The F Word And The Hidden Meaning Behind It
The F word we are referring to here is the term, “Fragrance.” Fragrance is defined as
“a sweet or delicate odor,”
and many consumers believe that this word refers to the scent of an item. Well, this is actually false. The word itself is a term that was created many years ago to protect companies from having to disclose the “secret sauce” of what made their products smell the way they did. Back before synthetic chemicals and complex ingredients existed, this made sense - if perfumeries disclosed their combination of essential oils, it could easily be mimicked. So when the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act was passed back in 1967, it was a great way for these companies to feel comfortable with disclosing their ingredients because it allowed them to start using the vague term “Fragrance” to protect their exact formula. If you haven’t made the realization yet, Fragrance is not just one ingredient or one description of the smell of a product - it is a combination of many ingredients that create the unique scent of beauty products.
The beauty industry has dramatically changed since 1967, but the regulations have, unfortunately, not changed with the times. Because of this, companies that use ingredients that are questionable or potentially hazardous can now “hide” them under the term, “Fragrance.” There can be over 3000 ingredients used in Fragrance, and the scary part is that just 34% have been tested for human safety. This means that most ingredients hiding behind this term have no safety data whatsoever. And what’s worse is that many ingredients that have been tested are known allergens and carcinogens, which again, do not have to be listed on the label. These ingredients, although harmful, are considered trade secrets which are “confidential business information” that don’t need to be disclosed to the public. These trade secrets can contain anything, as long as it doesn’t contain any of the 11 ingredients that the FDA has banned.
The FDA in the US has only banned 11 ingredients, while the European Union for example, has banned over 1300 toxic ingredients that are linked to cancer, genetic mutation, birth defects and reproductive harm. However, "Companies and individuals who manufacture or market cosmetics have a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of their products. Neither the law nor FDA regulations require specific tests to demonstrate the safety of individual products or ingredients. The law also does not require cosmetic companies to share their safety information with the FDA." So here you can see that there is a legal responsibility to make a product "safe," but there is no governing power controlling it. Formaldehyde, for example, is a carcinogen considered safe in very small amounts. It’s often used in cosmetics through formaldehyde-releasing chemicals that slowly release the preservative into the product over time. The amount actually added goes untested, and unregulated, left to the manufacturer to add the “safe” amount.
Another scary fact is that the FDA Regulations for cosmetics haven't changed since 1938!
So why would companies use these types of ingredients in the first place? Oddly, many harmful ingredients have been proven to help with skin elasticity, preventing dry skin, and increasing the shelf life of a product, etc, but most importantly, these ingredients are very cheap. And these cheap, questionable ingredients are found in more than just perfume. This also includes things like lotions, soaps, hair products, makeup, nail polish, and basically anything you can put on your body. Our intention here is not to scare you, but we do feel that it is our duty to share this information and empower you to do research about what products and companies you trust.
Go grab 3-5 items from your bathroom and check out the ingredients for yourself. How many have the F word? Does the package say 100% natural ingredients, 100% natural fragrance, or not list fragrance at all? If not, do you really know what's hiding in there?
We as consumers need to have the knowledge to find out what is safe for our bodies or not. Learning how to read labels and doing the research on items we use will help us overall. We highly encourage you to do so, and let us know if you need help with finding products that are better for your body.