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Skin Irritation and the Hidden Ingredient You Need to Know About

If there’s one thing that can truly throw your beauty routine out of whack, it’s skin irritation. It can be difficult to determine what is causing the skin upheaval and you may worry that you are destined for redness, inflammation, and discomfort.

It’s true that getting to the source of any type of skin reaction takes some sleuthing. But there is one ingredient that’s often hiding in skincare and cosmetics known to cause skin allergies and irritation. And that is fragrance.

Ok, let’s back up just a moment. Synthetic fragrance, seen on product labels as “fragrance” or “parfum”, isn’t actually one ingredient but a cocktail of chemicals that combine to create or mask scent. Yep, that means they show up in “unscented” products too. And while not all fragrance ingredients are synthetic, certain natural scent ingredients can lead to unhappy skin and should be used with care.

What You Need to Know About Synthetic Fragrance Ingredients and Skin Irritation

These chemical combinations are used in everything from perfume to body wash, including products for children. Synthetic fragrance ingredients are often derived from petroleum and other known toxins believed to cause skin irritation and sensitivity. But that’s not all. These toxic chemical cocktails have also been linked to serious health concerns, like cancer, asthma, migraines, and reproductive toxicity.

Synthetic fragrances usually show up simply as “fragrance” on product ingredient listings. Since these nasty chemicals can be so harmful, it would be helpful to know exactly which ingredients are being used. So, why is this chemical stew usually boiled down to one word?

Fragrance recipes are considered trade secret. This allows product creators to protect their custom fragrance blends. It also permits those using less-than-healthy ingredients to hide them under one umbrella term.

How to Know What’s in a Fragrance

This trade secret loophole makes it much more difficult to decipher exactly what you are putting on your skin. The best way to determine what a brand formulator uses for fragrance ingredients is to look at their company ingredient policy. Many natural skincare brands also note on the product label if their fragrance ingredients come from essential oils or other natural sources. When in doubt, use the sniff test. If it smells like something that couldn’t have come from nature, you are probably on the right track.

Know Your EOs

Essential oils offer many benefits to skin. Still, essential oils are highly concentrated and very potent, and should be used with care. If your skin is sensitive, avoid spicy essential oils (like black clove and cinnamon), minty essential oils (like peppermint and wintergreen), and citrusy essential oils (like lemon and orange). Opt instead for products made with essential oils that lend a calming and comforting sensation to skin, like blue tansy and chamomile.

What About Unscented?

As mentioned above, synthetic fragrance ingredients are also used to mask scent in unscented products. If you are using unscented skincare and still have skin irritation, check labels for “fragrance” or “parfum”.

Time to take a look at your skincare, body care, makeup, and hair care. Check to see if your scented and unscented products list fragrance ingredients and chuck any that you suspect contain synthetics. Follow natural skincare brands that practice transparency and purchase eco-friendly beauty products made with natural fragrance ingredients that will help to give your skin a soothing feel. Your skin will likely calm down and that nagging headache may hit the road too.