Beauty

Lose the scent

Fragrance can cause skin irritations and chemical overload.

Lose the scent
Pin it

In a typical day, many of us lather up with heavily fragranced shampoos, conditioners, and body washes then slather on sweet-smelling moisturizers, apply a mist of styling product to our hair, and end with a spray of eau de toilette. Before we step out the door, we've applied dozens of scents, all fighting for dominance and masking any natural aroma we might have. It takes work to avoid fragrance; it's in nearly everything we buy. It's also one of the most common causes of allergic contact dermatitis, according to Sonia Badreshia-Bansal, M.D., a dermatologist in the San Francisco Bay area, who explains that it's the chemical composition of fragrances that causes irritation, not the odor. Whether you're fighting sensitivities or not, you can benefit from skipping the scent.

SOOTHE YOUR SKIN: Fragrance-free products are usually gentler on your skin, since they're often designed with sensitive skin in mind.

PREVENT ALLERGIES: "As your skin ages, it naturally becomes dry, creating an impaired skin barrier, which makes you more likely to develop reactions to fragrances," says Badreshia– Bansal. Choosing fragrance-free products can help limit your risk of developing an allergy later in life.

EASE YOUR CHEMICAL LOAD: Few of today's fragrances are natural; almost all are created in a lab using thousands of different ingredients whose health effects are largely unknown. A study published in the American Journal of Medicine found that 72 percent of asthma patients had adverse reactions to perfume. To determine if a product has a natural fragrance, look at the list of ingredients. If essential oils are listed, it means the fragrance is natural. If just the word fragrance is listed, it usually means a synthetic scent. Buy fragrance-free products and you can avoid the concern altogether.

AVOID PHTHALATES: These fixatives (which are not listed on a product's label) used in some fragrances have been linked to asthma and allergies as well as reproductive problems. Using fragrance–free products lessens your exposure to phthalates.

PROTECT THE PLANET: Phthalates and other chemicals in synthetically scented products (such as shampoos and body washes) eventually wash down the drain and end up in our waterways where they can harm aquatic life. Plus, according to a National Academy of Sciences report, a majority of the synthetic compounds used in fragrances are derived from petroleum which takes centuries to biodegrade.