Alternatives to synthetic fragrance


I don’t use perfume but I’m a sucker for scented products.  Sniffing is probably one of the first things I do when testing a product.  Those that smells good usually get my attention.  But fragrance in a product isn’t always good news especially if they’re of synthetic formulations.

According to, synthetic fragrances can contain chemical compounds with harmful ingredients such as neurotoxins, allergens and phthalates, which have been linked to reproductive problems, early puberty in girls, and breast cancer.  This is why fragrance is always single out as a major culprit when a product is considered as unsafe and is always listed as an ingredient to avoid if possible.

So for olfactory sensitive women like me, what are the alternatives?

The best alternative to synthetic fragrance is those derived from plant-based aromatic compounds such as pure essential oils which are sometimes called fragrance oils.  Depending on the product, some of these maybe certified organic.  Examples of essential oils include chamomile, eucalyptus, geranium, juniper berry, lavender, lemon, lime, orange, peppermint, rosemary, spearmint, tea tree vanilla, and ylang ylang.  However, I need to highlight that although essential oils may have more benefits and are not known to be toxic, certain oils may not be suitable for everyone especially under certain conditions like pregnancy or high blood pressure.

Another alternative is to pick synthetic fragrances without harmful ingredients, such as phthalates.  But since the companies are not required to list any of the chemicals used in their fragrance mixture on their product labels, it maybe difficult to tell.   In addition, cosmetic manufacturers are also free to label a petrochemical replica of an essential oil as natural; such as apple fragrance, peach fragrance and so forth.

Of course, the extreme measure is to go for products that are unscented but even then, you want to be aware that some manufacturers use masking agents that block our ability to perceive odors; so not only is fragrance still in the product, but even more chemicals are present.

Personally, I have taken the approach of choosing products that are natural or organic and looking out for essential oils as ingredients for fragrance.  But I acknowledge.  There are still instances where it just isn’t possible.

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