Monday, June 18, 2012

Is Your Perfume Toxic? Avoid These Common Chemicals

You may not realize that perfumes and colognes contain many chemicals, some of which may affect your health. Those who have chemical sensitivities and/or allergies often find that perfume will bring on symptoms - which can range from mild allergic symptoms such as congestion or sneezing, to more serious symptoms such as wheezing, rash, or difficulty breathing. Following is a list of some of the common chemicals found in perfumes and the health concerns linked to them.

Shelves of perfumes: a closed cabinet, to keep...
Shelves of perfumes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
* Benzaldehyde is used in many cleaning products and cosmetics such as deodorant, lotion, shaving cream, and shampoo.  It is said to depress the central nervous system and cause irritation in the respiratory and digestive tracts. Some studies suggest it may even cause kidney damage.

* Acetone, the chemical found in nail polish remover, is also in many perfumes. The US Environmental Agency (EPA) lists acetone as a hazardous waste(!). Breathing acetone can have a profound effect on the nervous system, causing dizziness, sleepiness, slurred speech, and possibly even coma in extreme cases.

* Benzyl alcohol is found in perfume, air freshener, deodorant, and fabric softener (to name a few). It can affect the respiratory tract and the central nervous system, causing headache, nausea, and respiratory irritation and even failure.

* Methylene chloride is a perfume ingredient that was banned by the FDA in the late 80s, but some claim the law is impossible to enforce. The problem with this chemical is that it is stored in body fat (many chemicals are fat soluble) where it is metabolized by the body into carbon monoxide. This can lead to symptoms of oxygen deprivation, such as headache, fatigue, and tingling in the extremities.

* Limonene is found in a lot of cleaning products as well as perfumes. It is considered carcinogenic, and is a skin and eye irritant. Inhaling the vapor of limonene is considered dangerous.

* Ethanol is also found in perfumes, as well as a host of other products. In fact, ethanol is in so many products that it's hard to believe it's on the EPA's hazardous waste list - from colognes to makeup, facial cleansers, toilet bowl and shower cleaners, and more. Whether ingested or inhaled, ethanol can cause blurred vision, drowsiness, and disorders of the central nervous system.

These are only a few of the toxic chemicals found in perfumes. If you are concerned about the possible health effects of perfume but still want to apply some sort of scent, consider making your own scented spritzer or oil, or buy a commercially-prepared, non-toxic scent - several companies now make non-toxic perfumes. (For help finding non-toxic beauty products, visit

To make your own scent, mix a few drops of the essential oil of your choice with an ounce of rubbing alcohol and 2 ounces of water. Put in a small spray bottle and use as a spray-on scent. You can also blend essential oils into a neutral carrier oil such as sesame oil that can be rubbed on the skin.

Natural Perfumes & Information On Making Your Own:
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