We all have our favorite skin care products that smell as amazing as they feel, but for those of us with sensitive skin, one application of a perfumed potion can be enough to trigger redness, bumps, and even zits. Although the cosmetic industry has come a long way in replacing many synthetic (AKA artificial) fragrances with more natural substitutes, certain people don’t react well to the scented stuff no matter what it’s made from.
We spoke with Amy Hart, product development manager at Yes To Inc.; Dr. Jeannette Graf, a New York dermatologist; and Dr. Debra Luftman, a Los Angeles dermatologist and member of the Simple Advisory Board, to get the lowdown on what fragrance is made from, why it matters, and what to look for.
What does the word fragrance actually mean?
Before diving into the world of fragrance-free, it’s important to understand the definition of the word itself. “Fragrance is a blend of aromatic extracts that can be a combination of natural and synthetic constituents that replicate the smell of an ingredient, such as a cucumber or a blueberry,” explains Hart. If this seems like a general term, it’s because the US doesn’t have an exact definition for fragrance in products. In Europe, there’s a list of 26 allergens (allergy causing ingredients) that must be noted on cosmetic labels if they’re present in certain amounts. In the US, there is no such regulation. Here, the word “fragrance” on product labels might reference allergens, but you might not know exactly which ones, because there’s no rule that forces companies to declare every single ingredient.
When is a product fragrance-free?
If you open a product that says “fragrance-free” on the label and you still smell something, don’t be confused! This term means that there is no added fragrance to the formula, but it doesn’t mean that the ingredients in the solution don’t have a scent. “Many products are made up of natural ingredients, such as shea and coco butters. These materials still give off an odor,” explains Dr. Graf.
Although some people might have a sensitivity to these elements, most people will do fine with trace amounts of naturals. “Everyone is different. Naturals can be just as allergenic as artificial ones,” says Dr. Luftman. “Some people have no sensitivities, while others have some or many.”
Other brands, like Yes To, have created entire lines of skin care solutions that are completely devoid of any fragrance. This is great for people who have trouble finding products that work on ultra-sensitive skin.
Is “unscented” the same as “fragrance-free”?
Actually, not at all. Even though you might not smell anything when you use an unscented product, that doesn’t mean there isn’t fragrance in the formula. “Unscented products often contain fragrance,” says Dr. Graf. “Some raw materials like yeast extract or soy are great for your skin, but may have a strong odor that you wouldn’t necessarily want to smell. In order to mask that scent, companies will add a little bit of a fragrance.” This is often referred to in the industry as “nose-neutral,” since the formula is tweaked with added ingredients to disguise what’s present.
The aromas that are added to mask odors in unscented formulas are not always chemical. “In the natural realm, there are ingredients called aromatic extract blends that do not have any chemicals present,” says Hart. “Ingredients like extract of lavender are all-natural and distilled from the pure plant. The odor that they release can cover the base odor without adding any chemical components.”
Because these additives can be natural, chemical, or both, sensitive skins should stick with completely fragrance-free options.
How do I know if the fragrance in my skincare is irritating?
The best rule of thumb? If you know you have sensitive skin, do a small patch test and wait a few hours before putting it all over. Apply a small drop of the product on your skin and see if there’s any reaction a few hours later. If you don’t notice a difference, you’re probably okay.
Something else to pay attention to: “If your moisture barrier isn’t intact, you will have a higher sensitivity,” says Dr. Graf. In particular, people with skin concerns like rosacea, dermatitis, eczema, and acne should stay away from beauty products that contain fragrances. If you notice symptoms like breakouts, redness, or eye irritation, put the product down. Dr. Luftman notes that she’s even seen patients with side effects as serious as hives and swelling. Our experts recommend products like Yes To Fragrance-Free and Avènes Tolérance Extrême and Extremely Gentle. Their mild ingredients will be soothing and hydrating without any of the uncomfortable reactions.
Another way to avoid irritation seems like a no-brainer: Only use face products on your face and body products on your body. According to Dr. Graf, facial skin care ingredients are different than those for the body, which can contain alcohol. Also stay away from ingredients “that are citrus-derived,” says Hart. “Additionally, products that have a cooling or warming agent, like cinnamon, can especially trigger flare ups.”
Overall, there has been a big push in the cosmetic industry to replace synthetic fragrances with more natural options, but people who have inherently sensitive skin should steer towards products that say “fragrance-free” or “for sensitive skin” on the label.
Shop our favorite frag-free products below, and tell us about your skin concerns in the comments!
Source from: http://www.teenvogue.com/beauty/skin-care/2014-06/fragrance-free-products