By Isobel Hush

The Difference Between Fragrance Free And Unscented




Just because a product is fragrance free does not mean it doesn't have a scent. Simply put a fragrance-free product cannot have added fragrance. However, it can contain ingredients that have a scent of their own. For example, if a cream is made with an oil that has a smell, it could still be labelled as fragrance-free because the purpose of the oil is to act as an emollient, not as a scent. But it could not be labelled unscented. However, if a product is formulated with lavender, for example, but some chemical is added to mask the smell, the product can be labelled as “unscented.”


Unscented Products

Unscented products are what they say they are— they have no scent. However, this statement can be misleading. While unscented products have no smell, they do use chemicals or other substances to neutralize the odor of the product’s ingredients.

Because here’s the thing about beauty product ingredients: most of them have some natural scent. When these products are all-natural, these scents are sometimes off-putting. For example, if you’ve ever taken a whiff of clay, you may wonder why your clay masks don’t smell the same. 

In this case, the manufacturer will add fragrance to hide the natural smell of the product’s ingredients. 


Fragrance-Free Products

Fragrance-free products contain neither natural or synthetic fragrances. Instead, these products smell like the ingredients they contain.


What to look for

It is very important when buying any products, especially if you have sensitive skin or allergies, that you check the ingredients of products. If you are allergic to Lavender for example just because the product is labelled as fragrance free it does not mean that lavender won’t be an ingredient in the product. It simply isn’t labelled to smell like lavender.  

In general, fragrance is added to products to make them more appealing. Fragranced products can be found in 3 categories, “essential oils”, “synthetic fragrances” or “natural fragrances”. Essential oils are mixtures that are isolated from plant sources. Natural fragrance molecules are single molecular entities derived from a natural source. For example geraniol, extracted from roses would be a natural fragrance. But geraniol synthesized in the lab would be a synthetic fragrance even though it is exactly the same substance. Of course you can also have fragrances that are synthetic and not found in nature at all. Synthetic fragrances are made in a lab, meaning they’re synthesized using inorganic substances. Companies extract natural fragrances from flowers, spices, and more. However just because natural fragrances are from nature does not mean they will be beneficial the same way that synthetic fragrances in a lab aren’t always going to cause harm.


Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash


Many beauty product consumers today prefer a natural fragrance over a synthetic one in their skincare. For many consumers fragrance is a separate beauty product that they would like to choose whether they add it to their routine or not. Many people struggle with sensitive skin or allergies and therefore don’t want to add heavily fragranced products to their skin.

As well as preferring natural fragrances customers are also beginning to prefer more natural products. Wanting their items to be made from the same ingredients you can eat, drink or touch when you’re out in nature.

Keep in mind that your nose doesn’t always know the difference. Yes, a product that smells a little woodsy or earthy is probably fragrance-free, but you never know. Similarly, a sweet-smelling product may make you think it’s filled with fragrance when it’s really chock-full of antioxidants.

If you aren’t sure, check out the label or visit the product’s branded website. It can be hard to switch away from all your scented and unscented products completely. Yet, the benefits of doing so may change your mind. 


Photo by Sarah Gualtieri on Unsplash


Why Do So Many Products Contain Fragrance?

That’s a great question, and the answer is really simple: It’s because most people like when their skincare and haircare products smell nice. Cosmetic companies understand the power of a pleasingly fragranced product, and how that impacts a consumer’s buying decisions and their experience of using the product at home.

Another reason fragrances make their way into the products you use is that lots of cosmetic products naturally don't smell very good without the help of fragrance. A beautiful, wafting scent helps cover up the product’s less-than-pleasing normal smell. But there are ingredients and formulary steps to take that can result in a neutral-smelling or non-objectionable fragrance-free product.


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