Synthetic Fragrances: Why They Aren’t As Sweet And Innocent As You Think

Have you ever walked past someone only to get a strong whiff of what seems to be a lovely fragrance? Or, on the other hand- a not so good scent? I get this too.

Many of you with asthma and sensitivities will notice these scents and realise that they are not good, but the other portion of you? Maybe not.

What are Synthetic Fragrances?

Synthetic fragrances are different mixtures of chemicals that produce a desired scent. Labs are consistently experimenting with many new mixtures of chemicals to come up with a ‘lovely’ concoction.

The people behind these fragrances know what they’re doing, they carefully think about how adding a bit of one chemical will make the fragrance smell more clean, while another will make it smell musky. They love the end result (because they made it) and your body… not so much.

Why are they used?

Short answer… they are cheap. Industries like these are all about profit, they try to make you think that the scent is ‘luxurious’, yet it is irritating and harmful to your body.

Are long lasting fragrances synthetic?

YES. Manufacturers purposely design these scents to be long lasting; the chemicals don’t break down easily and remain on your skin, potentially harming your body. 60-80% of what you you put on your skin, your largest organ, is absorbed into the bloodstream.

What kind of chemicals do these fragrances contain?

Synthetic fragrances can contain as many as 600 chemicals!!! I have made a little sheet showing you what kinds of chemicals these contain.

Synthetic Fragrances


Are they bad for me?

Unfortunately, they are not good for you.

Petrochemicals have been linked to many allergic reactions, eczema and asthma attacks, and honestly that is no surprise. Most worrying of all, is that they are known as a carcinogen. A carcinogen is any substance that directly promotes the formation of cancer!

The perfume industry use and combine well over 3100 synthetic scent compounds, and the majority of these do not have to be identified on ingredients labels.

A study conducted by the Environmental Working Group (read the full study here) showed that many artificial ingredients- many being synthetic scents, are present in the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies and toddlers. Mothers wearing certain scents are unknowingly passing toxins onto their children.

Another study conducted by Environmental Defence (read the full study here) found a whopping total of 137 chemicals in the blood of three randomly selected newborn babies. Of these, 132 are known to cause cancer in mammals, 110 are heavily toxic to the brain and nervous system and 133 cause reproductive and developmental problems in mammals. Not all of these chemicals are found to be in synthetic fragrances but many are.

What kind of impacts do the manufacturing of these fragrances have on the environment?

The vast majority of ingredients used to manufacture synthetic fragrances are gathered from petroleum and natural gases. Not to mention, the continuous requirement of our non-renewable energy sources for the production of these chemicals is deteriorating the environment.

The most popular of processes for obtaining these ingredients is called fracking. This is a process where fracking fluid (a mixture of sand, water and hundreds of chemicals) is blasted deep into the earth to create cracks and release fuel that can then be pumped out in wells built in the area. Additionally, the average fracking pumps over 40,000 gallons of non-biodegradable chemicals into the earth which contaminate our air and water. Only 30% – 50% of these chemicals are ever removed, leaving the rest underground.

How can I avoid Synthetic Fragrances?

Fortunately, if you read labels, you can easily avoid synthetic fragrances. Follow these tips, and only choose brands that go for natural methods of creating scent in their beauty products.

  • Choose only “unscented” and “fragrance-free” products. *Read labels carefully, as some brands use additional chemicals to mask scent and create an “unscented” product.
  • Avoid those products that list “fragrance” in the ingredient list. *Many of these do not have to state what chemicals are used on the ingredients label. This is mainly to hide their secrets and formulas from competitors. 
  • Shop at organic stores and on websites such as Nourished Life, Beautiful Because, Be Naturallyou and Oh Natural  that are dedicated to sourcing and stocking only natural, organic and earth friendly products. 
  • Search for scents that are naturally derived or plant-based.
  • Products that are Certified Organic don’t contain synthetic fragrances.

Founder + Blogger

Hey there! I'm Brodie, the passionate blogger behind Ethically Engaged. My mission is to find ethical lifestyle options to lead you in the direction of conscious consumerism. I hope you enjoy coming along this journey with me x

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