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December 12, 2023

Should we be concerned about chemical ingredients in fragrances?

Fragrance is a feel good Christmas gift many of us enjoy – we spend more than £1bn on fragrance in the UK each year! Whilst fragrance can be a good mood boost, should we be concerned about any of the chemical ingredients used in our fragrances?


Ingredients such as phthalates and parabens are widely used as carriers and preservatives in fragrance. Both groups of chemicals have been identified as endocrine disrupting chemicals, EDCs – thought to interfere with the healthy functioning of the endocrine system due to their ability to mimic the actions of hormones in the body, and upsetting the balance and regulation of key functions such as fertility and growth. EDCs have been linked to many diseases including some types of breast cancer.


Researchers in Belgium examined ingredients in popular fragrances in a study commissioned by Belgium’s Fight against cancer, Dutch ‘Erase all Toxins’, and the Danish Consumer Association. Twenty fragrance brands were tested for synthetic chemicals. In total, 26 “problematic” chemicals were identified during testing in 20 products including brands such as Chanel, Armani, and Hugo Boss. You can read the  full list here. 


Avoiding fragrances with chemical ingredients

There are fragranced products that use only organic ingredients, and brands such as Neal’s Yard and Abel are examples. It’s worth taking a close look at the ingredients before choosing as they may still contain limonene which is a VOC and may irritate the skin, and be wary of ingredients described as “natural” because this can apply to anything, and still have a chemical base.


Understanding the ingredients listed on product labels is quite hard unless you’re an expert in chemistry, so to find out more about what’s in your fragrance we recommend downloading the Yuka App. It’s easy and free to use – simply scan the barcode of 1000’s of personal care items and it reveals the ingredients and calculates a risk score from 0-100. No risk products are coded green, and products with high scores are coded red and classified as hazardous, helping you to choose which products to buy if you are concerned about your exposure to chemicals.


Can you reduce your exposure if you’re concerned? 

If you have a firm favourite that does rely on some of the ingredients of concern, an alternative is to spray the fragrance onto your clothes to reduce direct skin contact with the ingredients. Opening a window when spraying fragrances inside will allow airborne particles to disperse more quickly, and slightly reduces the chances of inhaling chemicals.


Understanding what’s in your fragrance might be of special interest for anyone thinking about fertility, and pregnant women. To find out more about the the potential harmful effects of EDCs during pregnancy visit our page here.


Read our post for more ideas for a healthy chemical free Christmas.



The information on our website should not be used as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. If you have any specific questions about any medical matter, you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. is not responsible for the content of external websites. The inclusion of a link to a third-party website should not be understood as an endorsement.

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