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What is artificial fragrance?

We encounter so many scents throughout the day, whether it is perfumes, personal care products, scented candles, room fragrances, soaps, and cleansers or even food: scents and aromas encounter us in everyday life almost everywhere we go. In total, there are over 3,000 different kinds of synthetic aromas. Some of the fragrant representatives are suspected of being harmful. Thankfully as more people become aware of what it is means to shop natural, these harmful substances are becoming less and less popular with consumers and society in general.

Companies can get away with not listing Synthetic fragrances from the official INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) list, because the amount they choose to use in their products is under the threshold for declaration. Therefore instead of using the systematic names internationally recognized to identify cosmetic ingredients from INCI, typical listings will include “Perfume” “Flavour” or “fragrance” because they are still within the legal requirements, so it can be difficult to identify the chemicals present in everyday essential necessities within the house hold.


Fragrances are all ingredients that smell, intensify a scent or mask a fragrance, so that the end users senses will be aroused, or to cover the smell

These scents can be assigned to very different classes of substances, for example alcohols, aldehydes, amines, carboxylic acids, esters, ethers, lactones or sulfides.

By the middle of the 19th century, naturally occurring fragrances could be economically imitated into a manufactured chemical.

The advantage that synthetic fragrances have is that they are cheap to produce and they have a longer shelf life than their natural alternative, and are normally produced when their natural counterpart cannot be sourced.

Fragrances are used in perfumes, cosmetics, detergents and cleaners, scented candles and incense sticks, room and car fragrances, in food but also in products such as carpet adhesives or insect repellents.


There is limited information on fragrances and flavours used by industry today, therefore the potential effect it has on human body is equally limited.

Even with limited research it is a known fact that fragrances can cause allergies! These symptoms manifest in the form of allergic contact dermatitis, other symptoms can include headaches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue and even depression.

In Western Europe, about 15-20 % of the population are affected – and rising …  when research was conducted the findings pointed to perfume being the main fragrance.

A perfume is made up of several dozen to several hundred individual fragrance components. Which specific ingredient ultimately triggers an allergic reaction, dermatologists can thus hardly determine.

In the case of scented candles and incense sticks, the allergenic risk is compounded by particulate matter, soot particles, carbon monoxide and numerous other pollutants such as formaldehyde.

Through breathing, fragrances can enter our bodies, where they spread throughout the bloodstream, which can cause long term damage if they are used over a long term period.

The fact that there has been hardly any research on synthetic fragrances, the full potential of the harm these substances cause is currently unknown.

A lot of the fragrances formulated have been patented and therefore a secret formula, so this means the risks to those using the products and the environment are therefore at a great concern.

How can you play it safe?

A great way to make sure that you are doing the right thing by your wellbeing and environment is to know the source of your cosmetics, cleaning products; candles etc. and the company’s views on being a social and environmentally ethical company should be at the for-front of their values.

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