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How Fragrances Are Harming Your Health

This was was originally from my Detox Your Life in a Year series! It will help you choose healthier fragrances and personal care products!

FRAGRANCE // fragrance, perfumes, candles, lotions, air fresheners could be harming your health and causing weight gain! Learn how to detox here:

Tis the season for holiday scented candles, buying gifts of perfume and cologne, and febrezing everything before the family comes over. These may seem harmless, but today we’ll learn why the fragrance in your favorite candle and perfume could be causing health problems.

Before we jump into the meaty goodness of this post, can you believe we’ve done a year’s worth of Detox posts? One tip per month for a whole year. I hope you’ve learned a lot and have greatly reduced your chemical exposure. This one’s a doozy, and it requires turning your back on some favorite habits, but your body and neighbors will thank you for it!

The Problem With Fragrance

“Fragrance” is in a lot of products, from your scented candles to your cleaning products. When the label says fragrance, perfume, or parfum, it could mean a blend of chemicals from the 3,100+ typically used. The FDA requires companies to list their ingredients on the label. Since fragrance formulas are considered “trade-secret,” these specific ingredients can be left off. The EWG says:

When you see “fragrance” on a personal care product’s label, read it as “hidden chemicals.”

You may argue that the FDA wouldn’t allow these chemicals to be included if they were harmful. One would hope this to be true, but the fragrance industry is self-regulated by an organization called the IFRA, the International Fragrance Association. They are the ones responsible for conducting safety tests to determine if these hidden chemicals are safe to use. Unfortunately, they have not tested most of the chemicals, and the tests they have conducted have been limited. Besides being a walking lab experiment every time you spray your favorite perfume, here are 10 persuasive reasons to rid your body and lungs of these toxic chemicals.

10 Reasons To Ditch Fragrance For Good

1. Hormone Disruptors

Parabens are almost always in your product’s fragrance concoction, and they are known endocrine disruptors. They can affect your weight, your fertility, and they’ve been found in breast cancer tissue. Several parabens are banned in Europe.

2. Cancer Causing Agents

Phthalates are another class of chemicals that are usually in fragrance recipes. Besides being considered a carcinogen, phthalates are also linked to reproductive toxicity and liver and kidney damage.

3. Synthetic Musks

Synthetic Musk is another top chemical in your typical “fragrance” label. These chemicals have been linked with cancer, hormone disruption, and have been found to accumulate in breast milk, body fat, and umbilical cords.

4. Allergens

Fragrance is among the top 5 known allergens to trigger asthma attacks. Your body spray could trigger allergies or an asthma attack for someone in close proximity.

5. Neurotoxins

In 1986, the US National Academy of Science labeled fragrance ingredients as one of six categories of neurotoxins. Since then, few efforts have been made to restrict the use of these chemicals.

6. Toxic Candles

Your scented candles are comprised of these fragrance chemicals, too. They also contain paraffin wax, which is made by deodorizing and chemically bleaching parrafin. These candles release carcinogens when burned, and the toxins released are the same ones found in diesel fuel. Although lead wicks were banned several years ago, about 30% of candles still use them. These release five times the amount of lead considered hazardous for kids (read more here).

7. Environment

Synthetic Musks have been found in fish and other aquatic life. These chemicals can kill or affect the healthy development of the fish. Fragrance chemicals have been found in our lakes and streams, showing that natural ecosystems, as well as our drinking water, are threatened.

8. Hazardous Chemicals

Perfumes and Colognes are 95-100% synthetic, with a crude oil or turpentine base. Synthetic chemicals are added to form a reaction. Many of these chemicals are listed on the EPA’s hazardous waste list. For example, Toluene /Methyl Benzene is a hazardous waste that is not only an asthma trigger, but it also attacks your central nervous system, liver, kidneys, and skin.

9. Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

Your fragrance-filled products could be crippling to people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. This condition could result in any of the following: muscle and joint pain, burning eyes, wheezing, digestive troubles, migraines, dizziness, skin rashes, poor memory, extreme fatigue, and the list goes on. My mom used to experience heart problems and migraines when exposed to perfume and cologne. It made her feel terrible and often interfered with her life. Please be considerate to others and limit your scents.

10. A Case Study

The Environmental Health Network of California hired two testing labs to identify the chemicals in Calvin Klein’s Eternity Perfume. The Cancer Coalition analyzed the results, and this is what they found (source):

  • 26 chemicals that have not been tested for how they affect our health
  • 25 known “irritants”
  • 5 known allergens or skin sensitizers
  • 3 chemicals linked to fetal, hormonal, and reproductive toxicity
  • 2 chemicals that “may cause cancer”

The Biggest Perpetrators

The big ones we want to focus on this month for our detox “task” are:

  • Scented Candles
  • Perfume/Body Spray
  • Cologne
  • Air Fresheners (car, home, spray, plug-in, etc)

We’ve already talked about your personal care products and cleaning products. If you haven’t detoxed that area of your life I recommend you start now, and read these posts:

Recommended Tips and Brands

A few tips to detoxing this area of your life include:

  • Replacing your toxic fragrance products with ones made with essential oils or other natural ingredients
  • Make your own candles, air fresheners, cleaning products, etc
  • Choose products with no added fragrance. Look for the labels “Fragrace-Free,” “Free and Clear,” and “Free of Perfumes and Dyes.” Always double check your labels to make sure “fragrance,” “perfume,” or “parfum” are not on the label. Products claiming to be “Unscented” may contain fragrance chemicals to cover up a scent, so always check the labels!
  • Less is more. You may reapply something or not notice its smell because of sensory adaption, but others will still be able to smell it. Keep this in mind with scented lotions, perfumes, and sprays. Also, your clean laundry should smell like nothing, instead of a spring meadow.

This list of brands and recipes will certainly get you started! If you have a favorite fragrance-free product or recipe, feel free to share with us in the comments! :)

Non-toxic Perfume and Cologne

Scented Candles

Beeswax candles are the best alternative, and soy is a second choice since some soy candles still contain paraffin. Beeswax candles purify the air around you as well. [Read more by Wellness Mama: 3 Natural Ways to Clean Indoor Air]:

Air Fresheners

You can always check out the store at Unscented.me and use EWG’s Skin Deep app or website to help you figure out if your lotions, perfumes, sprays, etc are unhealthy. The Good Guide is a great resource for seeing how green your cleaning products are.

Moving Forward

Believe me, I know it’s hard to throw out your favorite sugar cookie scented candle. It might be a fun idea to get some friends together, split the cost, and make your own beeswax candles, or share your essential oils to make air fresheners. Cutting these chemicals out of your life will improve your health- you might even start to feel better right away!

The Fit Tutor is all about health and fitness. I encourage you to not only rid your life of toxic chemicals, but to start a workout regime as well. You will experience some results instantly! You are worth the time and energy it will take to put your health first. The Fit Tutor is designed for busy women who want at-home workouts. We include tutorials for every exercise, as well as modifications for beginners, intermediates, and advanced exercisers!

Start your membership today and get access to these amazing workout programs, my nutrition course (a better detox!) and accountability!

I’m loving this journey with you!

Check out thefittutor.com's Detox Your Life in a Year posts! Get healthy with practical tips, strategies, and information- one month at a time :)

Further Reading and Sources:

Check out our other Detox Your Life in a Year posts!

Organic Gardening: Toxic Perfume Chemicals linked to Cancer, Sperm Damage
Mercola: Is Your Perfume Poison? 
Samuel S. Epstein, Huffington PostThe Danger of Toxic Consumer Products, Fragrances
NonToxic Kids: 7 Reasons to Avoid Toxic Fragrances & How Hidden Fragrance Allergens Hurt Us
Wellness Mama: 3 Natural Ways to Clean Indoor Air & How to Improve Indoor Air Quality Naturally
Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
Green America: Are Your Candles Toxic?
Think Before You Stink: How To Go Fragrance Free (really informative!)
Huffington Post: Is Perfume the New Second-Hand Smoke?
Invisible Disabilities: Why Go Fragrance Free?
Care2: Exposed: What’s Lurking in Febreze
Maria’s Farm and Country Kitchen: Just Say No to Fragrance This Holiday


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