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.

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2 thoughts on “What Does Fragrance Free Mean?”

  1. Hi surely,
    Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my blog. I thought I’d swing by and have a look at yours, and I very much like this post. My employer is coincidentally doing an education campaign on scent sensitivity right now, and the brochure mentions the fact that according to Health Canada’s Cosmetic Program, “fragrance free” and “unscentedd” can mean EITHER that no fragrance has been added, or that there is a masking fragrance. Talk about truth in advertising.

    Sorry to hear about your experience with people reacting with hostility, particularly family. Sometimes we don’t treat those we are closest to with the same consideration we would treat others. Until I had the interview with the reporter yesterday, I never really thought of my husband as scent sensitive; I just never thought to “label” him that way. But while chatting with her, I realized that he truly is and I’ve been with him over 10 years – how insenstive is that?

  2. Good post, it clarified some things regarding how these supermall-sellers market their products. In general I try to stay away from products containing chemical perfumes; don’t forget the whole array of deoderants that often contain alcohol et al as well!

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