The Fragrance Danger

Posted by Conrad Metz on

Today, more and more people are living healthier lives.  They exercise more, and they pay more attention to what they put in their bodies.

But few people pay as much attention to what they put on their bodies.

A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information took nine different compounds, and compared the absorption rates between oral ingestion  and trans-dermal absorption.

skin absorption of chemicals

The common assumption was that the stratum corneum (outermost layer of skin) provided a strong protective barrier...blocking most toxins from entering the body.

This study concluded that the skin absorbed an average of 64% of the selected compounds.  This was not only much higher than anticipated, but in some instances was a higher absorption rate than oral ingestion.  

Another study published by Skin Pharmacology and Physiology titled "Dermal Capillary Clearance: Physiology and Modeling" (I read it so you don't have to folks!) concluded that some areas of the body have higher absorption rates than others.  This is fairly common sense as some parts of the body have thicker skin than others.

But it was found that the absorption is not just a few percentages higher, but multiple times higher!  They found the face to have an absorption rate several times higher than areas such as the arms and legs.  The study also concluded that areas such as the underarms and genitals can have an absorption rate of 100%!

A little bit more of geekery for you... another study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information titled "The Importance of Exposure in the Assessment of Skin Sensitization Risk" looked at the various chemicals commonly used in today's skin care products.  This study found that the skin absorption rate of "fragrance" is as high as 100%!

personal product dangers

"Fragrance" is the generic term used for synthetic scent, and is in most skin care products.  In my eBook titled "What's in Your Soap?  An Exploration into the Ingredients of Big Brand Soap" , I show examples of different fragrance chemical compounds.

This list can be a bit unsettling when you take into consideration the absorption rates.  And it gets downright scary when we take a look at the study conducted by the Environmental Working Group on the "hidden chemicals of fragrance".

The EWG studied 17 brand name fragrances (Channel, Doce & Gabbana, Calvin Cline, Bath & Body Works etc.) and the 38 chemicals used to make the various scents.

fragrance hidden chemicals

These products averaged 14 chemicals not labeled on the ingredients list to make up the "fragrance".  The Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1973 requires companies to label all ingredients in their products.  However, ingredients used to produce the scent, are allowed to be bunched together and simply be called "fragrance".

So what's the big deal?

why care about skincare chemicals

Why should you care if they are using synthetic chemicals to produce a scent and not put them on the label?

1) The products tested by the EWG found an average of 10 chemicals each that "are known to be sensitizers and can trigger allergic reactions such as asthma, wheezing, headaches and contact dermatitis".

2) "A total of 12 different hormone-disrupting chemicals were found in the tested products, with an average of four in each product."

3) "A review of government records shows that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not assessed the vast majority of fragrance ingredients in personal care products for safety."

Which would you rather have: Amylcinnamic aldehyde dimethyl acetal, alpha- 91-87-2 (a chemical used in fragrance) or therapeutic grade organic essential oils (how we scent our products)?

So what does it all mean?

Reading "fragrance" on the label looks very benign, but there are many facts that prompted me to find a better solution for myself and my family.

"Fragrance" is a mixture of multiple chemicals, many of which have not been tested by the FDA for safety, that have been proven to disrupt hormones and can cause allergic reactions.

Many people (including big companies) state that levels are so low that it doesn't cause any damage.  But at what dose, frequency of application, and length of time used did they study?  Do they know the long term (10+, 20+ years) effects?

We know that skin absorbs chemicals at a much higher rate than commonly thought (especially on the face, underarms, and genitals), and that "fragrance" can have an absorption rate of 100%!

This is one of the big reasons we started Meiling Skincare...to give our family not only a safer alternative, but one that has proven skin care benefits.

Our mission became to give that alternative to everyone.

Even if you never try our products, we hope to help you make more informed decisions for yourself.  

Stay healthy!

1 comment


  • Check out “obesogens” too. Synthetic “fragrance” (compounds derived from unnatural sources / non essential oils, etc) is classified as an obesogen that causes humans to store fat and have weird cravings. Another case for good soap! Xoxo

    Dani on

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