Chemical fragrances are everywhere, from toilet paper to laundry powder, soap to most household cleaners. We even apply them directly to our skin in the form of luxury perfumes, skincare and deodorants.
The World Health Organization estimates that around 13.7 million people die every year as a result of exposure to chemicals and diseases in their environment. This calculates to roughly a quarter of all human deaths each year.
Sensitivity to chemical fragrances can cause debilitating allergic reactions, such as:
- impaired breathing
- watery eyes
- runny nose
- skin irritations and rashes
- and worse
With most chemical fragrances it’s impossible to isolate the aggravating ingredient as many countries do not require full disclosure of fragrance ingredients on product labels. Known allergens are mixed into the final scent.
Concern about the growing issue of fragrance sensitivity has spurred several organisations to take action. The European Commission of Scientific Committees recently published a list of known fragrance allergens. It is now law in Europe for cosmetics and perfume labels to disclose the presence of these substances in every product.
A US organisation Women's Voices recently published a report called Secret Scents, that presents an overview of statistics on fragrance related allergies and illnesses.
The US Environmental Working Group (EWG) ran an investigation into the full content of 17 top branded perfumes. Specific allergens found to be common to many of these perfumes have been identified and are listed against each product.
If you suspect you have a fragrance sensitivity, it’s a good idea to consult a doctor to help identify any specific compounds you may be allergic to.
The aroma of hope
If you have had unpleasant reactions to fragrance or perfumes in the past, all is not lost. A safe and natural alternative to chemical fragrance is to use 100% pure essential oils. Only 4% of essential oils produced globally are safe to use directly on the skin. The added benefit of these beautiful aromas is that they also deliver healthy therapeutic qualities.
Just one pure essential oil can work for you as an alluring perfume. It’s easy from there to build your repertoire by adding further oils to create your own signature blend and rediscover the simplicity and joy of natural scent.
Before using essential oils we recommend a few ground rules:
- Wherever possible only certified organic/wild cultivated essential oils and carriers
- Use only essential oils that you know are absolutely pure. The supplier should always provide the following information online and on the packaging - the common name, latin name and species, the plant part used, extraction methods and country of origin. There should be no mystery here!
- Follow the recommended application, dosage, dilution and safety considerations from the supplier as each oil may differ
- Quickly patch test for allergies to a new oil by applying 1 drop directly onto the inside of your upper arm. If there is any reaction, it should appear in minutes.
The use of essential oils as perfume is not a recent phenomenon. Many ancient civilisations such as the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and Persians revered essential oils for their fragrance and therapeutic qualities. Fragrances that were popular 4,000 years ago are still widely enjoyed today including jasmine, lavender, cedarwood, orange and rose.
Explore which essential oil gets up your nose – in a healthy way.