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London - Think of how many beauty products you apply in a single day. You could easily have used ten before even leaving the house - all of them with their own scent, fighting for our olfactory attention.
No wonder that recent research from Mintel found that 28 percent of us would prefer our skincare to come without a scent.
And while you might not think you’re allergic to perfume, if you’re in the 60 percent of people who class their skin as being sensitive, you might find that it’s the fragrance in your potions and lotions that is causing your skin to react.
Cosmetic dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting says fragrance is the most common cause of allergy due to cosmetics - and there are more than 5,000 synthetic fragrance compounds used by the beauty industry.
She recommends that when it comes to facial skincare, patients should avoid perfumed products.
“Given that most of the effective active ingredients that tackle issues such as hyperpigmentation and blemishes can potentially cause some irritation, it makes sense to minimise any other potential sources of problems,” she says.
“Fragrance is often used in skincare to give products a sense of indulgence, but it doesn’t serve a functional purpose and can irritate or induce allergic contact dermatitis, causing redness, burning, itching and swelling.”
In the US, companies are not just discouraging the use of fragranced products in the workplace, they’re actually banning them after one woman, who suffered from allergies, successfully sued her former employer, claiming perfume worn by colleagues had prevented her from doing her job.
If it serves no functional purpose, why is fragrance added to products at all?
Sometimes it might be to mask a formulation’s unpleasant natural smell or to improve the experience to encourage people to use it. Or it can signal something about the product, such as who it is for or its intended use.
“A woman in her 40s may have more sophisticated tastes than a teen,” says Dr Sian Morris, principal scientist at Olay.
“A luxury night cream may have a sophisticated floral note while an invigorating day lotion may be more citrusy.”
But cosmetic companies do seem to be cottoning on to the fact that we’d quite like our products to come without a pong.
Not only is Olay’s newest product an unscented version of its Regenerist 3-Point Treatment Cream, but even toiletries that are known for the way they smell have started to give up their signature scents.
Take Elizabeth Arden’s Eight Hour Cream, a product that fans swear by for relieving dry, chapped skin and soothing all manner of minor irritations.
Its strong, medicinal smell is one you either love or hate. Clearly enough people fell into the latter camp that it was worth creating a fragrance-free version.
While not entirely lacking in smell, it’s certainly a much toned-down version of the original.
Similarly, Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula, renowned for its chocolatey scent, now comes in a fragrance-free formulation that retains a slight whiff of cocoa, but without the overly sweet lingering smell it is known for.
The fact that these products still smell of something shows just how hard it is to find truly unscented products.
As there is no regulatory definition of “fragrance free”, a product that claims this might well contain natural ingredients that are scented or even synthetic ingredients that have been used to cancel out the product’s natural scent.
If you want something that’s genuinely free of fragrance, you will have to read the small print carefully.
Check the ingredients listed: if the word “parfum” is there, it contains fragrance, even if you can’t smell anything.
And even though they’re natural, many essential oils contain the same constituents as synthetic fragrances, and will cause the same allergic reaction.
Scent to try us? Definitely. But with more cosmetics brands realising that there’s a growing demand for unperfumed products, at least things are moving in the right direction. - Daily Mail