It’s the gentle waft of spring floral bloom, or that hint of dusky musk, that makes your perfume smell so good. But it’s also the fragrances or ‘parfum’ in perfumes that health campaigners and scientists are worried about.

There are an astounding 3000 fragrances worldwide with many of them used in scents, perfumes and after shaves. The international trade body for the perfume industry, IFRA says all perfume ingredients are rigorously tested for toxicity and allergens. But whether your poison is Christian Dior, or your obsession is Calvin Klein, alongside these intoxicating fragrances, you are spraying chemicals onto your skin every day.

  

Why should I care?

The issue is that some of these chemicals are known to cause skin problems, allergies and asthma. Some are even linked to more serious issues such as hormone disruption which can cause birth defects and impaired fertility. Fragrances can come from natural ingredients and even though they derive from anything from lemon to lavender, these can react with other ingredients, or the air to form pollutants or allergens. Alternatively, perfumes also contain synthetically produced chemicals such as Diethyl Phthalate (Listed as Category 1 priority substance on by the European Commission on Endocrine Disruption)or Benzyl Salicylate  (research raised concerns over impact on oestrogen levels and human breast cancer cells). For many of the 3000 substances used, there are no studies on long term impact. Nobody is exactly sure what their effect is.

Even if you do go to the lengths of reading the label, there are no guarantees of knowing what’s in your perfume. The term ‘parfum’ or fragrance is used to describe all sorts of chemical combinations which brands keep secret to protect their intellectual property. In addition, lab testing on top perfumes in the USA showed an average of 14 chemicals included which weren’t listed on the label at all.

 

So how can you know if your perfume smells truly of roses or is, in fact, a little bit stinky:

  1. Read the label and avoid parfums (This is not easy!)
  2. Go easy on the perfume / perfumed products when you’re pregnant. This is when you are especially vulnerable. Endocrine disruptors can affect an unborn child.
  3. If you think your perfume stinks a bit, try another one. Look for one with ecocert certification, or Soil Association, or try one these.
  4. Get Giki – if you want to look up the individual ingredients and their impacts try skindeep

It can be really tough to work out whether perfume ingredients are risky to you, and sometimes it will be impossible to know. But with the global market for perfume worth nearly $40 billion and the organic beauty market growing 13% last year.

there are many more options and you can avoid the worst offenders which gives you the choice to pick the products which are right for you.