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5 Negative Effects Of Synthetic Perfumes

by Rasha Hisham |

Negative Effects of Synthetic Perfumes

Do you really know what’s in your perfume? Most of us don’t fully understand the
dangers of perfumes with chemicals in them or other beauty products, which contain synthetic fragrances.


This is because it’s so difficult to understand what the ingredient labels on products actually mean. For example, many popular beauty products contain synthetic scents derived from petroleum. This includes moisturizing creams, makeup, deodorants, and even perfumes. But it would never explicitly state petroleum on their ingredient labels so it's hard for us consumer to know what’s exactly in our products.


Most of us, use perfumes and other beauty products to make us more attractive and feel better. But, did you realize that the same products meant to make us feel better are actually making us feel worse.


A 2017 study published in the journal Preventative Medicine Reports found that:

i. Fragranced products emit a range of hazardous air pollutants such as Formaldehyde (yup, the same chemical used to preserve dead bodies);

ii. 47% of people didn’t realize that perfumes are a mixture of hundreds of various chemicals; and

iii. most worryingly, perfume product labels do not include all of their chemical ingredients (1)


Did you know that according to US regulations, manufacturers only have to list the term “fragrance,” or “perfume” on products and don’t need to inform consumers of all of the chemicals which form the “fragrance” or “perfume”? A study found that a “perfume” could contain several hundred chemicals. These chemicals are most often derived from synthetic sources. (2)


Among the negative effects of inhaling synthetic fragrances, the study listed:

i. asthma attacks,

ii. respiratory problems,

iii. skin problems, and

iv. headaches.


What are in Synthetic Perfumes?

So, why are synthetic perfumes a hazardous source of toxic chemicals?


According to The US National Academy of Sciences, 95% of chemicals in fragrances and perfumes are from crude oil. One of the petrochemical compounds in fragrances is benzene. The American Cancer Society lists benzene as a cancer-causing agent. (3)


Other petrochemicals in perfumes affect:

i. hormone disruption (endocrine disruptors), and

ii. triggers allergies, asthma, and birth defects. (4)


It can be impossible to spot if your beauty products contain synthetic fragrances. Manufacturers can choose to not disclose ingredients by stating they are “trade secrets”. (3)


Even, some natural perfume products do not also reveal the full list of ingredients. At Lili Aromatherapy, we ensure there are no synthetic ingredients used in our products. We maintain full transparency with our customers by including full details of the ingredients. Because transparency and your health trumps trade secrets.


5 Negative Effects of Using Synthetic Perfumes

Let’s look in more detail at the negative effects of synthetic perfumes and why some perfumes can be toxic.


1. Synthetic perfumes contain cancer-causing ingredients

Many beauty products containing synthetic fragrances may contain toxic chemicals, linked to cancer.


Hormone-disrupting chemicals called phthalates are common in perfumes. One 2016 study found that 47 branded perfumes contained “considerable amounts of phthalate.” (5)


A further study found that exposure to phthalate compounds can be associated with an increase in breast cancer rates. (6)


The cancer-causing compound is sometimes listed as DEP, DEHP, or DBP in products. Even, if they aren't disclosed on a label, they could be in the all-encompassing term “fragrance.”


2. Synthetic fragrances linked to asthma

Colognes, perfumes, and personal care products can have synthetic fragrances which may cause:

i. asthmatic attacks, and

ii. breathing difficulties.


Unfortunately, most people accept the fact that strong scents can cause asthma attacks in some people. Yet, any type of breathing problem can affect your health and wellness. Even brief exposure to synthetic fragrances can cause respiratory problems.


For example, a recent study found that perfume-scented strips in magazines can cause breathing difficulties.


Asthmatic people suffered from chest tightness and wheezing when exposed to synthetic perfume. Some people even suffered “adverse respiratory reactions to perfumes.” (7)


3. Birth defects and autism

Synthetic fragrances such as phthalates found in many perfumes have been linked to birth defects


A 2014 review of 5 studies found a link between toxicants found in some perfumes and autism. Although not all results were conclusive, the studies seemed to suggest that phthalates affect fetal and child development.


The review concluded by recommending minimal exposure for unborn children and young children. (8)


Other studies have found that chemicals in synthetic perfumes accumulate in:

i. breast milk and

ii. umbilical cord blood.


Medical advice for pregnant women is to avoid alcohol. Should they also avoid synthetic perfumes?


4. Allergies

Allergies are becoming more common in many countries. Some types of allergic reactions are due to cosmetics, perfumes, and other beauty products


Various studies point to the fact that fragrances are among the most common contact allergens. Products such as perfumes, colognes, and deodorants can cause adverse skin and physical reactions. Among the effects of some allergy-causing perfumes are:

i. itching

ii. dermatitis

iii. headaches

iv. breathing difficulties

v. sinus irritation. (9, 10)


Granted, it is also common to have allergic reactions to natural products. But, scientists link the increase in allergies with overexposure to synthetic chemicals. Therefore, they recommend that people limit their exposure to perfumed products. (11)


5. Kidney and liver damage

The danger of using synthetic perfumes is that they get absorbed into your blood. An occasional splash of synthetic cologne or perfume may not cause instant damage. The worry is that, through frequent use, these chemicals can build up in your body over many years.


To illustrate, scientists believe that daily exposure to chemicals has led to an increase in chronic kidney diseases. Synthetic chemicals such as phthalates, bisphenol A, can affect kidney function over a lifetime. Even after short-term exposure to products containing phthalates, scientists can still detect traces of it in the urine.(12)


The Best Alternatives to Avoid the Dangers of Synthetic Fragrances

You may not always be able to identify if a perfume, or cologne contains synthetic chemicals. Manufacturers aren’t required to list the ingredients they use in their products. Also, there are no warnings on labels. They can otherwise help communicate the dangers of certain chemical ingredients in products.


The good news is that you don’t need to use potentially-hazardous synthetic perfumes. There are many natural fragrances that have wonderful, non-toxic scents. Because mother nature makes the best smelling fragrances anyway. 

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