If you look at the labels of personal care products like shampoo, deodorant, or soap, you’ll see a list of ingredients that is very specific.
All the items in the product are fully disclosed…except one.
For decades, federal regulations have let companies hide nasty chemicals by using the catch-all term “fragrance.”
The Food and Drug Administration exempts manufacturers from disclosing what’s actually in the “fragrance.” This is true even though the “fragrance” might contain synthetic, toxic, allergy-provoking, or even cancer-causing substances you should know about.
Why does the FDA allow this loophole?
Big cosmetic companies lobbied to include it in the “Fair Packaging and Labeling Act” of 1966. They argued that they needed to keep the ingredients in their fragrances secret to stop copycat products.
But the regulation that conceals ingredients from corporate competitors also hides them from consumers. This allows product makers to use some awful chemicals without anybody knowing about it.
The Hidden Toxins in Your Soap
The consumer watchdog Environmental Working Group (EWG) tested personal care products to find out what goes into their “fragrances.” The chemicals they found included:
- Endocrine disruptors and phthalates. A study linked these compounds to a more than six-point drop in IQ for children whose mothers were exposed to phthalates during their pregnancy.
- Diethyl phthalate. This chemical has been linked to sperm damage in studies.
- Musk ketone. It is a skin irritant. Studies have shown this chemical accumulates in human fat tissue and breast milk. It is also suspected to be a hormone disruptor.
- “Obesogens.” These are substances that can cause you to gain weight.
Other analyses have found a chemical called styrene in fragrances. Styrene was determined to be a human carcinogen in 2011 by the National Academy of Sciences.
Last year, California became the first state in the nation to require disclosure of secret fragrance chemicals. But if you don’t live in that state, how can you protect yourself and your family?
Making Scents of Cosmetic Fragrance Chemicals
After negative publicity over fragrance chemicals, some large personal care companies are voluntarily announcing they will no longer hide behind the label loophole. They are disclosing all the ingredients in their products.
These companies include:
Unilever. It makes Dove soap, Axe deodorant, Noxema skin cream, and many others. Its labels will now list all ingredients.
Procter & Gamble. It makes Gillette shave products, Head & Shoulders and Pantene shampoos, Secret deodorant, and many others.
Johnson & Johnson. It discloses fragrance ingredients in its baby products, but not for its adult brands.
Long before these large firms joined them, smaller health-conscious personal care companies voluntarily disclosed their fragrance ingredients. They include:
- California Baby
- Intelligent Nutrients
- Aubrey Organics
- EO Products
- Herban Lifestyle
- Honeybee Gardens
- Jane Iredale
- Eminence Organic Skincare
- Juice Beauty
- Osea International
- True Botanicals
- S. Badger Company
In the future, hopefully all cosmetic companies will do the right thing and join them. Until then, don’t buy products that list the vague term “fragrance” as an ingredient. You don’t know what dangerous chemical could be in it.
Companies that use natural substances to provide scent to their products usually list the actual substance used to make the fragrance. Or you’ll see fragrances listed as “essential oils.”
They are a safer, healthier choice.
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