Monday, January 18, 2016

Why I Try to Avoid Artificial Fragrances

One of my pet peeves is when companies add artificial fragrances to their products. At first they were most commonly found only in cosmetics and other beauty products, but now they're being added to everything including trash bags and even clothing! In fact, it was a package of children's pajamas containing an unnatural strong scent that a single dad ordered for one of his daughters that caused him to question and research just what is going on with synthetic fragrance usage in American manufacturing today. His findings became an eye-opening documentary that was released a few months ago called Stink! I haven't seen it yet, but plan to when it's released to DVD.

I try to avoid buying products that include synthetic fragrance for two reasons. First, I just plain hate the smell, and it never fades. When I was using body moisturizer such as Jergens and other brands years ago, I noticed that the disgustingly sweet artificial smell never completely faded until I took a shower again. When our neighbors do their laundry using scented fabric detergent on a warm day, we can definitely smell it through our open windows. (I also don't like it when someone overdoes it with perfume or cologne.) 

Second, there's probably going to be mounting evidence in the coming years about just how awful artificial fragrances are for us. There's already been studies linking some of the ingredients used to make artificial fragrance to hormone disruption and cancer, and researchers have suggested they could be a cause of other health problems and autism. Synthetic fragrances are made of chemicals, and because of a loop hole in a really outdated U.S. manufacturing law called The Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, they can legally be made of any number of tens of thousands of chemicals and added to consumer products. No one really knows for sure about the effects of long-term exposure to these chemicals.

When the kitty litter we were using starting coming out of the bag with a noticeable added scent, we immediately switched to another brand that was unscented. We definitely didn't want our cats getting their paws exposed to these chemicals and licking them off. When I brought the smell up with the company that made the original brand we were using, they denied that there was any fragrance added to their litter but I and many other cat owners that left comments on their Facebook page disagreed. It smelled just like perfume -- and we were noticing it throughout the house on whatever furniture the cats had been on. 

Needless to say, I may be one of the few women in America that never wears perfume (though I used to when I was younger) and never steps into a Yankee Candle shop. I also never use car fresheners. When I first learned about the concerns over artificial fragrances, I tossed out the Jergens and started looking for moisturizers made with natural fragrance (or unscented ones) and as many natural ingredients as possible. 

One of these is a New Hampshire-based company called Loving Naturals; sadly, as a family-run business they encountered some personal problems and had to put production on hold. Right now their online stock is still extremely limited, so in the meantime I've been ordering body moisturizer made by Be Green Bath and Body here in Massachusetts. Be Green is operated by one woman who makes all of the products herself using natural ingredients. Her Peppermint Body Lotion, my favorite, is made with distilled water, grape seed oil, organic olive oil, organic sunflower oil, organic coconut oil, beeswax, organic cocoa butter, and honey. It smells like a York Peppermint Pattie and then naturally fades away a few minutes after you apply it. The only downside is these products usually cost a bit more than the brands you'd find in a drugstore, but for me they're totally worth it. 

There's several companies online that focus on making similar products so if Be Green doesn't appeal to you, there are many more out there. EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database is an excellent resource for finding companies that make natural beauty products as well as gauging the toxicity level of the ingredients any product on the market. I also found a shower gel sold at Whole Foods that only contains grapefruit, lime, and orange oils to scent it -- and the price is very reasonable. There's no good reason for companies to not use natural oils to scent their products; the reason they don't is so that they can save money.

I know that I can't avoid chemicals and synthetic fragrances in everything (and I still use shampoo, conditioner, hair color, and hair mousse that contains them) but I definitely think picking some battles and eliminating what you can helps limit exposure. I'd much rather breathe in clean, unscented air then air containing artificial perfume any day. 

Here's the trailer to that documentary, Stink!

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