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All Your Questions About Fragrances In Skincare Answered

By Oreoritse Tariemi
12 December 2021   |   12:02 pm
We all love a sweet-smelling cleanser, but have you ever considered that the ingredients responsible for that lovely scent may also be responsible for the inflammation and redness you experience after using it? When going through the ingredient list on the bottle, most people skip the fragrance part and focus on the main ingredients. Most…

Dried fruits. Photo Pixabay

We all love a sweet-smelling cleanser, but have you ever considered that the ingredients responsible for that lovely scent may also be responsible for the inflammation and redness you experience after using it?

When going through the ingredient list on the bottle, most people skip the fragrance part and focus on the main ingredients. Most skincare brands add a fragrance or more than one fragrance to produce a distinct scent that makes you want to use their products.

What effect do these fragrances have on the overall outcome of skincare and are these fragrances bad for skincare?

Are Fragrances Really Bad?

Fragrances may be a tough one to leave behind. In reality, the real idea behind skincare, being self-care, is closely tied to scents and the reactions they trigger in our brain. Apart from the silky feel of skincare products, the various scents transport us to the luxury world, even if it’s just for a few moments.

But are you ready to risk your entire skincare goals for just a few minutes of feeling good? 

According to the American Association of Dermatology, fragrances are the leading cause of contact dermatitis, a kind of allergic swelling that occurs on the skin.

While people usually expect the active ingredients to be the cause of bad news, this research has proven that fragrances may jeopardise your entire skincare plans and, by extension, your entire holiday. The research conducted on the effect of fragrances on skincare outcomes mentioned that these adverse reactions are more severe in people with sensitive skin. This is not quite surprising, as brands usually label their unscented versions of products for sensitive skin.

According to another research, even if no immediate redness or blotchiness occurs, it may still do damage on a cellular level. This damage begins to pool together and becomes obvious only when it’s far too late. 

So there you have it. Fragrances may be terrible for you, long term or short term.

Types Of Fragrances

These sweet-smelling compounds can be grouped into two classes based on their origins. There are natural fragrances and synthetic fragrances.

Natural fragrances come from plants and flowers with characteristic, pleasant smells. These scents include rose, lavender, and even plant extracts such as tea tree oil and citrus oil. Natural fragrances must be 100% authentic, and this means it hasn’t been diluted with any synthetic material or enhancer. Now you’re probably thinking; natural fragrances must be the better option, right?

Nope! Natural fragrances do not cause any fewer reactions than their synthetic counterparts. If anything, reactions to natural fragrances may be unbridled and unpredictable.

Synthetic fragrances are those made in a laboratory. Some of these chemicals may serve multiple purposes. For example, benzyl alcohol is a sweet-smelling chemical that doubles preservatives.

Synthetic fragrances tend to be harsh and lead to aggravated skin reactions in people with sensitive skin. Your favourite skincare product may use either type or a combination of both.  

How To Tell If Your Skincare Products Have Fragrances?

First, read the bottle and go through the ingredients list, even if it says unscented. If your products have any fragrances, they should be indicated in the ingredients list. Usually, it appears as fragrances, followed by the individual aromas that make up the scent.

  • Fragrance-less vs Unscented

Just because the bottle says, “unscented” doesn’t mean there are no fragrances. As earlier mentioned, there are different kinds of aromas, and some of them have dual functions. For example, suppose the active ingredient in your cleanser was a compound that in itself is sweet-smelling, your cleanser already contains a fragrance, even though the manufacturer has not added any additional fragrances.

This makes it challenging to find an entirely fragrance-free product. Because no one wants to use an utterly odourless skincare product, the hunt for scent-less ingredients isn’t going so far. 

It would still be worthwhile to steer clear of formulations with added fragrances. The more the scents, the higher the chances of inflammation.

How Do You Know If You’re Allergic To A Fragrance?

There are over a thousand different fragrances, and the list grows each time two scents are combined. When you start a new skincare therapy, the chances are that you’re meeting a set of fragrances you’ve never used before.

To stay safe from itching and redness, do a patch test on the side of your face. Waiting a few minutes may not be enough. We advise that you wait a whole day, or at least half a day, to see if anything happens. If there are no side effects when it’s time for your following routine, go ahead and use it.

Finally, remember that we have different skin types and what causes a mild itch in one person may cause a migraine in another. There is no precise cut mechanism for the action of fragrances, so tread with caution.

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