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Plaine Products Unscented Shampoo and Conditioner bottles in shower

Fragrance Free: Avoiding the Best Kept Dirty Little “Trade Secret”

For many consumers, fragrance is an important part of our identity. We love for our laundry to come out smelling like a clean breeze, our cleaning products to smell extra crisp, and for our perfume to pack a punch. We’re made to think that clean must have a strong smell and that without it things cannot be clean. Right? 

Unfortunately, the reality is our obsession with heavily scented products may be threatening our health. Moreover, the lack of accountability and laws for companies to disclose fragrance ingredients is severely lacking. We’re here to tell you why going fragrance free could be good for your health, to help you to be a conscious consumer, and share the dirty little secrets large corporations don’t want you to know.

Why This Sneaky Ingredient is One You Should Watch Out For

In 1973 Congress passed the federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, which required companies to list cosmetics ingredients on product labels. Can you guess what major ingredient was left off this list? Yep, you guessed it – fragrance. 

So what does this mean? This means that companies don’t have to tell consumers what ingredients make up their fragrances. They can simply put the term “fragrance” on an ingredient list and call it a day. The reasoning behind that? Companies say that their fragrance is a “trade secret” and sharing could be detrimental to their business. Now there are many companies for whom this a real concern. We work with a small manufacturer and they have a lot invested in their natural scents and are concerned about having them replicated. However, there are other companies that take advantage of this loophole to add cheap petroleum-derived chemical cocktails they don’t want consumers to be aware of. It can be tricky to know the difference.

The most important thing is transparency. How much information does the company give you and how much trust do they inspire in their communications? At Plaine Products we share all of the information we have and work to ensure you can trust us to make the best ingredient decisions possible. But we let know you about the choices we’ve made so you can make your own decisions. 

Why Going Fragrance Free could be Good for your Health

In addition to the general term “fragrance” there are also naturally based fragrances, which are plant derived, and then there are synthetic fragrances. Those are created in labs with the help of chemicals. Some of them are perfectly safe and some are not as they can contain phthalates. Phthalates are derived from petroleum that, in this case, are used as a solvent and fixative in fragrances.

Phthalates accumulate in the body and can have many negative effects on our health, including migraines, hormone disruption, birth defects, and the development of inflammatory diseases like cancer or Type 2 Diabetes. Our respiratory systems are also widely affected by fragrance chemicals. Most of the time we’re exposed to these fragrance chemicals inside where the air is more stagnant, which allows for greater exposure.

According to this PubMed review by Gandhi Rádis-Baptista, “The negative impact of fragrance chemicals on human health includes cutaneous, respiratory, and systemic effects (e.g., headaches, asthma attacks, breathing difficulties, cardiovascular and neurological problems) and distress in workplaces”. This is a great reason to ditch the scented wall-plugins, get an indoor air purifier, and open the windows to let fresh air in whenever you can. 

The Different Faces of Fragrance – What to Look Out For

These days it feels like everything you can think of has had fragrance added in some capacity, Even many trash bags are scented! It doesn’t help that there are many different terms used in the industry to label fragrance.

The best way to avoid added fragrance is to know what to look for on product labels. Below is a list of other common names fragrance goes by:

  • Eau de Toilette
  • Musk
  • Eugenol
  • Linalool
  • Limonene
  • Perfume
  • Aroma
  • Citronellol
  • Essential Oils
  • Odor
  • Cinnamal

Unfortunately, this is not an exhaustive list and there are even more terms that can be used, but these are some of the most common. The biggest tip: if a company won’t tell you what ingredients make up their fragrance, that can be a huge red flag!

A dark, long haired woman showering with a bottle of Plaine Products Unscented fragrance free Body Wash with soap lather featured on the bottle and their shoulder.

Unscented vs. Fragrance Free – Are they Created Equal?

After learning all of this, you may be thinking that going with an unscented option must be the solution! While that’s a great option, sadly that’s not always the case. The terms unscented and fragrance-free don’t always mean the same thing. Even if it seems like they should. It turns out “unscented” isn’t a regulated term. So there are some “unscented” products that actually have ingredients added to neutralize and mask the smell of the raw ingredients. 

Here at Plaine Products, we understand the detrimental effects of toxic chemicals like phthalates. It’s important to us to offer high-quality, fragrance free products. Which is why we created our unscented product line.

Unfortunately, when we created this line we, like so many others, weren’t aware of the difference between the terms unscented and fragrance free. According to CEO Lindsey McCoy, “We went with the name unscented because it never occurred to us that there are people out there who would scent their unscented products. Now that we’ve learned more, we realize “fragrance-free” would’ve been a better fit for our products.”

Either way, you can rest assured that we’ve created a great, truly fragrance-free product line for you, free of any scent-masking ingredients! They’re the perfect addition to your personal care lineup if you’re looking to ditch fragrance altogether.

If learning about ingredients in your personal care products is interesting to you, stay tuned for our monthly ingredients blog posts! 



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