Firstly, it’s important to clarify what the term “fragrances” means for the purpose of this article. It is obviously impossible to banish all fragrances from your home, nor should you want to!
So for the purpose of this post, “fragrances” is being used to describe artificial or synthetic fragrances. These fragrances are most commonly found in household products, toiletries, candles, and — rather obviously — plug-in fragrance devices. We’ll be focusing on the home, so “fragrances” does not mean “perfume” (though it is worth thinking about the potential toxic effects of perfume too), nor does the term apply to essential oils or natural fragrances such as vanilla essence.
With that established, we can now dive into the nitty gritty of the potential hazards that emerge from a fragranced life. It’s hard to deny the appeal of fragrances; flickering candles that scent the air, laundry that smells of delightful scents of summer and beach holidays, and the sweet tang of a shower gel that you delight in using. Why would you want to sacrifice these small, sensual delights from your home?
There’s actually a myriad reasons you might want to consider turning your back on synthetic and artificial fragrances; read on to find out more…
Fragrances Damage Air Quality
It’s impossible not to love scented candles, and with brands such as Yankee Candle finding such mainstream appeal, the idea of removing this little luxury from your life sounds ridiculous.
However, the evidence is conclusive: as WomansDay.com detail, the fragrances in scented candles can contain an unpleasant cocktail of health-damaging chemicals, some of which have been linked with lung diseases and are even considered to be carcinogenic.
While scented candles might be the most obvious source of air quality issues in a home, they are far from the only source– it’s not the candles that are the problem, but the fragrances that they emit. Any “home fragrancing” product, such as plug-ins or room sprays, can cause a serious dip in the quality of the air in your home.
You can still burn candles; just opt for natural soy or beeswax choices, which some studies suggest might even be beneficial to air quality in your home. If you want to use a room spray or substitute for a plug-in, then well-sourced essential oils are a far better option, though should still be used with caution in homes containing asthma sufferers.
Fragrances Are Bad for the Environment
If you’re an ecologically-conscious person, then you will be horrified to discover the problems that the creation and production of synthetic fragrances can cause. As TreeHugger.com makes clear, most fragrances are derived from petroleum and coal-related sources. Both industries have a huge impact on the environment, causing real and potentially serious harm. If this is important to you, then refusing to support these industries by banning fragrances from your home can be beneficial.
There are plenty of natural, non-environmentally damaging sources of fragrance available. Homemade vanilla extract, for example, is wonderful for spraying on pot pourri and creates a stunning fragrance throughout your home. If you’ve never made vanilla extract before, there’s a great guide for first timers at Beanilla.com.
Fragrances Can Cause Hard to Trace Allergic Reactions
If you or a member of your family has ever suffered from a mysterious rash, then there’s a good chance that fragrances might be the cause. More people are allergic to fragrances than many realize, leading to a silent epidemic of skin problems, itching, and other associated contact skin reactions. This is a particular problem for babies and young children, whose immune systems are still developing.
The main reason for this is that the term “fragrances” is so loosely defined. It could mean anything; manufacturers do not have to list the exact chemicals that have been used to create that fragrance. As HuffingtonPost.com points out, the reason for this is that the composition of the fragrance is treated as a “trade secret”.
So you might be completely fine, skin-wise, for decades, happily using products containing fragrances and experience no ill effects. Then, you switch brands, and an irritation occurs– but you have absolutely no way of figuring out which particular chemical is causing the problem, so you have no surefire way of avoiding it in future.
It’s far better for the health of your family to switch to products that are fragrance-free. The likes of CleanHappens.com produce a great laundry detergent that is free from fragrance, and even big beauty brands are beginning to embrace offering fragrance-free options. By avoiding fragrance entirely, you may be able to help ease any existing skin problems, as well as prevent them from occurring in the future.
The Cumulative Effect
When it comes to chemicals, quantity is what matters when considering their health impact. We can all handle being exposed to chemicals that are known to be carcinogenic without any ill effects, which is why we can eat apples (which contain known carcinogen formaldehyde) without suffering. However, if we were to drink a pint of formaldehyde, we’d be in serious trouble.
It’s important to keep this in mind when considering the use of fragrances in our home. The chemicals contained in a single scented candle or laundry detergent are not going to cause cancer or any other long-term harm (though they can still cause an allergic reaction, of course). However, fragrance doesn’t exist in isolation– it’s everywhere.
Here’s a list of products in which you may find fragrances:
- Deodorant and antiperspirant
- Skincare products
- Bath products
- Shampoos and conditioners
- Hairspray and other styling products
- Cleaning products
- Laundry products, including detergent and even dryer sheets
- Home scenting products
- Makeup and other cosmetic products
That’s a pretty alarming list, isn’t it? You’ve probably used a few of the above fragrance-containing products in the last couple of hours.
The concern is that the cumulative effect of all this fragrance exposure could be genuinely damaging to health. If you can eliminate the use of some fragrances, then that’s definitely better than nothing.
Fragrances have a number of natural, non-harmful alternatives that it’s definitely worth making the switch to. Do you think you might be tempted to make 2018 the year you finally go fragrance-free?
Posted with much love,
P.S. I have teenagers who eat constantly so you will find affiliate links to products and services throughout this site. It enables me to feed the bottomless pits or buy myself a glass of wine to keep my sanity intact.