Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Fragrances That Dare You

Curious is an understatement.  This article is about fragrances in general but I’m focussing on this Britney Spears fragrance produced by the cosmetic giant Elizabeth Arden because of an article that got me started on this one called “This Stinks: What Perfume Makers Won’t Tell You”.  The advertising quip for this fragrance is Do you dare?

This curious fragrance is advertised with this information:

“Featuring top notes of magnolia, pear and lotus flower. With thrilling middle notes of flowers, morning tuberose and jasmine mixed with cyclamen. Plus, base notes of vanilla, musk and sandalwood.”

Sounds nice, doesn’t it?  But these things are not to be seen in the curious ingredients list below from the Truth in Aging website (besides fragrance, water, and alcohol which is controversial in itself as it dries out the skin).

·        Alpha Iso Methyl Ionone: a synthetic compound in the form of a colorless liquid.  “It’s been known to irritate the skin and trigger allergic reactions for some people.”

·        Benzyl Benzoate: used as a fixative in perfumes, it is a skin irritant and an allergen.

·        Benzyl Salicylate: a salicylic acid benzyl ester which may cause sensitizing.

·        Citral: a well known contact allergen and a contact irritant.

·        Citronellol: a natural acyclic monoterpenoid; it’s a constituent of rose oil and known to be an allergen.

·        Farnesol: acyclic sesquiterpene alcohol found as a colorless liquid which is a constituent of many essential oils and is known to be an allergen.

·        Geraniol:  a monoterpenoid and an alcohol.  It is a constituent of several essential oils and known to be an allergen.  Geraniol is also said to be “a pheromone of certain species of bees, secreted by the scent glands of worker bees to signal the location of nectar-bearing flowers and the entrances to their hives.”

·        Hexyl Cinnamal: a constituent of the essential oil of chamomile, it’s a class B allergen according to DIMDI classification.

·        Hydroxycitronellal:  a constituent of essential oils, it is a low to moderate skin and eye irritancy while a limited inhalation study has shown some irritancy by this route too.  Citral and Geraniol are two main components of Hydroxycitronellal.

·        Isoeugenol:  a natural or synthetic phenylpropene.  It is a chemically altered form of Eugenol, a primary component of Clove Oil.  Eugenol "highly cytoxic" and linked it to contact dermatitis.

·        Limonene: colourless liquid hydrocarbon classified as a cyclic terpene and is a known skin sensitizer.

·        Linalool:  terpene alcohol chemical which “gradually breaks down when in contact with oxygen, forming an oxidized by-product that may cause allergic reactions such as eczema in susceptible individuals.”

·        Tetradibutyl Pentaerythrityl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate: not a high production volume chemical that lacks safety data.

·        Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane:  a dibenzoylmethane derivative which absorbs the full spectrum of UVA rays (sunscreen!).

·        Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate: “sunscreen compound that has been known to produce excess reactive oxygen species that can interfere with cellular signaling, cause mutations, and lead to cell death. This reaction may also be implicated in cardiovascular disease. As always, ingredients applied to skin may cause allergic reactions.”

·        Ethylhexyl Salicylate: an organic compound used as a sunscreen that has been associated in research with cancer and hormonal changes.

Do you dare ... put these chemicals on your skin?

The sunscreen chemicals are an interesting touch because many of the other chemicals react with the sun and cause skin damage from splotching to cancer.

As one can see from looking at the ingredients, popular fragrances are the same as processed foods.  They’re highly processed.  Whereas a chemical in an essential oil may not pose any health concern, when it is separated and used as an ingredient mixed with other such ingredients, the effect is changed and it may then be an allergen.  Most of these ingredients are irritating!

Then, there are 17 other ingredients, which are secret.  I’m sure if they were natural, unadulterated ones such as lotus flower and tuberrose essential oils, they’d be shouting about it, not only because they’re natural, but because they’re expensive.

The packaging is probably the most expensive part of the product.  As shown in the photo, it “comes in a sparkling blue glass bottle to pique your curiosity.”  It’s certainly not going to pique your health.

I think it is interesting that “due to its contents, this product cannot be shipped via our Priority Service or sent to Alaska, Hawaii,and/or APO/FPO military addresses.”  What does this mean?  Are there substances in it that are prohibited in Alaska, Hawaii and the military?

It’s not just food and medicine that are important because it’s not just the things we pop in our mouth that become a part of us and affect our health.  Fragrances are in lots of things and very popular.  We can breathe them in and they will be absorbed by the skin and eyes as well.

As shown above, many of the chemicals in fragrances are irritants, while some are even known to be hormone disrupters and allergenic.  Others simply have not been tested.  Do we dare use them anyway?

The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) also talks about curiosity, although not the specific perfume called Curious.  They spend a lot of money on research and development to satisfy their curiosity which leads to the creation of new molecules, synthetic materials and fragrance delivery systems which are patent protected.  Also, original fragrance compositions are trade secrets.  So we couldn’t know what we're getting even if we tried.   Meanwhile, these fragrance compositions are used in many products other than perfumes, such as air fresheners and all sorts of toiletries.

Essential oils are great to use as perfume, and natural personal care and cleaning products are easy to make.  For more ideas, look at a book such as The Handbook of Natural Beauty or do a search online. 

I wish more organisations would follow the example of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which established a fragrance-free policy in all its offices in 2010.