It hurts to smell nice!

Ever wonder what’s in your favourite perfume or cologne? There’s a lot more in there that you don’t know about than what you do know about. That’s because perfume and cologne formulas are considered trade secrets so one company can’t copy another’s. Unfortunately there’s a lot of chemicals in perfume/cologne that are harmful to you. Considering your skin is the biggest organ of your entire body, there is lots of opportunity for these chemicals to be absorbed through the skin and into your other organs, causing illness and (possible) disease over time.

I know, I know…we all want to smell nice (myself included), but think about what dangers these chemicals present. Also more and more people are becoming ‘sensitive’ to these chemicals (along with other environmental ones) to the point of illness and disability. I have 2 very good friends that both have MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity) disease and they have trouble with almost anything they come in contact with, whether it’s through touch, smell, general exposure, etc. They get headaches, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches and pains, brain fog, lack of concentration, difficulty finding words and more, when they are exposed to chemicals in all kinds of things. Today though I wanted to focus on the chemicals found in perfumes and colognes. I have even found myself becoming more sensitive to scent over the last few years, to the point of almost instant headaches if I have to walk by a perfume counter or walk by someone who has (unfortunately for those around them) marinated themselves in their favourite perfume/cologne.

There are some links at the bottom of this post that will lead you to more specific info about the dangers of the chemicals (and what those chemicals are) secretly hidden in perfumes/colognes. 

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) reports that, while many popular perfumes, colognes and body sprays contain trace amounts of natural essences, they also typically contain a dozen or more potentially hazardous synthetic chemicals, some of which are derived from petroleum. To protect trade secrets, makers are allowed to withhold fragrance ingredients, so consumers can’t rely on labels to know what hazards may lurk inside that new bottle of perfume.

“A rose may be a rose,” reports EWG. “But that rose-like fragrance in your perfume may be something else entirely, concocted from any number of the fragrance industry’s 3,100 stock chemical ingredients, the blend of which is almost always kept hidden from the consumer.”

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a coalition of over 100 groups seeking transparency about chemicals in cosmetics, commissioned independent laboratory tests that revealed 38 secret chemicals in 17 leading fragrances. The top offenders?: American Eagle Seventy Seven topped the list with 24, followed by Chanel Coco with 18 and Britney Spears Curious and Giorgio Armani Acqua Di Gio each with 17.

“The average fragrance product tested contained 14 secret chemicals not listed on the label,” reports EWG, which analyzed the Campaign’s data. “Among them are chemicals associated with hormone disruption and allergic reactions, and many substances that have not been assessed for safety in personal care products.” EWG adds that some of the undisclosed ingredients are chemicals “with troubling hazardous properties or with a propensity to accumulate in human tissues.” Examples include diethyl phthalate, a chemical found in 97 percent of Americans and linked to sperm damage in human epidemiological studies, and musk ketone, which concentrates in human fat tissue and breast milk.

EWG explains that ingredients not in a product’s “hidden fragrance mixture” must be listed on the label, so makers disclose some chemicals but “lump others together in the generic category of ‘fragrance’.”

EWG blames the U.S. government in part, pointing out that the Food and Drug Administration “has not assessed the safety of the vast majority” of secret chemicals used in spray-on products such as fragrances. “Fragrance secrecy is legal due to a giant loophole in the Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1973, which requires companies to list cosmetics ingredients on the product labels but explicitly exempts fragrance,” reports EWG. As such, the cosmetics industry has kept the public in the dark about fragrance ingredients, “even those that present potential health risks or build up in people’s bodies.”


CONTACTS: Campaign for Safe Cosmetics,;

EWG’s “Not So Sexy,”;

Skin Deep,



5 thoughts on “It hurts to smell nice!

  1. As one of those two friends with MCS, I have to say that your list of side effects to exposures is very well done. Losing one’s cognitive facilities because someone else bathed in perfume or uses some stupidly intense Tide ‘longer lasting scent!’ product is infuriating and aggravating. That doesn’t help.

    And those ‘scent free’ products that Tide and the others make? Look at the ingredients list. It says ‘perfume’. It’s still bad.

    3,100 chemicals to combine into ‘natural’ scents! Insanity. Does anyone know why people began to wear scented items in the first place? To hide their bodily stench in a time period where bathing happened once a month or less. We are not that society anymore. There is NO NEED to smell like anything but yourself.

    Overall, it is completely terrifying that we as a society rely so much on scents (even in CLEAN public washrooms. Shit happens, who cares if you have to smell someone else’s for the 2 minutes it takes to pee, wash and leave?). It is even more terrifying that those scents are affecting people brains. I am not the person I was. My boyfriend, the other friend, is definitely not the person he was. And I blame society’s reliance on the need to ‘smell pretty.’ Smell like yourdamnself. It’s probably better than some of the shit on the perfume counter anyway.


    • Thanks for the comment. I agree with you that a person’s natural clean scent is best.” Clean” meaning washing regularly and with unscented natural products that are as free from chemicals of ANY kind as possible. I read the labels on my personal care products and other cleaning products very carefully.


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