What is Fragrance?

Fragrance is a combination of chemicals used to produce a pleasant smell or odour. It can be derived from natural aromatic compounds found in plants and spices or synthetically manufactured. It is found in perfume, cologne and aftershave. The word fragrance is also commonly used to describe the smell of a person or thing and to mean a pleasant scent, such as “That rose is so fragrant” or “The smell of a new car is very appealing.”

Fragrances come from a wide variety of sources including natural products like oils, extracts and essentials, resins and animal secretions, but they are most often synthetically manufactured in laboratory settings. They can contain a large number of individual chemicals or a mixture of tens to hundreds. These are referred to as fragrance materials and may include many skin allergens, such as linalool, hexyl cinnamal and geraniol [2].

Perfumes can be divided into 5 main categories loosely based on their concentration of the fragrant material: parfum (eau de toilette), eau de cologne, eau de musc, eau de sillage and eau de toilette. Generally, the more expensive the perfume, the higher the concentration of fragrance.

There are many ways to extract and formulate fragrances, but distillation is the most common process. It involves heating the plant material to high temperatures and condensing the volatile components out of the mixture into a liquid. There are also maceration and expression processes. The former involves soaking the plant material in carrier oils serving as solvents to capture heavier, larger plant molecules. The latter is a mechanical process where the material is crushed or squeezed to extract the oils. [3]

Thousands of chemicals are used to make a single fragrance, and a typical bottle of perfume contains a blend of several hundred fragrance ingredients. The chemicals can cause a variety of health problems, such as dermatitis and asthma, when applied directly to the skin. They are also harmful to the environment because they are volatile and can evaporate into the air, forming chemical vapors that contribute to ozone pollution and fine particulates that cause respiratory illness.

In addition, the fragrance chemicals in perfumes are known to be hormone-disrupting and can cause allergic reactions in some people, including asthma and irritant contact dermatitis. Even when the fragrance is applied sparingly, it can be toxic, and there is evidence that certain fragrance chemicals are associated with a heightened risk of cancer. The FDA regulates personal care and cleaning products, but fragrance mixtures are exempt from their requirements, which could lead to an increase in the use of these dangerous chemicals in our everyday products. This is why we should consider avoiding perfume and other synthetic fragrances, and choosing those that are made with natural oils and plants.