"Fragrance" + Sensitive Skin = A Bad Time

What's in a fragrance?

That which we call Coconut Craze sure smells sweet...but what's in it?


I feel like there's some haze-clearing that needs to happen, like someone needs to bring some clarity because there is a LOT, and I mean A LOT of confusion out there in the beauty industry about what's good and clean and what isn't, especially in the fragrance department.

Here's the skinny.

Ingredients in fragrances are covered under trade secret "proprietary" veils that were invented to protect perfume moguls from having their formulas pilfered way back in the day.

Back when fragrances, for the most part, were still actually composed of resins, essential oils, distillates, absolutes, etc.

Since then, the proprietary coverage that fragrance companies possess is still there, BUT, and this is a big ol' but, modern fragrances are rarely composed of natural compounds.

As a matter of fact, most aromatic compounds are made from petrochemicals. Some of them are harmful and some of them aren't, but the caveat for you, the consumer, is the fact that no disclosure is required on the formulators' part in regards to what their perfume oil is composed of.

For your browsing pleasure, here's a short list of the current known cancer-causing, hormone-disrupting, and neurotoxic compounds commonly used in the perfume industry:

  • Diethyl phthalate
  • methyleugenol
  • Methylene Chloride
  • P-tert-Butyl-alpha-methylhydrocinnamic aldehyde (BMHCA)
  • Butoxyethanol
  • Butylated Hydroxytoluene

And there are SO many more that have not even been researched thoroughly enough to KNOW what they're capable of doing.

Not only are these synthetic compounds harmful in a range that goes from iffy-to-HELL no, they further our collective dependence on petroleum and its never-ending laundry list of by-products.

Any label that says "fragrance" or "parfum" is likely a synthetic fragrance UNLESS otherwise guaranteed by the manufacturer. And if they're gonna guarantee it, they should be willing to disclose it. Just sayin'.

Where We Stand

Here at Fern, all of our fragrances are our own blends of steam distilled or cold pressed, aromatic essential oils that I formulate by following both my nose and IFRA guidelines for safe usage rates. Sometimes there's one oil, sometimes there are seven.

It just depends, but they're always disclosed either here on the website or right there on your label.

We believe that nature's abundance is enough. We don't even use fragrance oils that claim to be "natural" because like I said before, developers still will not show the proof of that, and if they won't show ME the proof, I can't show YOU the proof.

That just doesn't jive with me.

How are we as consumers supposed to know what could potentially irritate our skin if we don't even know what all we've put on it? Truth be told, MOST of the time, any irritation you suffer is coming from one of the hundreds of compounds masked beneath that one word - "fragrance".

Seriously, nine times out of ten, your irritation is from a detergent that's too strong or too drying (see our post here on why you need to ditch body wash), or it's from that fragrance word. Both are entirely avoidable!


It is possible to formulate fragrances with natural compounds, even sophisticated blends with many different and complex aromatic notes, and it's worth mentioning that, as a result of movement within the indie beauty industry, we are seeing more and more skincare, beauty, and personal care brands avoiding using synthetics in their products!

As a consumer, it is ever-increasingly important for you to be discerning with your dollars spent.

Put your money where you want to see change.

Do you want TRULY clean products to be the norm?

Spend more of your hard-earned dollars with clean brands who've gone through the effort to bring the change.

Spend less with the big behemoths who've known for years that their products are sub-par and are now tweaking their labels to save face and emulate what the indie clean beauty industry built the foundations for.

I can't speak for other brands' houses, but in my house, in my lab, and on MY labels, clean and transparent is what it's about.

I really hope this post provided you with some insight, and as always, I hope you feel like an empowered and informed badass, ready to go out there and kick some hiney while you shop for your skincare!



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Source: Check out this link for an archive of studies on the aroma chemicals I mentioned. 

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