What's the Problem with Fragrance?

Let’s talk about fragrance. It’s more than a scent, it’s actually a bunch of synthetic chemicals. 


The issue with fragrance is that companies can produce products with several synthetic chemicals without actually disclosing them on the ingredients label. They claim that these ingredients are “proprietary” and so this conglomerate of chemicals falls under a general category called ‘fragrance.’ Sure, fragrance can produce some delectable scents - scents that essential oils can’t quite recreate. But these scents are unnatural and often cause issues for people. Some people have frequent allergies and blame it on the seasonal plants outside, yet they also light a toxic candle full of fragrance every single day. Which thing is the real culprit here - nature or man made ingredients? 

One of the chemicals often used in fragrance is phthalates, which is a known reproductive system disruptor. Phthalates make fragrance last longer, which is good in theory, but this chemical is simply not good for your body and should be avoided as much as possible. If you’re rubbing lotion full of phthalates on your skin, your body is absorbing it and sending it through your bloodstream, potentially causing issues to your reproductive system. Studies have shown that phthalates can cause the early onset of puberty, issues during pregnancy, and interferes with the natural functions of the hormone system. The issues with this chemical are still being studied but the evidence is clear that it causes a multitude of problems (many more than I’ve listed). You can read a bit more on phthalates here

I couldn’t possibly list all the possible chemicals that could be considered ‘fragrance’ because there’s just so many! If you do your own test, you may discover that fragrance is causing issues for you that you didn’t even realize. Personally, I am drawn to cinnamon scents. I used to frequently buy the various cinnamon scented air fresheners and candles at Bath and Body Works. I always ended up with cold-like symptoms (runny nose, stuffiness, sneezing) after using these products. Shortly after I removed the BBW products from my house, my nasal passageways cleared up! I discovered that cinnamon scented products seem to irritate me more than other fragrance, though I don’t enjoy being around any fragrance for long periods of time. Cinnamon essential oil does not cause these issues for my body!


Luckily, you don’t have to buy unscented products for the rest of your life. Look for products made with essential oils instead! Every single product at HK & Sons is made with essential oils! Unless you’re allergic to a specific essential oil, our scents shouldn’t cause you any trouble like fragrance might. We have non-toxic candles made with essential oils for those of you who love to burn candles! They aren’t as strong as a Yankee Candle, but I’ve heard several folks say those are too overwhelming for them anyways. Another option is to diffuse essential oils. There are many therapeutic benefits to essential oils. Diffusing them or burning one of our candles will help you to achieve some of these benefits. If therapeutic benefits are what you’re after, using soap made with essential oils is a great option for you! I can’t think of a single health benefit to using fragrance, but I can think of quite a few for essential oils! We’ll be sharing the various benefits to the different essential oils in our products on our website, so be sure to check back here to learn more! 


While I understand that companies don’t want to disclose their proprietary fragrance blends, since we are a company who produces skincare products, I can safely say that I also feel that this practice is a bit secretive. Where’s the trust and transparency? Just because a list of chemical ingredients is on a label doesn’t mean another company will be able to fully copy that proprietary blend and make it themselves. The companies doing this either don’t want anyone to copy their product or they don’t want the consumer to know that there are problematic allergens in it. 

I really appreciate when ingredient labels give all the information about what’s in a particular product. There are a few large companies out there that disclose their ingredients on their websites, if not on their actual labels. One such company is SC Johnson. They have a list of all their ingredients on their website and a link to another website that explains what each ingredient is. This company has an interesting perspective on chemicals and they remind us that chemicals are all around us. This is quite true, chemicals are everywhere and make up all things! Personally and as a company, we don’t want to use synthetic chemicals because we still believe that natural is almost always best, though chemicals do have a time and a place. 

Another company that does disclose their fragrances is Mrs. Meyers. Since many people think this is a “natural” brand, I find it refreshing that they actually disclose their ingredients online. You can easily search through the index on their website and find out which ingredients are in each product. For what it’s worth, Mrs. Meyers is “better” than many of the chemical options out there, but their products are still not completely natural and there are “better” options that don’t use fragrance at all (like HK & Sons)! If you’ve ever smelled a lavender plant and then smelled Mrs. Meyers Lavender scented products, you will quickly see that the two do not smell quite alike.

It’s always best to do your own research on your favorite products and discover if these products are actually causing issues that you may not have associated with fragrance previously. If you want to feel your best (and let’s be real, who doesn’t?!), then it may behoove you to look into the products you use on the regular and determine if they are contributing or causing detriment to your overall health. Read your ingredients labels and observe your own reactions. We are always here to help if you have any questions about the various ingredients you may find in your products, so don’t hesitate to reach out!