Eco Beauty & Fashion

Got A Rash? Check Your Fragrance

brunette girl with hair tied up in red band and a bright red skin rash on her face and neckI love magazines. Ever since I was a little girl, I’d plop down on the floor with a pile in front of me, paging through articles and dog-earing their pages. These days, my two daughters join me on the carpet.

But before I let them crack the covers, I follow a familiar ritual: Weeding through the pages, pulling out the fragrance samples and taking them to the outside trash. The magazines still smell faintly of the synthetic fragrance inserts that litter their pages, but at least the majority of scent is gone.

Why? Although I do tend to run the other way from the department store marketing ladies and their spritzers, I’m not one of those people who suffers from severe fragrance allergies, which affect millions of people in the U.S.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, fragrance is the leading cause of contact dermatitis. Yes, synthetic fragrances tend to make me sneeze, and give me headaches. But for those who are truly allergic, fragrance can be a trigger for serious skin rashes: According to the American Academy of Dermatology, fragrances are the leading cause of cosmetic contact dermatitis.

Apparently, these allergies are on the rise as our systems struggle to combat the more than 5,000 different fragrances used in household products like shampoo, laundry soap, cleaners and even foods that compete for air space with our oxygen.

Even “fragrance-free” can be a culprit, since often that just means a neutral fragrance is added to a cosmetic mix so mask the original scent of the product.

The reason that I remove the fragrance is that I’m worried about my family breathing the chemicals in these perfumes that have been linked to hormone disruption, among other health problems. As I shared previously, a 2010 study by the Environmental Working Group and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found that top-selling perfumes contain, on average, 14 different hazardous chemicals that aren’t listed on their labels. Many of these perfumes contain toxic chemicals like diethyl phthalate, which has been linked to developmental, reproductive, endocrine and immune system problems, as well as allergies and hormone disruption.

Typically, perfumes also include parabens, which have been linked to early onset of puberty in girls. And in 2012, Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis found that women exposed to phthalates experienced earlier menopause. Like I need that any sooner than necessary.

So I remove the offending fragrance samples before my kids can breathe them in. Unfortunately, that’s about all I can do: Since Congress continues to drag its feet in updating the Toxic Substances Control Act, which hasn’t been touched since 1976, perfume makers are allowed to include toxic ingredients without any regulation.

Want a truly natural perfume that won’t make you sneeze? Check out my DIY fragrance recipe, which I created using ingredients from your kitchen cupboard. You can make an amazing, truly natural perfume in less than a minute!

Want a lazy girl’s way out? I’m currently obsessed with Red Flower Organic Perfume in Ambrette. It a delicate floral that smells clean and fresh, the perfect antidote to the end-of-summer doldrums. And like all Red Flower fragrances, the scent is 100% natural.

Photo: Lake Norman Allergy 


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