Decoding the Mystery Behind Synthetic Fragrance

Sara Howell

Posted on March 10 2020

Decoding the Mystery Behind Synthetic Fragrance 

Synthetic Fragrance (n.) | [ sin-thet-ik frey-gruhns ]A man-made potent scent, generally created in a lab, sometimes using toxic chemicals, such as phthalates, petroleum and natural gas byproducts.  

 

Used in a sentence: Be wary of synthetic fragrance.
 
Though the classification of a synthetic fragrance at first glance seems simple, these toxic compounds are much trickier to recognize in personal care products. There is where we come in!

We’ve done the research. We’ve pledged from the very beginning to never use synthetic fragrance in any of our products. We’re now striving to shake industry complacency with artificial fragrance. All we ask of you is to join the conversation.

 

 

 

What is Fragrance? 

While the term “fragrance” is often pleasantly associated with freshly picked springtime flowers, fragrance is in fact typically a reference to an unnatural scent that can be made from a concoction of toxic chemicals, largely petroleum. Yep, you read that right.

Nicknamed “the new secondhand smoke” (The Washington Post), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has said, "Even though 15 times more petroleum is consumed as fuel than is used as ingredients in industrial and consumer products, the amount of chemical vapors emitted to the atmosphere in scented products is roughly the same."  

Alarming may be an understatement. 

Adding salt to the wound, fragrance is a multibillion industry across the globe. In 2017, the market was valued at nearly $70 billion, and by 2024, it is expected to be close to $92 billion (Campaign for Safe Cosmetics). The same report states that while fragrance can be commonly found in cleaning and beauty products, it’s the personal care industry that accounts for 75% of fragrance sector sales.  

Amid this vast and growing industry, it would be reasonable for consumers to trust that the products they are using on their hair, face and skin are by and large safe (just like it’s reasonable to trust that your cell phone and laptop are relatively secure pieces of technology). Unfortunately, this is just not the case. 

When LATHER CEO, Emilie Hoyt, discovered the fragrance industry was not only actively using toxic fragrance chemicals, but was also intentionally masking their ingredients and getting away with it legally, she rolled up her sleeves and jumped headfirst into research. Her findings were astounding! 

 

 

Self-Regulation   

Perhaps most startling, the fragrance industry is entirely self-regulated. Monitored by the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) - a trade organization that shares a collective interest with the fragrance industry, and which also represents approximately 90% of fragrance suppliers – the fragrance industry undergoes absolutely zero federal regulation (Campaign for Safe Cosmetics).  

As it turns out, when brand lists the blanket term “fragrance on a product, it is protected from having to disclose the exact ingredients that make up their products.  

Let’s take a quick moment to consider this fact. Say you are lactose intolerant or sensitive to gluten, thanks to FDA regulationyou can read the label to determine if a food item will suit you or not. Astonishingly, the same regulation does not apply to the fragrance industry. Skincare manufacturers are protected by simply listing “fragrance” as an ingredient, ignoring the specific chemicals. This withheld information is considered a widely known and accepted fragrance trade secret 

Subsequently, the chemical overload that unassuming consumers are using may experience allergies, irregular hormones, and even larger health problems, such as infertility.  

Let’s take phthalates, for example. Synthetic fragrances are brimming with phthalates so much so, that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly all Americans will find metabolites of numerous phthalates in their urine. This toxic family of chemicals has been linked to asthma, behavioral problems, breast cancer, neurodevelopmental issues, reproductive complications and type II diabetes, among numerous other health complications. And phthalates are just one of the multiple toxicities found in synthetic fragrances.  

 

 

Label Breakdown 

The good news is there is a silver lining! While the term “fragrance” does cover up distinct ingredients, IFRA has determined that products made with synthetic fragrances should not be marketed as “natural” or “fragrance-free” - neither of which should be confused with “unscented. 

Here’s the official breakdown.  

Natural fragrances are made exclusively from plants and are in no way chemically alteredIngredients in natural fragrances can be essential oils, isolates, distillates or extracts – all physically gathered from real plants.  

LATHER only uses natural fragrances. Although not necessary for any fragrance – synthetic or natural - LATHER proudly lists all ingredients used in our natural fragrances on each product (when the label space permits) and always on our website. We want to empower our customers with all product information so that they are able to make their own educated choices. 

Fragrance-free products that are not necessarily non-fragrant; they simply do not contain added ingredients specifically meant to impart a scent.   

Unscented products are labeled as such because they do not carry a detectable scentHowever, this does not always mean they are free of fragrance. Manufacturers are permitted to use artificial scents to cover up the smell of other ingredients in unscented products, to appeal to consumers who wish for no scent in their products. 

While LATHER does sell two unscented products, we do NOT add any fragrance to mask the base scent of these itemsWe take our pledge to always be honest with our customers very seriously. 

What is LATHER Doing to Help? 

When we at LATHER label our aromas as natural, we mean it. 

Taking cues from nature and sourcing unique, enriching ingredients from around the world, LATHER first came to life as the solution to synthetically fragranced skincare and wellness products. We strive to bring our consumers effective products that are infused with essential oils and natural extracts – so that they feel and smell real 

To us, natural scents evoke the same sensual feeling that one might experience while breathing in a fresh bunch of cilantro or a cluster of freshly picked jasmine flowersThose fake, chemically-induced floral and earthy scents? We think of those more like the smell of month-old frozen food thawed and accidentally left out a day too long. The decision seems simple.  

With zero synthetic fragrance and 100% commitment to making effective products that make you smell and feel real, LATHER is no stranger to aromatic joy. Below are some of our favorite naturally fragranced picks, perfect for Spring. 

 

Bamboo Lemongrass Body Crème 
Condition and rejuvenate dull skin with this lush cream, steeped with geranium, juniper and lemongrass essential oils.  

Sofian Lavender Whipped Body Crème 
Infused with the delicate scent of lavender from the Sofia region of Bulgaria, this cream will take your skin from tough to touchable. 

Jasmine & Plumeria Body Whip 
Soft and soothing, this extra creamy moisturizer is scented with natural floral notes that enrich and calm your skin. 


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DID YOU KNOW?

Synthetic fragrance can pose a serious health risk and has been linked to allergies, asthma, reproductive complications, neurodevelopmental issues and numerous other complications. 

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