

There are tens to hundreds of different chemicals in a single fragrance. While many are found in nature, more and more are being manufactured synthetically. Fragrance ingredients, regardless of whether they are natural or synthetic, can be irritants and allergens. When contacted by the skin, some can cause contact dermatitis. When inhaled, they can also trigger asthma symptoms. Some of these chemicals are endocrine disruptors that can harm the reproductive system and contribute to hormone imbalances in kids and adults. Others, like phthalates and styrene, have been linked to cancer.

Fragrance chemicals may also be a risk for respiratory problems including sinusitis, bronchitis and bronchiectasis. They are also known to increase the occurrence of headaches. Depending on the amount and frequency of exposure, fragrances can also impact our mood, making us feel happy or sad.

The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) and the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials work to set standards for fragrance safety. They are responsible for hazard identification and evaluation, as well as for developing fragrance safety profiles. They also perform toxicology studies, including dose-response assessments, and are able to provide information about how much of a particular substance is required for an adverse reaction.

Unlike most foods, fragranced products don’t need to go through premarket testing by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means that we are exposed to fragrance chemicals in many ways without knowing it. The IFRA Code of Practice and the RIFM’s work to evaluate fragrance safety is a good start, but more needs to be done.