Category Archives: fragrance free

What Does Fragrance Free Mean?

I see a lot of talk on the web about this. As well as hear a lot of different comments. Some comments are about the fact that a product has an odor of any kind.

So, what do I mean by Fragrance Free?

It’s the addition of artificial fragrance that I mean when I talk about fragrance added to anything. You can call it “fragrance”, “masking fragrance”, “perfume” or even “parfum” (for that French feel). They are all the same. A bunch of chemicals that likely haven’t been tested on humans. Probably some have, but the fragrance industry doesn’t what to tell you about that. So they hide behind their “trade secret” claim.

You have to be careful when shopping. It isn’t enough that the front of the label says “Unscented” or “Fragrance Free”. There’s no FDA regulation about this. Or any regulation anywhere. If it’s a personal care product (shampoo, lotion, makeup, etc), then turn it over and read the ingredients. I know it’s more work, but if you’re sensitive, it’s necessary. Read the whole list. Fragrances are usually listed near the end, but don’t rely on that. I even read the ingredients when the front says “No Added Fragrance”. If you’re sensitive to fragrances, you can’t be too careful.

And if it’s a household product, it’s trickier. There’s no regulation that requires them to even list their ingredients. Sometimes it can be trial and error. Here are some clues: If it says “Fresh Clean Scent” or “Ocean Fresh Scent” or anything else that implies a certain scent, then don’t buy it. It has fragrance of some sort in it. Some products say “No Added Fragrance”. I trust these cautiously. Your best bet (although nearly impossible to follow 100%) is to only buy household products that list their ingredients.

And yes, a fragrance free product is likely to still have a ‘odor’ to it. Some chemicals have an odor. So you’ll still be able to smell something. Some people find the chemical odors objectionable. Which is why you often see “masking fragrance” in your ingredient list. To me, a masking fragrance is as bad (or even worse) than other added fragrances. I say worse because it can fool you without that fragrancy smell to it.

If you still want a product with a nice smell, consider purchasing a bit of an essential oil and adding it to your products. Don’t add a lot, a little goes a long way. And some of your ‘greener’ products have essential oils added. I’ve become so sensitive to odors that I stay away from these too. But you might want to give them a try.

Mail From the Healthy!

I’ve suspected for quite a while that the perfume issue was getting out of hand. More and more when I go out in public (which, btw, I do less and less), I wind up coming home reeking of all the other perfumes worn by other people. It is in my hair and on my clothes. I have been known to change my clothes and even wash my hair during the day because of this.

Well, this is an email from someone with no health issues from fragrances, just is offended by their overuse.

I don’t think I am “chemically sensitive” in a medical way. I just really hate stinky perfumes! Even though it does feel as though it gets up my nose, but I don’t actually get a headache from it. So many people think they should load on the fragrance whether they are going to the office or to the theater. What is the best thing to say? You can’t say “Boy, that’s a horrid, stinky scent you’re wearing!” How about “Oh, I’m sorry, but that heavy perfume you have on is too overpowering to me, so could you not come so close?” What if the person is your supervisor????

I’ve always wished I could just have a sneezing fit on demand. Or perhaps a coughing fit? Sadly, I’ve not found a nice way to tell someone that they reek. And it always seems that those who wear the most are the easiest offended. I can certainly sympathize with this reader though. And you really do have to tread lightly when it’s your supervisor.

Anyone have a good suggestion for this person? You’d be helping a lot of people. I know b/c quite a few people find this blog by posing a question like that in Google!

Dryer Balls!

Dryer Max Dryer Balls – They help eliminate static. They also claim to shorten drying time although I can’t really be sure about that. I got mine as a Christmas present. That was nice since I’m a rather reluctant shopper these days.

Here’s what they look like:

Dryer Max Dryer Balls
(Hey – a bonus – if you click on the image – it’s a PUZZLE! My time was 2:55!)

The price is reasonable and they’re available many places. Just google them. (Just be warned that if you go to their actual web site that they play a movie when you go there.)

What’s that? You say you found some fragrance free dryer sheets? Keep in mind that they come with a lot of chemicals too. All those sheets have been found to leave deposits on your lint screen. Less is best!

A Cry For Help

I received the following email last night – actually @ 2:11AM South Texas time. The author, who shall remain nameless, found my other site – Fragrance Free World – by searching on the phrase “fragrance and adhd” at Yahoo! It is most definitely a cry for help:

I’m a special education teacher with Seattle Public School District. One of my students wears hairspray and baby gel. I have had a strong reaction to both products. The ADHD kids in my classroom can’t stand the smell that this students gives off. The school district told me to submit a 504 because of my asthmatic reaction to this child. The Human Resources told me that I would have to take a medical leave of absent. They also told me that the child had a perfect right to wear the strong smelling products – no questions asked. The hell with the rest of us. I refuse to take a medical leave of absent. I need the name of a really good lawyer. Can you help me out here???? Thanks.

First, I have to say that I’ve had a theory for a long time that ADHD is caused by fragrances and other VOCs in our modern environment.

But this letter makes a good point. The right of a person to wear fragranced products should end where the breathing space of other people begins. It’s the same issue as smoking, when you get right down to it. Sadly, until the American Public really wakes up to this fact, there will be problems. It doesn’t help that the FDA doesn’t do anything about it. Probably too many contributions from the fragrance industry.

But, I digress. Let’s get back to the emailer’s problem. I don’t know from the email whether anyone has talked w/ the student wearing strongly fragranced products. It might be an idea. Although I know how defensive people can get.

But the author is correct. They shouldn’t have to take a leave of absence because of the inconsiderate behavior of a student. Sadly, the lawsuit option, or even the threat of one backed by a lawyer, might be an option.

Finding said lawyer could be difficult. The reaction of most people to this type of issue is often a roadblock. People don’t want to believe that someone could be allergic to fragrances or have health issues because of them. Probably b/c they don’t want to give up their own fragrances?

So, I know that in the past I’ve had readers who went the lawyer route. Is there anyone out there who can provide information on how you found a lawyer? If you have website links, or even searches you’ve done. Please leave a comment. Or if you have other information that could help this person – leave a comment.

Thanks!

New Symptom?

Well, not precisely new. It’s just that I only recently realized this problem was related to my fragrance sensitivity. Here’s what happened:

Last weekend, I had a lot of problems. First, during the day, my legs were very restless. I couldn’t sit still, couldn’t really do much of anything. I’ve had this problem before, except usually it was because I was very tired. As soon as I would lay down, it would go away. But this time it wasn’t happening. Finally, I decided that if my legs wanted to move, I would take them for a walk. And it helped, for a while.

Sunday evening, we went out to eat. Nothing fancy, except once again everybody, everywhere is wearing their perfume in order to dress up for the holidays. (UGH!) By the time I got home, it was all in my clothes. So I changed into a t-shirt that had come from my father’s house. Then I decided I would sleep in that shirt.

But, I couldn’t sleep. I was exhausted, but couldn’t sleep. I was restless and tossed and turned. I finally went into the guest bedroom so as not to disturb by DH. That bed wasn’t made up, so I fished a blanket out of chest of drawers that came from my father’s house. After a while, I realized that I was smelling lots of perfume. It was in the shirt and the blanket. So I changed out of the t-shirt and ditched the blanket. Poof – problem solved. I was asleep in minutes.

As I think about this incident, I realize that there have been other times that I couldn’t sleep. Even without the migraine itself, the fragrances have been interfering with my health.

Some days it is very hard to cope with these issues. Becoming a hermit sounds attractive. Or maybe Thoreau was right. But I could never get through his book. And I tried many, many times.

Massage!

It has been suggested to me on many occasions that I would benefit from massage. Some have said it would help my migraines. Others have said it would help with my neck pain. And many have told me that it would help with stress!

But I was always hesitant. To tell the truth, I imagined that there would be a lot of fragrances in such a place. You know, they certainly have a lot of laundry. Plus aromatherapy. And I was sure all the oils or lotions were scented – mainly b/c I have such a difficult time finding unscented ones myself. Plus it seemed they would always be burning incense or candles.

Then, in October I had lunch w/ someone who told of her recent first massage. She said there were no perfumes that she noticed. Which sounded good. Except that those that live in the scented world don’t have as keen of a nose for detecting perfumes. Still, I was interested and more tempted.

As it happened, just a few weeks after that, I was given a gift certificate to the same massage place. (Thanks, sis!) She correctly assumed that I had a wee bit too much stress and would benefit from massage. I finally took the plunge last week and it was great.

The room I was in had a burning candle – which I noticed immediately. I asked the massage therapist if we could put it out. Well, she put it out and moved the candle to the break room. But there really were no fragrances there! As I talked with the therapist, I learned that they actually ASK the therapist not to wear perfume. And they are asked to wear/use only unscented products. Who knew? It was truly amazing. A bit of fragrance free heaven and a massage to boot!

I’m going back real soon!

A Recent Email I Received

I received an email last week from someone named Ruth. She gave permission to share her comments. Ruth has her own insight to living with fragrance sensitivity so I thought I would share her email, with a few comments:

I developed a scent sensitivity a few years ago, which surprised me, as I was a perfume wearer at the time (albeit very little, I still wore perfume). I was working with someone who drenched herself in perfume and I ended up in the emergency ward because I thought I was having a heart attack (I also had very bad headaches.) After that, I became intolerant of most every scent, no matter how minor. I have had a closed office at work since last summer and I am gradually becoming better able to tolerate minor scents, I suppose because I can escape many of the scents in my office and my body is getting a chance to rest and heal. I don’t get the bad headaches so much anymore, but I have breathing problems and am now trying a puffer, although I don’t think it does much good.

You’re fortunate to have a closed office. I wish the mechanisms of this disease were better understood. They don’t really know what causes the change to being intolerant to any scents.

This experience has provided me with a valuable education about respecting the rights and sensitivities of others. It’s almost mind boggling to me how little concern is shown by some individuals towards the health and safety of others. They just don’t get it, but then I didn’t a few years ago either. Having said that, if there had been an awareness campaign about this issue at my office at that time (we have one now, i.e. emails to all staff, notices in the washrooms, etc.) I would have complied immediately, without question. A number of years ago when being invited to a house party, I was asked to refrain from wearing perfume because another invited guest was sensitive to scents. I found it a weird request at the time (it was the first time I’d heard of scent sensitivities), but I complied and attended scent-free. However, I continued to wear perfume after that.

People like their scents and often aren’t willing to give them up. I’ve had people tell me they believe they are harmful, yet they still continue to use them.

What a difference a few years makes! I totally get it! Now my home is 99% scent-free, although I do occasionally use an air spray that is 100% lemon extract, all natural with no chemicals (you can buy it at Home Depot). I use this once in a while because my neighbours across the hallway use a ton of perfume and sometimes the smell drifts into my condo unit. The lemon extract seems to neutralize the smell a bit. And although I buy soap that is labelled scent-free, it still has a slight perfume smell. I can’t seem to find a soap that is completely fragrance free.

Have you tried Kiss My Face for soap? I use their Pure Olive Oil Soap. It has NO perfume in it and no perfume smell.

Sometimes it feels like a full-time job, or at least a part-time one, dealing with this issue. From dealing with colleagues, friends and family member who don’t get it, or don’t want to get it, to hunting down fragrance free products, to coming to terms with how restricted my life now is, it’s a lot of work. I find having this condition rather socially isolating; I have lost friends over this who would continue to wear perfume around me despite my pleas otherwise. I now avoid certain family members for the same reason. I avoid theatres and cinemas and certain stores where I used to like to shop.

Yes, it is more work. I can empathize there. But it’s what we have to do. You cannot go anywhere without thinking about what you may encounter. I’m often reluctant to attend parties, get into other peoples cars, etc. I’ve given up on movies too and have a long list of stores I will not shop.

On a positive note, I am learning to stand up for myself a lot more. When I travelled by train last Christmas, a woman wearing perfume began to sit down beside me and I asked her to sit somewhere else because of her perfume. She appeared offended but complied. I would never have been so assertive a few years ago. I now have a no-fragrance sign on my office door. I return all products that prove to be scented once I open them at home (even if I have to do battle with the store clerk, they get returned). I fought for, and won, the removal of scent-dispensers in the lobby and my hallway of my condo building. I do what needs to be done to preserve my health.

Good for you! I think many people are willing to accommodate other people’s problems, once they’re aware of them.

Anyway, I’ve written a book! I suppose you just wanted a few comments!

Not a problem at all. Feel free to comment at any time and at any length!

Traveling

This came up in a conversation w/ a friend of mine. My hubby and I went away for Thanksgiving this year. Long story, but we packed up, including the cat, and spent a few days in Port Aransas. Sort of mini-vacation, or more likely an escape from all responsibility!

My friend remarked in an email: “I was surprised, and glad, that you can go away and stay in a different site outside of your own home. I didn’t’ know if that was possible? I was hoping that one day you two could come up here and I could do whatever possible to make it a good environment for you.”

And here was my response:

My number one concern is places that use “air fresheners”. The worst are the plug-ins b/c they continuously pump chemicals into the air. Next are candles b/c they put chemicals in the air whenever they burn. And last is “air freshener” sprays. Cleaners can be a problem too.

We’re hoping that the weather will cooperate and we’ll be able to open the windows and air out our place. We were able to do that in CA and it did help.

Next big problem is the bed linens. If they’ve been dry cleaned, or washed in smelly detergent or fabric softener, they’ll have to go. In CA, we asked them to remove the comforter from our room. We wound up borrowing a blanket and pillows. But there was still a lot of fragrant linens. This trip, since we’re going by car, we are actually packing all of our own linens – sheets, mattress pad, pillows, blankets. At that rate we’ll be covered.

If you want to make your home more friendly to the fragrance-impaired, the best thing you could do is to get rid of smelly detergents & fabric softeners. All makes a Free and Clear detergent which is what I use. If you have to have dryer sheets, buy the unscented kind. I don’t even use those anymore. But you should know that the odors will remain in fabrics for many, many washings.

As it turned out, we needed to remove only the comforter from the bed. We took a comforter and blanket of our own. Needed them both too since the weather decided to be cold. We also used our own pillows, just because we like them.

It always makes me feel good to know I have friends and family that are concerned and interested enough to want to work with me on this. If only all the people in my life could understand.

A Chicken and Egg Question

Because of my allergies and chemical sensitivity, I have totally given up on makeup. I wear lipstick and that is all.

This was a gradual process. I used to wear foundation, powder, blush, eyeshadow, mascara, the whole thing. The problems started with foundation. First, I never found it comfortable. It felt like my skin couldn’t breathe. The same as the feeling I get when I wear polyester. As my allergies got worse, most of them caused me to itch, and created red splotches. That was if I could find fragrance free makeup. Mascara was next, then eyeshadow. There’s nothing worse than when your eyes are itching. Eventually, I decided not to buy anymore more makeup, period. Lipstick is all I buy. It’s amazing how much faster I can get dressed now!

And it really fits in with my over all nature. I’ve always gone for natural in most things – If I wore makeup, I went for a more natural look, I rarely do much to my hair, I love natural fabrics, etc.

More than once in recent years, I’ve had people say to me “You have such a nice complexion. You’re lucky, you don’t need makeup.” And I’ve wondered, “Which came first? Do I not need makeup b/c I have a nice complexion? Or do I have a nice complexion b/c I don’t wear makeup?” I’ve thought about this quite a bit and I suspect that the cosmetics industry may have women believing that they need makeup when they really don’t.

My cleansing routine is very simple. I was my face while in the shower. I use the same soap that I use for the rest of my body – Kiss My Face Olive Oil Soap. That’s all. No special cleansers. No astringents. No special creams. Maybe a little moisturizer during the winter.

I had someone tell me this past week about my nice complexion. I mentioned that my allergies sort of forced the no makeup thing. She proceeded to tell me that she had allergies too. And that she had real problems with her eyes. She even admitted that her makeup was probably part of the problem. But she was too vain to give it up. (Her words, not mine.)

The cosmetic industry really has a hook in women, doesn’t it? They play on our vanity. And the fact that we all have to look young. Which means no wrinkles, no gray hair, etc. So they sell us more and more creams and lotions and makeup. They convince us we need to dye our hair to cover our gray. They even convince some of us to have Botox injections.

All for what? Who are we fooling anyway? It’s pretty easy to tell most of the time that a person (even a man) has dyed their hair. For one thing, people don’t always keep it up as often as they should. Plus, the colors never look natural and often look harsh.

So many Americans spend far too much effort trying to change how they look. Too much time, energy and money goes into trying to look younger. Yet you can’t really fight your age, and you look less natural when you try. But the biggest thing to me is that we believe all the hype from the cosmetics industry. So we wind up with a not-so-nice complexion that is probably caused by all the stuff we put on our face to begin with.

If you dare, try going without all that makeup for a while. Take some time off from it. It will probably take a while for your skin to recover. But you just might find that you have a nice complexion too!

Cold Weather And Holidays

If you’re someone who still likes to wear fragrance, something you could do to help those with fragrance issues is to consider wearing less fragrance during cold weather. Our houses and buildings are more closed up with cold weather so fragrances will be more concentrated. Try to go a little lighter.

Also true for holidays. Perhaps you like to wear fragrance for holidays and special occasions? Consider not doing it though. It will be a help to a lot of other people.