What Does “Fragrance” Even Mean?

by Nicole Lesmeister


What Does “Fragrance” Even Mean?

If you wear perfume, read this.

Fragrance. Parfum. Scent. It might be one word in the list of ingredients in your products, but it’s much more loaded than that. And more often than not, it’s a dirty, dirty word (and not fun dirty either). The slew of chemicals that go into making some of our favorite products and scents easy on the nose can be surprising at best, and dangerous at worst. We asked Carina Chaz, founder of DedCool perfumes and non-toxic perfumer extraordinaire, to give us the skinny on perfume safety.

Just as we suspected, Chaz confirms that the term “fragrance” is an umbrella word to keep chemicals, properties, and ingredients hidden. “It’s no accident that the specifics of what the stand-alone ingredient fragrance entails is carefully omitted,” she says. “The word itself can mean over 200 hidden ingredients in traditional fragrances.” Yep, that’s right. Two. Hundred. Hidden ingredients. That wouldn’t even fit on your product’s packaging! And if you had all that info, it just might prevent you from spraying some unknown ingredients (read: toxins) on your delicate lymph areas (i.e. neck and chest). 

And what’s the harm of pressing some toxins against your skin, really? Well, a lot, as it turns out. A buildup of toxins in our system can result in stagnation of lymph, weakened immune response, skin reactions, digestive duress, and endocrine disruption. In short, this can cause problems in nearly every way that our body operates to keep us balanced and healthy, now and in the long term.

What’s the harm of pressing some toxins against your skin? Well, a lot, as it turns out.

“Helpful tip: If you want to purchase a clean and safe fragrance, make sure the brand has taken the responsibility in relaying their clean and non-toxic mission,” says Chaz. “Sadly, there is no other term to decipher ‘safe synthetic’ vs. ‘harmful synthetic’ in the ingredient deck.”

This is where things can get confusing. The word “synthetic” isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and in addition to being safe for your body, it can also be very sustainable. Chaz elaborates, “safe synthetics and nature-identical (man-made scent formulations) both fall under the “fragrance” category.”

For example, DedCool’s newest scent, MILK, uses a light yet layered blend of bergamot, amber and white musk. The white musk she uses is not animal-derived (none of her ingredients are), and it’s made in-house, so they control the ins-and-outs of its safety while preserving its beautiful smell. We think that’s pretty nice.

So before you make your next purchase, scan the list of ingredients and look for “fragrance” on the label. If it’s there, it might behoove you to do a little homework before committing to the purchase. Your future self says thanks.

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