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Hidden Dangers of Synthetic Fragrances and How to Replace Them

Written by Naomi Meza


Posted on October 12 2018

The crisp aromas of fall have now replaced the tropical scents of summer.

Whiffs of cinnamon and vanilla abound while smells of sunblock and saltwater evaporate into the autumn air. 

For many, fall is a time to retreat indoors and get cozy. Feel free to throw on those fuzzy socks, but you may want to think twice before lighting that pumpkin scented candle on your coffee table.

This is because everything from scented candles to your favorite bar of soap may contain synthetic fragrances which pose greater health risks than most people are aware of.

Read on to learn what synthetic fragrances are, how they put your health at risk and alternative ways to smell the scents you love without sacrificing your wellbeing.

What Are Synthetic Fragrances?

Scented candles

The FDA defines fragrance as a combination of chemicals used to give a product its specific scent.

Turn to the back of your favorite bottled air freshener, for example, and you’ll see the word “fragrance” listed as an ingredient.

The issue with this elusive fragrance is that it’s an unidentified mixture of ingredients like carcinogens, allergens, respiratory irritants, endocrine disruptors and environmental toxins.

Many companies do not disclose what ingredients make up the scent and in most cases, are not required to.

To make matters worse, synthetic fragrances aren’t limited to sprays.

Experts say more than 95 percent of shampoos, conditioners and styling products contain fragrance as an ingredient and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) along with the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found an average of fourteen chemicals in seventeen name brand fragrance products while researching the matter.

Synthetic fragrances are an inexpensive way companies give your signature perfume and other beloved products, a scent.

We understand the health risks of synthetic fragrances which is why we keep them out of our personal care products. 

And it's important to keep in mind that just because an item smells good, doesn't mean it's good for you.

What Are the Health Risks of Synthetic Fragrances?

Pills spilled on a tray

The health risks posed by synthetic scents range from mild to severe.

Below is a list of several health issues experienced and reported by consumers:

  • Cancer (especially hormone related like breast, ovarian and prostate cancer)
  • Respiratory Problems (including Asthma)
  • Allergic Reactions: Contact Dermatitis and sinus issues
  • Neurological Problems: Autism and headaches (including migraines)
  • Reproductive Toxicity: hormone disruption, birth defects and decreased sperm count


How Can Synthetic Fragrances be Avoided?

Because the presence of synthetic scents in our daily lives is prolific, it may not be possible to completely avoid them, but you can drastically reduce your exposure by doing the following:

1. Reading Labels

Don’t buy products that say “fragrance” or “parfum.”

You’ll also want to steer clear from products that have phthalates, aldehydes, DEP, DBP, or DEHP as part of their ingredients list.

Instead, look for products that use essential oils as their fragrance source like our Bee-tanical Body Balm, which has a mild Tea Tree oil scent.

Bee-tanical Body Balm Cream for body and hands
Or check out our Buzz Off! bug repellent spray that uses several essential oils and steers clear of any synthetic fragrance. 
natural bug repellent DEET free

2. Double Check Organic Products

Certified organic products are tricky.

While they’re less likely to include artificial scents, it’s still possible that they do.

Keep your eye out for “limonene” or “linalool,” since these are man-made versions of compounds thought to be natural. 

3. Find Alternatives

As difficult as it might be to replace your favorite scented products, there are a few things you can do to continue to surround yourself by all things that smell good.

To replace your candles and air fresheners in particular, we have a few suggestions for plants that will fill your home with a scent that rivals the typical fragrant product: 

1. Jasmine


Not all varieties of Jasmine blossoms give off a scent, but the kind that is typically grown indoors, called Jasminum Polyanthum, fills the room with a sweet aroma throughout the night.

2. Lavender

Lavender in a Vase

Well known for its healing effects on the body, lavender gives off a soothing smell that relaxes the senses and can even help improve your quality of sleep. 

3. Orchids

Orchids in a Vase

Pretty to look at and just as fragrant-worthy are Orchids. This delicate flower releases scents akin to jasmine, citrus and vanilla.

4. Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus in a Vase

While it's technically a tree, Eucalyptus can be cut into smaller branches and placed in a vase, both as an elegant centerpiece and a toxin-free air freshener.

Will You Make the Switch?

We're only human. Giving up all of our fragrant goodies is easier said than done, but adding some scented plants into your home is a good place to start.

Let us know how you're incorporating plants indoors by following us on Instagram (@greenwaybiotechinc) and using #growwithgreenway.  


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