What is Fragrance?

Fragrance is a mix of oils and aromas that creates a unique smell, or perfume. It is often used to enhance a person’s personal appearance and self-esteem, and may be found in perfume, body lotions, aftershaves and other cosmetics. Depending on how it’s used, it can also affect mood, reduce anxiety and depression and help improve sleep quality. It is often reported that certain pleasant scents can reduce pain by activating opioid pathways in the brain [1].

Most fragrance ingredients come from plants, but some are made synthetically (i.e., from chemicals made by humans rather than from natural materials). There are more than 3,500 fragrance ingredients currently in use today, a number that grows constantly as new ones are developed. Many of these have limited or no safety data, and exposure to some can cause a range of health problems. Companies aren’t required to list fragrance ingredients on their product labels, and they’re rarely included in ingredient lists.

When you buy a perfume, the scent is known as sillage. It’s the trail left behind you, like a ship’s wake in the water, or an invisible cloud that expresses your own personal style and mood. A heavier perfume will have a stronger sillage, while a lighter fragrance will leave a more subtle trail.

Fragranced products are everywhere — they’re in shampoos, conditioners, body washes, hand soaps and even some laundry detergents. In addition, we find them in many of the personal care and cleaning products we use at home, such as air fresheners and room sprays. In some cases, a fragranced product is meant to encourage us to wash our hands, which can lead to better hygiene and general health.

While there are many benefits to using fragranced products, it’s important to keep in mind that they can also be a source of unwanted exposure to toxic chemicals. Many of the ingredients in fragranced products are derived from synthetic sources, and exposure to these substances can have serious health consequences, including causing a variety of respiratory and skin allergies.

The fragrance industry has maintained a strict system of safety assurance for more than 30 years, which is based on scientific assessment of potential risks and exposure to raw fragrance materials by the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM). This includes testing for human skin irritation, inhalation exposure, group and environmental sensitization and fragrance allergy.

The fragrance industry works with government agencies to ensure that these voluntary standards are being followed by manufacturers and that the best available science is being applied to the development, evaluation and testing of all fragranced products. In addition to RIFM, the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) has its own independent, non-profit research center to make sure that the science being used in the creation of IFRA’s fragrance standards is up to date and accurate. IFRA’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety, which is made up of scientists from around the world, oversees the work that IFRA’s Technical Center on Fragrance (TCF) does to test and develop fragrance standards.