Are hidden fragrances in your favorite cosmetics making you itch?
They just may be, according to a new report from Womenâ€™s Voices for the Earth, a Missoula, MT-based group that is striving to eliminate chemicals that harm womenâ€™s health.
And when it comes to fragrances in cosmetics and other household products, what we donâ€™t know may be hurting us, according to the report, Secret Scents: How Hidden Fragrance Allergens Harm Public Health.
Deodorants, perfumes, lotions, and household products may contain fragrances that are not specifically listed on their labels nor do they have to be. Fragrances can fall under the rubric of trade secrets. This means they donâ€™t have to be listed on the label. Companies can simply use the word â€œfragranceâ€ and be done with it.
But â€œevery day too many women suffer from reactions to the secret chemicals used in fragrances in their household products,â€ says Alexandra Scranton, director of science and research for Womenâ€™s Voices for the Earth, in a press release. â€œWe need to know what chemicals are used in scented products so we can make informed choices to protect our health.â€
The group reports that fragrance is found in 96 percent of shampoos, 91 percent of antiperspirants and 95 percent of shaving products.
Some common â€œhiddenâ€ culprits in cleaning products are limonene and hexyls cinnamon, which give off orange and floral scents. In cosmetics, common allergens include geraniol and eugenol or rose and clove-like scents.
When some women are exposed to these fragrances, they may develop:
- Red bumps
Whatâ€™s more, frequent exposure to fragrance allergens can lead to chronic dermatitis. In addition, hidden fragrance can also exacerbate asthma.
Yes, fragrancesâ€”hidden or otherwiseâ€”can trigger itching and other skin irritations, says Ana M. Duarte, MD, the director of pediatric dermatology at Miami Children’s Hospital.
As of now, Seventh Generation products disclose all fragrance ingredients including allergens, and Sunshine Makers, the makers of the Simple Green cleaning products, is disclosing allergens in its products on their web site.
Womenâ€™s Voices for the Earth is calling on other cleaning product companies to do the same.
Until more companies follow suit, Duarte says to choose products that say â€œfor sensitive skinâ€ or â€œfragrance freeâ€ on their labels.
When in doubt, perform a patch test, she says. â€œApply the product to your elbow crease, and cover it with a Band-aid overnight. â€œIf there is no irritation, then you are most likely OK,â€ she says.