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What's really in your "natural" skincare products?
So how does fragrance in body product affect us? And why should you care? On the most basic level, we use the “scent” of bath and body products to either effect our own senses or those around us either by making us respond in a positive way (either making us feel good or preventing us from feeling bad, think how deodorant prevents those around us from feeling bad J). Then there is the aromatherapy aspect which indicates that either the inhalation or absorption through the skin of certain herbal scents will have a mental, physical or emotional influence on one’s health (we’ll talk more about that in our next article).
Bath and Body “scenting” options usually fall into 4 categories: Scent Free, Fragrance Oils, Essential Oils and Hydrosols. Since we’re talking about scent today, we’ll only be discussing the fragrance oils, essential oils and hydrosols. Fragrance oils are usually a combination of aroma chemicals, essential oils and/or aroma resins. What’s really in fragrance oils? Well we don’t know exactly. Fragrance oils and perfume ingredients fall under the FDA’s Trade Secret regulations and do not need to be disclosed in product labeling (http://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/labeling/regulations), so it’s very difficult to define exactly what ratio of man-made vs. plant derived ingredients are in a fragrance oil. However, all ingredients must be approved safe by the FDA individually, but that doesn’t necessarily give me the warm and fuzzies considering all of the other chemicals that have been shown to not be so safe and are approved for use by the FDA. What we do know is that fragrance oil are usually a combination of hundreds of synthetic and natural aromatic ingredients that either come in liquid, powder or crystalline form. (Nature's Garden has great article on how fragrances are manufactured if your curiosity is peaked.)
The resins and crystalline ingredients must be dissolved into liquid form using a solvent. One such solvent that has been used for the last 50 years and is now being phased out is DEP (Di Ethyl Phthalate). Although it has been declared safe by the FDA (See what I mean?) it is considered toxic by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) www.atsdr.cdc.gov It can affect the liver and reproductive systems. Because this substance is known to be toxic, we consider fragrances with this ingredient a no-no for our products.
There are many fragrance oil manufacturers that are also saying no to DEP in their formulations and I applaud them for this. In an effort to make more “natural” fragrance oils, other companies are manufacturing blends using compounded natural aroma isolates – which are single odor molecules that are extracted from raw material using distillation. You can’t get more basic than a single molecule and we like this idea that the distillation method must also be chemical free.
As you can see there is more to the fragrance in your product than just its lovely aroma. As a naturalist, I try to use products that are as close to the botanically derived product as possible while ensuring that the method used to make the product is as chemically free as possible. For this reason – I chose to use DEP free and natural isolate fragrance oils and essential oils in our soaps and body products. At one time I vowed never to use fragrance oils, but am quite pleased with the more naturally derived products that have been made available in the last few years. I am still very careful in choosing my vendors and making sure that I know from where and how my ingredients are derived. But personal care products are a matter of personal choice and only you can decide to be informed of what goes in and on you and your family’s body.