"Fragrance" in your skin care? Smells like trouble.


safe skin care

My last semester of college I took a class called Sustainability Science. For our final group project, we had to choose an everyday product and conduct a sustainability life-cycle assessment on it. This entailed researching every raw ingredient and determining the social and environmental impact of each, as well as analyzing the corporation’s practices as whole. As tree-loving, practical, unadorned hippies, we agreed to investigate our beloved Dr. Bronner’s 18-1 Castile Body Wash Lavender (duh, the best one!). Our question: Was Dr. Bronner’s all it was cracked up to be? To our relief but not surprise, our findings all pointed to yes, yes, yes! The competitor we chose to compare with Dr. Bronner’s, Nature’s Gate, was not so lucky.

My classmate wrote in our introduction, “Consumers are becoming more aware of the correlation between body care products and human health. There is concern that mainstream body care manufacturers are putting harmful chemicals into everyday consumer products."

He also referred to the FDA law allowing the sale of cosmetics and “introducing a feeble structure of regulation” passed in 1938. THERE HASN’T BEEN ONE PASSED SINCE.

This means hundreds of toxic chemicals are flooding our bath & beauty products everyday without a gatekeeper. Some of these chemicals have been directly linked to increased risks of cancer, birth defects, allergies, and immune toxicity. One of the main problems is that cosmetic companies are focused on the acute dangers of chemicals (i.e. rashes or irritated eyes), but not the potential long-term effects. Fun fact: The EU has banned over 1,000 ingredients from use in cosmetics. The US has banned...drumroll…8. Eight! They are:

  • Bithionol

  • Chlorofluorocarbon propellants

  • Chloroform

  • Halogenated salicylanilides (di-, tri-, metabromsalan and tetrachlorosalicylanilide)

  • Methylene chloride

  • Vinyl chloride

  • Zirconium-containing complexes

  • Prohibited cattle materials

I continue to refer to the EWG database to help me research skin care products, like Dr. Bronner’s Body Wash (which I remain loyal to.) As a Nutritional Therapy Practioner, I am conscious and deliberate about what I put IN my body, so why wouldn’t I be just as aware about what I put ON my body? Our skin is our largest organ after all. It is our filter to the outside environment. When was the last time you took a look at the ingredients list on your everyday body care products? That unassuming “fragrance” ingredient actually ranks 8/10 on the EWG hazard scale! From their website: “The word "fragrance" or "parfum" on the product label represents an undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients used as fragrance dispersants such as diethyl phthalate.”

It is a known toxin to our immune systems, possible toxin to our respiratory systems, and known toxin to wildlife and environment. That deep clean scrub from Neutrogena? Fragrance. That Body Shop lotion? Fragrance. Undisclosed. For more click here.

On top of all that, there is a lot of greenwashing in the cosmetic arena. In other words, companies are marketing their products to make you believe they are environmentally & ‘human health’ friendly, but in reality they’re not.

So we continue our quest for honest, “safer skin care”. Many colleagues were pointing me in the direction of Beautycounter. After some initital research, I was thrilled to discover that Beautycounter products are EWG Verified, which means they 1) are free of EWG's ingredients of concern, 2) fully disclose all ingredients, and