Fragrance oils are often used for making perfumes, candles and soaps, bath oils, body lotions, and other aromatic products that may contact the skin. However, sensitive skin types or persons allergic to air-borne fragrances may react unfavorably to fragrance oils. Unlike natural essential oils, fragrance oils are mixed with petroleum or other synthetic oils. Other side effects may include headaches and dizziness. Knowing what fragrance oils are in a product is often obscured by labeling laws.
All ingredients are required to be listed on the label of products sold in the United States. This is to allow consumers to be informed that a product may contain allergenic or unwanted chemicals. However, fragrances tend to escape this scrutiny due to some loopholes in the requirements. One is that fragrance formulas are considered trade secrets so their ingredients do not need to be listed. Another reason is that more pleasing scents are often added to offensive smelling chemical compounds; hence, the “masking” scent does not have to be listed. This leaves consumers at a disadvantage for knowing if fragrance oils are good for the skin or not.
Fragrance oils mimic scents often found in nature, such as rose, orange, or lemon. Scents like rain, lavender, or cranberry oils cannot be made from their natural plants; they are composed of synthetic compounds in a lab. And a musk ox is not easy to find today. Some fragrance oils may contain up to 80 percent natural essential oils; others are 100 percent synthetic materials.
Essential oils can be expensive; it takes 100 crushed rose petals to produce one drop of the essential oil. Fragrance oils, therefore, are more affordable. Also, some scents, such as pumpkin amaretto spice can’t be found in an essential oil. However, a savvy consumer has no way of knowing what potentially reactive chemicals may be in that fragrance, nor can a conscientious consumer know if that product poses an environmental hazard.
Fragrance oils can be particularly annoying to people who are sensitive to them or who may exhibit allergic reactions when applied to the skin. Yet, that fragrance may contain a hundred or more other ingredients causing the reaction. If the scent is carefully made and the fragrance oil is properly diluted, the likelihood that the fragrance oil is the culprit in a skin irritation or other allergic reaction is relatively small.
When it comes to fragrance oils and harm to the skin, more expensive does not necessarily mean its ingredients are more pure. If one fragrance causes irritation, try another manufacturer’s brand before giving up on a favored scent.