One of the more recent changes I made in my commitment to using non-toxic beauty products was swapping out my perfume. I feel guilty for how long it took me to finally make the switch. Did I know that perfumes were full of harmful ingredients? Yep. Then why did it take me so long? I LOVE my perfume! I’ve been using the same perfume for years and the fragrance is sentimental. I know many people can relate to this. How many times do you smell a perfume or cologne and it makes you think of someone or it evokes a memory? To this day I smell a certain cologne and I’m immediately taken back to being in class with my 8th grade crush.
A few years ago I bought a nice perfume from Nordstroms. I noticed that when I would spray it, I would immediate react to it. It would make my eyelids heavy and make my nose stuffy. I knew some people were allergic to scents but I had never had a problem before. I made the connection that this perfume must have some pretty bad ingredients. After all, perfumes are full of many artificial fragrances and chemicals. These ingredients can be irritating and cause allergic reactions amongst other things I share below. Sure enough, I looked up the ingredients and couldn’t pronounce one of them. As much as it killed me to waste my pricey purchase, I promptly trashed it knowing the reaction wasn’t worth it.
You may not be aware but perfume companies have no obligation to disclose ingredients used in the products. How is this possible? The government doesn’t really regulate the industry, at all. The last bill passed to regulate the industry was in 1938. 1938. That’s 80 years ago. Today there are over 80,000 ingredients used in products sold across different markets and less than 10% are tested for safety. This allows companies to put less than desirable ingredients into their products to help them work better, to save money or in this case, to achieve a certain smell. Needless to say, the US is majorly slacking in protecting consumers from harmful ingredients in cosmetics and skincare. For comparison, the EU has banned 1,400 ingredients known to be harmful. Canada has banned 600. The US has banned a measly 30. *gasps of outrage*
Almost all department store perfumes contain artificial fragrance as well as petroleum-based chemicals called phthalates and parabens. Both of these have been linked to endocrine disruption. Phthalates are commonly found in most beauty products and they are quite dangerous. Phthalates have been proven to disrupt our hormones, including testosterone. That is very scary for everyone but especially pregnant women. There is a direct link between hormone disruption and developmental effects on a fetus. There was also a recent study that showed exposure to phthalates greatly affects the development of children’s brains as well.
Artificial/synthetic fragrances contain carcinogens(chemicals that cause cancer) and are linked to brain toxicity, endocrine disruption and more side effects. Not only that but when a label reads “fragrance”, it can be a blanket term for thousands of ingredients.
Further research has linked DEP oil which is commonly found in perfume to poor lung function and sperm issues, from lower counts to reduced motility, states Caroline Cox from the Center of Environmental Health. ‘”Which means men—particularly adolescents who fumigate their still-developing bodies with aerosolized body sprays—could be at risk. “I mean, you’re purposely spraying these chemicals close to your body and rubbing them right on your skin,” Cox says. “There’s no question people are exposed.”’
Hearing all of these big terms can be confusing so let’s talk about this in simple terms. Chronic illness is everywhere.Infertility rates are extremely high. Children are being diagnosed with crazy diseases. Every time we turn around someone else has cancer. When we look specifically at certain kinds of cancer, genetics only affects a small percentage of people hit with cancer. This, based by science and many studies, points to other factors like environmental toxins leading to these rampant illnesses. Bottom line, all of this is connected to what we use in our homes and on our bodies.
After having my son, it only took me wearing perfume once to get over my nostalgic (and frankly, selfish) mindset. I was spraying myself with harmful chemicals directly connected to cancer and brain development issues and then wearing him in a baby carrier on my chest. The thought that chemicals were touching his skin and that he was inhaling them made me sick. I am so careful in every other area to lessen our exposure to chemicals and this was one of the final swaps that needed to happen.
So what’s a perfume lovin’ gal(or cologne wearing guy) to do? I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find many non-toxic perfume options. Companies are popping up with safer options so we don’t have to smell like a patchouli hippie(no offense if you like patchouli but it is quite an acquired scent). These companies use essential oils for fragrance which are safe.
Here are a few that I use and love.
Credo has safer options for perfume as well. You have to read ingredients though, some aren’t great and contain parfum/fragrance. Avoid those and opt for ones that only use essential oils. I bought one I thought was safe and when I got home and looked it up, sure enough it had fragranced in it 🙁
The toxic ingredients I mentioned in this article aren’t just found in perfume. They make their way into our homes in many different products from cleaning products to body lotions. I wrote articles about choosing safer candles and skincare/makeup.
After letting you know the not so pretty truth about perfumes, let’s end on a happy note. There are great companies working towards increasing awareness that what we put on our skin matters. They are also working to meet with congressmen across the country to ask for their support in passing stricter legislation to protect us against harmful ingredients. Check them out and support them how you can!