By Isobel Hush

Fragrance In Skincare, Is It Good Or Bad?

Using a deliciously scented toner or moisturizer feels like a key element of the self-care experience. For most customers, scented beauty products are a part of the luxury experience and impact consumer purchasing decisions. However, more recent launches from brands such as Fenty Skin by Rihanna have encouraged conversation regarding the use of fragrance in skincare and if it changes how it works or reacts to different skin types. 



As we all know everyone reacts differently to different products, even with perfume! What one person may have as their everyday fragrance may trigger headaches for another. With skincare it's more of a physical reaction, maybe showing redness or even making the person have an allergic reaction. 

Sadly, lots of products are made by mixing chemicals or other ingredients that have a rather unpleasant smell and simply the fragrance is used to cover this. For more natural products the same can be said as once the ingredients are mixed the smell might simply just not work so fragrance is added to improve this. Scent is also very powerful when it comes to emotion, have you ever smelt a product that smells like your fravourite sweets from when you were a child? Instantly you are taken back to fond memories and want to buy the product. Usually brands will also have different ranges in different scents. For us this would be our hand and body products, for instance you can purchase four other items that are not fragrance in our Atropa Belladonna scent. This helps you to defrentiate between products or ranges and once you know a scent and like a product you will be more likely to purchase its matching counterpart. 


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At the end of the day if a product is fantastic but smells horrendous no one is going to purchase it as they wont get past the smell. 



Luckily after many years of development specific ingredients have been highlighted to trigger reactions and are now more often than not avoided by brands when developing products. The percentage of fragrance used in products is now also much lower than before and is usually makes up less than one percent. Even 'fragrance free' products are not 100% fragrance free as ingredients have a scent it is just simply that they have not added extra fragrance into the product mix. Many brands are beginning to use essential oils to scent fragrances nowadays, not only do these mask the smell from other ingredients but they also add to the skincare in different ways providing benefits that may not have been possible with the original formulation. 


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Do you know what to look out for when purchasing fragranced skincare? The experts do and here is what they had to say...



Some folks with inflammatory skincare conditions like eczema, psoriasis, acne, or rosacea may see their condition worsen. Columbus-based esthetician, Shona Gibson shared a list of symptoms associated with fragrance allergies such as itching, small reddish bumps, and increased sensitivity. She emphasizes, “For those with darker skin types this can mean having to deal with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or scarring, which can take months to fade.”

Atlanta-based content creator and skincare enthusiast, Florence Williams, suffers from eczema and avoids fragrances due to her experience with redness and flare-ups with using products that include it. “I don't mind them in my cleansers because they do wash off, but I prefer them not to be in my serums, moisturizers, or SPF,” says Florence. Cleansers with fragrances are less likely to cause a reaction because the contact time is shorter than products that are left of the skin for longer like toners, serums, and sunscreen.




When it comes to preventative measures, it's all about avoiding inflammation. A report in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology shows that 1.7 - 4.1 percent of the general population is sensitized to fragrance mixes in cosmetic products. New York-based esthetician Ashley White recommends that her clients, especially those new to skincare, figure out if they have a fragrance allergy by either visiting an allergist to get tested for potential triggers or conducting a patch test before applying new products. To conduct a patch test, Ashley recommends applying a tiny amount of a product behind your ear and/or the inside of your arm because these areas are very delicate. If people with sensitive skin come in contact with fragrances and experience irritation, Ashley also suggests opting for more soothing and anti-inflammatory ingredients such as colloidal oatmeal, aloe vera, and panthenol.


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You can continue to expect new brands like Fenty Skin to continue to incorporate fragrance in their formulations. The brand, which officially launched last week, claims to incorporate globally sourced “clean fragrance.” However, according to New York dermatologist and founder of scalp treatment brand, Girl + Hair, Dr. Camille H-Verovic, “there isn’t a consistent definition of ‘clean fragrance’”. The concept of ‘clean fragrance’ like ‘clean beauty’ " are labels that the skincare industry introduced to convey the idea that the fragrance in the product is free of harmful chemicals. Dr. Adeline emphasizes that a fragrance can be allergenic regardless of whether it is natural or synthetic. “In reality, consumers should be aware that there are no standardized or regulatory guidelines to validate "clean fragrance" as an official trustworthy cosmetic label. The consumer still needs to do their research when it comes to identifying potentially irritating fragrances as preservatives in skincare.”

The great news around the current discussion around fragrance in skincare is that it is giving people empathy and space to talk about their skin conditions and how it has impacted their life. New York-based acne specialist, Lily Njoroge warns, “ I don’t think brands should be as dismissive and lax about it as we’ve seen lately. Fragrances are a huge trigger for migraines, and especially in facial products, being so close to the nose means that the scent may be more pronounced which can rapidly trigger a Migraine.”

As skincare experts have pointed out, individuals should do their research and speak to their dermatologist or esthetician before incorporating new skincare products, especially if they have sensitive skin. At the end of the day, skincare is a personal choice and every consumer’s concern should be validated.


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