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10 Funky Facts About Fragrances

10 Funky Facts About Fragrances

Alexandra Spunt | GOOD

August 27, 2010

If you’re the sensitive type — the always sneezing, quick-to-get-a-rash-from-a-new-detergent guy or gal — someone has probably already told you to avoid fragrance. Ditto if you’ve ever been pregnant.

In fact, it’s come up as a major no-no in every post we’ve done in this series. But how much do you really know about fragrance? Chances are, not a whole lot. Like most things in the self-regulated personal care business, it’s shrouded in mystery—but this is an especially thick and stinky smokescreen.

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As for the gentlemen who think they’re clear of risk because they haven’t doused in Drakkar Noir since 1997—not so fast. Fragrance is in your soap, your shampoo, your aftershave, and your deodorant. Let’s not even talk about the crap they spray your car with post-wash. Of course for women it’s also in … well, everything. It defies logic, but many lipsticks and mascaras are even made with the stuff.

The biggest rub? If you really, really want to know what’s in those scented concoctions used in most of your products—short of taking them to a lab—you can’t. Here’s why:

Fragrance is protected under trade secret law. That means the industry is not required to reveal what goes into its mixes. In its Cosmetic Labeling Guide the FDA states that fragrance ingredients “may be declared… as “fragrance.” Now flip any bottle in your bathroom and peruse that list. Somewhere amidst the unpronounceable words is that familiar “fragrance”—but that alone represents an average of 10 to 20 hidden ingredients. The industry will claim that these protective measures are a necessary bulwark against thieving perfumers—but really? Just because I know what’s in the Caramilk bar, doesn’t mean I can duplicate it. These laws represent a significant deterrent, sure, but any hack can have a perfume analyzed in a lab and get the ingredient list that way. So who should get the protection: the fragrance business, or the consumers? Read on.

Next: Fragrance is Everywhere →


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