Everyday, we use or come into contact with products containing any number of ingredients, including those with added fragrances. For those with sensitive skin, or noses, the labeling of these products can cause confusion and irritation (literally!). Those added scents that we do—and don’t—smell have many names: perfume, fragrance, natural fragrance, fragrance free, and unscented.

To help demystify some of the confusion surrounding fragrances and labeling, we’ve pulled together some of the basic facts. Use the knowledge to make an informed choice about which skin care products are best for you, and “sniff out” those containing synthetic and toxic chemicals that probably are not.

1. What is a fragrance?

According to the Food and Drug Administration*:

If a cosmetic is marketed on a retail basis to consumers, such as in stores, on the Internet, or person-to-person, it must have a list of ingredients. In most cases, each ingredient must be listed individually. But under U.S. regulations, fragrance and flavor ingredients can be listed simply as “Fragrance” or “Flavor.”

Here’s why: FDA requires the list of ingredients under the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA). This law is not allowed to be used to force a company to tell “trade secrets.” Fragrance and flavor formulas are complex mixtures of many different natural and synthetic chemical ingredients, and they are the kinds of cosmetic components that are most likely to be “trade secrets.” 

In non-government speak, this allows companies to hide synthetic chemical mixtures, which often contain phthalates, petroleum, and neurotoxins, in their “trade secret” fragrances.

2. How is a natural fragrance created?

When “natural fragrance” is listed on a product, the scented ingredient is constructed with natural raw materials like isolates (chemicals that have been naturally isolated from the botanical it comes from), essential oils, and resins. Here at MyChelle, we only uses fragrances from natural sources.

3. Can a product be “fragrance-free”?

Fragrance-free is a misleading term and only means that the word “fragrance” does not appear in a product’s ingredient list. But don’t be fooled into thinking nothing scented (such as essential oils or fruit/flower essences) has been added to change the smell, or that the lotion or potion won’t have an odor. It will.

4. Is my “unscented” product really unscented?

YES! An unscented label indicates the product is completely scent free and should contain absolutely zero scent, smell, or odor. Choosing to use products labeled natural fragrance, fragrance-free, or unscented can help reduce and even eliminate your regular exposure to unnecessary chemicals and toxins.

5. Can you recommend products for those with allergies or sensitivities to fragrances?

The main culprits of skin reactions are often artificial fragrances and preservatives, comprised of drying chemicals and synthetic irritants. Seek and select products labeled “unscented” for best results. While all MyChelle products are formulated without artificial fragrances, the following unscented favorites might be your best choice for minimizing the possibility of a skin reaction.

Gentle Cleansing Wash – An ultra-mild, unscented gel-cream hybrid cleanser soothes sensitive skin with vitamin-enriched, moisturizing botanicals.

Supreme Polypeptide Cream Unscented – This unscented, nutrient-rich peptide infused cream lifts and tightens skin for a more refined, hydrated, youthful appearance.

Advanced Argan Oil – A lightweight, scent-free, super oil blend that protects and nourishes with fatty acids and antioxidants for smooth, healthy skin.

Sun Shield SPF 28 Unscented  – Scent free and environmentally-safe, this full spectrum UVA/UVB sun defense that offers powerfully effective protection and is non-irritating near the eyes.

If you seek an unscented, custom skin care solution for your sensitive skin type, let a MyChelle esthetician help. Call 1-800-447-2076 or email customerservice@mychelle.com for a free skin care consultation.

*FDA U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  (Page Last Updated: 09/19/2014). Retrieved from: http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductsIngredients/Ingredients/ucm388821.htm#labeling