Sensitive to Scent? Why You Should Give Fragrance-Free Skincare a Try
Fragrance is everywhere: From perfumes and colognes to cleaning products, makeup and hair care, and of course, skincare. While the hysteria around fragrance in skincare products has ramped up in recent years, we think it’s important to note that we at Exclusive Beauty Club don’t believe you should be afraid of fragrance in your skincare or body care products. As dermatologist Dr. Anjali Mahto told POPSUGAR, “There are strict regulations around ingredients, including fragrance … ingredients in skin care are complex and shouldn’t be labeled as good or bad.”
However, fragrance can be a strong irritant for some. It was even named ‘Allergen of the Year’ in 2007, as it is one of the leading causes of allergic contact dermatitis, can be sensitizing for skin conditions like eczema, and can cause other skin reactions. So, for some people, reaching for fragrance-free skincare is the best way to avoid irritation and other sensitivities.
Below, we cover who should actually be concerned about fragrance in skincare, what “fragrance-free” means, and more.
What is Fragrance?
Fragrance, also known as “parfum,” refers to aromatic chemical concoctions. Fragrance is divided into two categories: natural and synthetic.
Natural fragrances are derived from natural sources, such as lavender, rose, or grapefruit. They’re typically a mixture of essential oils or botanical extracts. These fragrances are restricted to only what you can extract from the natural source.
While you might assume natural fragrances are more “gentle” or “safe,” it’s important to note that natural fragrances, particularly essential oils, are also known to cause allergic contact dermatitis. And citrus-based oils are photosensitive, meaning they can damage your skin when applied topically to an area exposed to UV rays.
Synthetic fragrances are developed in a lab. They can be fully synthetic or originate from natural ingredients (semi-synthetic). With synthetic fragrances, there are endless variations, giving more scent possibilities than natural fragrances. They’re also highly regulated and much more consistent than natural scents. Synthetic fragrances also have a longer shelf life than their natural counterparts.
What is a Fragrance-Free Skincare Product?
Fragrance-free skincare products are much like they sound. They’re products containing zero added fragrances (natural or synthetic). Most fragrance-free products will have a ‘fragrance-free’ label, though you can always check the ingredient list to know for sure whether a product is fragrance-free.
Or you can let us do the hard work for you. We’ve already vetted through thousands of products to offer you the best in fragrance-free skincare. Shop our fragrance-free collection.
The difference between unscented and fragrance-free:
The terms ‘unscented’ and ‘fragrance-free’ aren’t regulated in the United States, so deciphering the difference can be a little tricky. According to the EPA, fragrance-free products are those that have no fragrance materials or masking scents. Unscented products mean that the formula may contain chemicals that neutralize or mask other odors.
Why is Fragrance Used in Personal Care Products?
Scent has a strong connection to emotion and memory. It’s even been shown that fragrances that elicit positive emotions are proven to lower stress levels and improve your overall mental and emotional well-being. This ability to evoke pleasant, positive emotions is a huge reason why fragrance is used in personal care products—simply put, people like things that smell good and make them feel good too.
Another major reason why so many products contain fragrance is to mask any strong or unpleasant odors coming from an ingredient or combination of ingredients in a formula. Even well-loved skincare ingredients can sometimes have an off-putting scent in their pure forms—such as lactic acid, sulfur, and ferulic acid, for example.
In most cases, you’ll see fragrance at the bottom of the ingredient list. This is because fragrance is added at a very low level compared to the other important actives, where it won’t affect the product’s efficacy. A good skincare product won’t be all about fragrance; it’s the other ingredients that matter.
Is Fragrance-Free Skincare Better?
Yes and no – the answer to this will vary from person to person. In general, if your skin isn’t sensitive to scent or you prefer fragranced products, then by all means, continue using them.
If you have a sensitive nose to perfume, candles, and other scented objects, then fragrance-free skincare can be right up your alley. If you find that strong scents trigger headaches or migraines, a fragrance-free skincare routine is a perfect option.
Likewise, if you have sensitive skin, inflammatory skin conditions such as rosacea or eczema, a compromised skin barrier, or any fragrance allergies (to synthetic or natural fragrances), then it’s best to avoid fragrance in your skincare routine. Certain areas on the face, such as around the eye, are also more sensitive to scent, so opting for a fragrance-free option would decrease your risk of irritation.
Remember, everyone’s skin is unique, so what ingredients or fragrances work for some might not work for others. It’s also a good idea to consult your dermatologist if you suspect you’re having skin reactions from fragrance, as they can help test and diagnose the allergen and guide you in treatment.
Shop Fragrance-Free Skincare at Exclusive Beauty Club:
We’ve catered to those with fragrance sensitivities or who are avoiding fragrance altogether, making it easier to find the fragrance-free products you’re looking for.