Freaking Out About Perfumes, Again

Seems I can’t turn a corner these days without hearing someone wrinkling their nose at perfume usage and spouting some puzzling facts about how they’re full of chemicals and poison and will harm everything on your body from your organs, to your skin, to the pockets on your shirt. I’m wondering when this fad in the whole “chemical free” trend is going to end. I touched upon this subject last year in relation to perfumes and people’s fear of it giving them cancer.

I still see people worrying themselves sick over whether or not fragrance usage (be it themselves using it or someone nearby) causing them permanent long-term physical damage. What I often observe when I delve a bit deeper into these fears is a lack of understanding about how fragrances actually work. There is also a belief that perfume fragrance chemicals and the fragrance chemicals in ordinary household things are somehow different.

Dior Hypnotic Poison Ad

Dior Hypnotic Poison Ad

If you do happen to be wondering if wearing perfume is safe, then go down this list and think about what you use on a daily or almost daily basis:

  • Laundry detergent
  • Soap/Body wash
  • Shampoo and Conditioner
  • Dish soap
  • Kitchen cleaners
  • Air freshener
  • Candles
  • Deodorant
  • Makeup
  • Makeup remover
  • Hand sanitizing wipes
  • Bathroom cleaners

That’s only a few of the things that I could think of off the top of my head that have some sort of fragrance chemical applied to them that people would find themselves using on a daily basis. As a friend of mine who decided that she would one day like to eliminate all “man-made” fragrances from her life would tell you, eliminating everything scented from your home is much easier in theory than it is in practice.

And furthermore, unless you have a medical condition that makes you extremely sensitive to scents, why worry so much about perfume when the chances of you using any number of the above fragranced products on a daily basis are relatively high? And given the nature of some of those fragrances and what they’re used for, they’re often much stronger and heavier duty than what you’d find in a perfume if they’re expected to perform their jobs in a harsh environment like Windex or some other household cleaner. Even the products that are sometimes sold as “non-scented” actually have chemicals whose purpose is to block scent.

So why are we so crazy about being chemical free anyway? I hate how the word “chemical” has become so taboo. Like just saying it will make people flinch away. Marketing and media outlets don’t do the word any favors either, often calling anything that could have an adverse affect on someone a “chemical”.

Which is why all this brings me back to a very old (and very cliche) standby: The Dangers of H2O. Water, itself, is a chemical. Our bodies are made up of chemicals. Some scientists argue that our emotions are just the result of chemical reactions.

So given all this chemical stuff floating around outside of you and inside of you, would a spray of perfume really hurt you in the long run? Who knows. All I know is that everything is chemical in some way or another, and my life is too short to spend it fretting about fragrances when everything is already so heavily fragranced as it is.

12 thoughts on “Freaking Out About Perfumes, Again

  1. Reminds me of my mother, who for some reason, thinks that anything labeled “natural” is really good for you. She’s always trying some odd tincture or remedy and telling me that its good for her because it’s “natural”, I remind her that arsenic and hemlock are “natural” too…

    • My aforementioned friend who tried to clear out her entire home of anything fragranced also bought into the “natural” hype. It’s hard to make them see sometimes that just because it came from nature, doesn’t mean it can’t harm or that it’s any better for you. Another thing to add to the list of naturally harmful elements is bitter almond.

  2. I have a friend who developed sudden-onset anosmia, asthma, and chemical sensitivity, and all she ever says is that she’d give anything to smell Bal a Versailles just one more time….

    • I feel awful for your friend, Meg. That’s terrible and I hope she will get better. I can’t imagine what it would be like to not be able to smell any fragrances anymore.

  3. I don’t like any extreme ideas – be it about diets, scents, plastic, microwaves, etc.

    I really dislike scents of most household supplies. I try using less scented/unscented ones – just to avoid the smell, not because they are “natural”, “healthy” or anything like that. But you know what? Clothes washed with Seventh Generation laundry detergent smells fine after the wash but stinks after a month or two. I don’t know if it’s because it cleans worse or if that is the smell of the detergent’s remains biodegrading on my clothes. I’m thinking about going back to Tide, the smell of which I hate, to check what happens in two months.

    • Me neither on the extreme idea part. I’ve never seen an idea, taken to the extreme, do anything for people except bring out paranoia and fanaticism.

      I can attest that the Seventh Generation detergent is not just you. I tried it a little while back and washed a load of winter sweaters that I’d be storing for the summer. They smelled fine for about a week or two but then I noticed they smelled dirty and worn. This waft of dirty clothes would smack me in the face every time I opened the closet door. So I switched back to All and everything’s been fine since.

      I am also probably insane and actually love the smell of laundry detergent. 😀

      • I haven’t smelled Tide in a long time. From what I remembered, it always smelled a bit more like an flowered up industrial chemical than other detergents.

    • I used to love the smell of this one off-brand candle my mother used to buy. Now it makes me nauseous every time she brings it out. It was some blackcurrant vanilla thing that I can’t remember the brand for.

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