Problems With Perfumes and Fragrances

From room deodorizers to cleaning products, perfumes and fragrances are everywhere. They may be pleasant smelling, but they often contain harmful chemicals that may cause issues ranging from skin or lung irritation to cancer.

Luckily, there are some natural alternatives that smell great and don’t pollute the air.

What’s in Perfumes and Fragrances?

Unfortunately, modern perfume is increasingly full of chemicals. Because of a loophole in the Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1973 (which requires companies label the ingredients in their products, except for fragrance) companies can pour unsafe or untested chemicals into products and consumers have no way of knowing about it.

Companies can lump any number of chemicals into “fragrance” (whether or not they are really present for fragrance purposes) because fragrance is considered a trade secret and doesn’t need to be disclosed.

When the Environmental Working Group (EWG) tested the chemicals in some popular perfumes they found that on average there were 14 unlisted chemicals in each perfume, some of which are known hormone disruptors and allergens. Others are completely untested for safety in personal care products by the USDA, International Fragrance Association, or any other organization.

Manufacturers today use approximately 3,100 ingredients in different combinations to create perfumes and fragrances. A report by the National Academy of Sciences found that 95% of chemicals used in fragrances are synthetic petrochemicals (derived from petroleum).

Three of those chemicals are:


This chemical is linked to autism, ADHD, and neurological disorders and is banned in EU, Japan, South Korea, Canada, and China.

Studies also link phthalates to cancer, endocrine disruption, and developmental and reproductive toxicity. Other studies link phthalates to sperm damage and altered genital development in boys.

Musk Ketone

This synthetic fragrance ingredient builds up in fatty tissue and breast milk. It’s also suspected to cause cancer and is toxic to the environment.


Formaldehyde is often found in plug-in fragrance warmers and air fresheners amongst other products. The CDC admits that formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen and the more we are exposed to it the bigger the chances of cancer. Unfortunately formaldehyde is not only found in our perfumes and fragrances but also in many kinds of conventional furniture and building materials.

Consider: These are just three of the 3,100 chemicals used in fragrances! Clearly they aren’t as benign as fragrance manufacturers would like us to believe.

What About Unscented Products?

Often, unscented products contain chemicals that mask the smell of the other chemicals in the product, they just don’t have a floral, musky, or similar scent. It’s basically a fragrance without the strong fragrance smell.

Also, there are very few ingredients in conventional perfumes (or other products that contain fragrance) that aren’t objectionable. While fully labeling ingredients would be a good thing, it hardly matters when there are so many other ingredients in these products that I prefer to stay away from entirely.

Alternatives to Fragrances and Perfumes

If people made perfume for thousands of years without synthetic chemical-laden fragrances, I’m guessing perfumes and other scented products can be made that way again!

Here are some of my favorite ideas for smelling nice, naturally 🙂

Essential Oils

Most DIY perfumes and fragrances will include essential oils, so having those essential oils on hand can be helpful too.

Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to a tablespoon of carrier oil to make an instant perfume oil. Diffusing essential oils can also add a nice scent to the room without having to spray anything.

There are some risks to weigh with the benefits when using essential oils, so I make sure to get mine (and information about how to use them) from a trustworthy brand. Sticking to kid-safe oils is another to way to take the guesswork out of using essential oils.

Here is a great link that shows you how to take Essential Oils and make your own perfume.

My Take: Safer Fragrances and Perfumes Are Worth It!

Conventional fragrances contain so many chemicals (many of which we don’t even know about) that I prefer to stay away from them altogether. I’ve found that I like natural scents more than the synthetic ones anyway, even if I do have to reapply more often.

What do you use instead of toxic fragrances? Have you found natural perfumes that work for you?


  1. Perfume, Scented Products and Chemical Injury. (n.d.). Retrieved from, Scented Products and Chemical Injury scan.pdf

  2. Meeker, J. D., Sathyanarayana, S., & Swan, S. H. (2009, July 27). Retrieved from

  3. Swan, S. (n.d.). Phthalate Research Coming of Age? Retrieved from

  4. Musk ketone. (n.d.). Retrieved from

  5. What You Should Know about Formaldehyde. (n.d.). Retrieved from

  6. Steinemann, A. (2017, March). Retrieved from

  7. Neurotoxins, at home and the workplace : Report to the Committee on Science and Technology, U.S. House of Representatives, Ninety-ninth Congress, second … (n.d.). Retrieved from;view

The Happiness Index

Each day is a new chance at happiness, so start moving up your personal scale toward joy with an easy, step-by-step guide told from personal experience. Manifest the life of your dreams—it's possible today, you'll be thankful you did one year, one month, even one week from now!

Search By Tags
No tags yet.

© 2023 by Walkaway. Proudly created with