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Natural Beauty Tip: 11 reasons to avoid toxic perfume & cologne

As I walked towards the door in my underground parking garage, a trail of perfume assaulted my nose. Thanks to the phthalates (aka plastisizers) in the perf
Jan 22, 2012 | Joy McCarthy

As I walked towards the door in my underground parking garage, a trail of perfume assaulted my nose. Thanks to the phthalates (aka plastisizers) in the perfume that made the stink linger in a huge drafty parking garage. I arrived at the elevators to see two young women who were the cause and clearly had no idea that what they spray on their body may be disrupting their hormones, promoting allergies and even stimulating the growth of cancer! I got on the elevator with them and just held my breath till the 16th floor.

This is such a pet peeve of mine because these toxic perfumes are SO bad for you. But I thought to myself, it's not their fault because they probably have NO clue. If only more people knew just how toxic these stinky perfumes are to their bodies.

So I decided to write about it. Can you please do me a favour and pass this along to anyone and everyone you know? I'm really anti-perfume and cologne for so many reasons. Here are some of the reasons why you want to walk fast past the perfume counter at the department store and let your friends know their stink is toxic:

1. Fragrance can mean a cocktail of up to 3,000 different ingredients and most have NOT been tested for safety.

2. Many of these unlisted ingredients are irritants and can trigger allergies (runny nose, watery eyes, itching skin), migraines, and asthma symptoms.

3. Perfumes/colognes can trigger an asthma attack in 3 out of every 4 people.

4. In lab experiments, individual fragrance ingredients have been associated with cancer and neurotoxicity.

5. Environment Canada has stated serious concern with the bioaccumulative effect of synthetic musks which are toxic to both aquatic life (they settle in the fatty tissues) and human health.

Some fragrance ingredients are not even perfuming agents themselves but enhance the performance of perfume itself, which was the reason for the stink lingering in my parking garage.

Such as:

Diethyl phthalate, or DEP, is widely used in cosmetic fragrances for it's lingering effect. Phthalates are cheap and versatile and used in most of the popular big selling fragrances.

I wonder if Britney Spears made sure her perfume is phthalate free? Probably not. More reasons to ditch your perfume/cologne, phthalates are dangerous to human health because they:

6. Interfere with hormone function, as per evidence from the European Commission on Endocrine Disruption7. Linked to early puberty in girls.

8. Reduced sperm count in men, and reproductive defects in the developing male fetus (when the mother is exposed during pregnancy).

9. Associated with obesity and insulin resistance in men.

10. As well, Health Canada notes evidence suggesting that exposure to phthalates may cause liver and kidney failure in young children when products containing phthalates are sucked or chewed for extended periods.

11. DEP is listed as a Priority and Toxic Pollutant under the U.S. Clean Water Act, based on evidence that it can be toxic to wildlife and the environment.

So you want to smell nice without a toxic cloud of fragrance? Me too. I like to smell nice but I do it naturally. Here are some suggestions:

1. Buy an essential oil (your favourite scent from the health food store) and dilute it with a carrier oil, like almond oil. Make sure the essential oil is clean.

2. Slather coconut oil on your beautiful body after you shower. You will smell like the beach!

3. Go completely fragrance free and let your natural scent (ie. pheromones) attract others to you. Pheromones actually have a biological purpose -- to attract the opposite sex!

What is your chemical free secret for smelling nice??

Want to learn more about natural beauty? Then register for my "superfoods for natural beauty" workshop on February 11th! Don't miss out because this will be a very popular seminar and will sell out quickly!


Jan 22, 2012 BY Joy McCarthy
Food Babe   •   January 23, 2012

Same story happened to me today!!! Ha!

Joy McCarthy   •   January 23, 2012

Wendy   •   January 24, 2012

What are keyword ingredients we can look for in products that seem cleaner than the norm, but are scented? I.e. Pacifica body soaps and lotions, which say: "Pacifica skin care is made without: Animal testing, animal bi-products, phthalates, parabens, sulfates, propylene glycol, benzene, GMOs, mineral oil, peanut oil and triclosan." I think I've read that any simulated scent can mess with our hormones, so maybe even phtalate-free products (with scent) should be avoided? Or are they safe?

Joy McCarthy   •   January 24, 2012

Patricia   •   January 24, 2012

Oh Joy, I have been dealing with this perfume conondrum for quite a while. My roommate loves perfume, and maybe my nose is too big, but when she sprays it on it fills the whole house. The worse part is that when she leaves the house, her perfume linger. I open all windows and sometimes put the fan on to prevent a headache. The thing is, I've already made comments on how strong her scent is, and she stops for a while and then goes at it again. I don't want to be a perfume nag.How do you approach the subject?

Joy McCarthy   •   January 24, 2012

Denise   •   February 8, 2012

Thank you Joy for the timely article. I own an yoga studio which is scent free environment and need to gently remind clients about the environment being scent free. It is an education for most people as they don't realize the impact on their health or others. Especially if they think they are buying it from a "Natural Health Food Store". I too share in your pet peeve. The biggest challenge- travelling on a plane or train in closed quarters. Thank you kleenex...


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Loona   •   January 1, 2013

The more you go without them the more you notice how toxic they smell.. it really bothers me when other people hold my baby and return him to me with the smell lingering on him! lets spread the word!


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LuAnn   •   January 12, 2014

Fragrances are my warning that something not good is going to happen to me really soon. Asthma attack, headache, disorientated, coughing, can't type or talk etc etc. Working in a building where fragrances are acceptable. It is a never ending battle for me to stay at my work station. Frangrances are for personal intiment pleasure and not for public nousance . If only you knew what terrible damage you are doing to your own body and those around you.


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[…] The major things you should steer clear of are: parabens and formaldehyde, sulfate-based detergents, propylene glycol/polyethylene glycol, synthetic dyes (anything with FD&C preceding it) and “fragrances“. […]


Jacqueline Fisch   •   February 10, 2014

Perfume makes me gag every time I smell it on someone. My chemical-free to smell good - eat good food + DIY deodorant made from coconut oil and lavender oil. The cleaner you eat the less you stink :)


Melissa   •   February 11, 2014

Great article, Joy. Can you please give a few examples of what to look for in a "clean" essential oil vs. an "unclean" one? Thanks!

Joy McCarthy   •   February 11, 2014

janet   •   September 9, 2016

I am being treated for cancer and am using the biofeedback machine the indigo and I love perfume and as my number one stresser was perfume!!! Out of so many things that was number one! I breaks my heart but i do need to find something else to smell good. Your info is correct! Thank you

Heather Allen   •   September 9, 2016

Linda   •   September 16, 2016

Thank you for your excellent article. Perfumes, scented products, fabric softeners, air fresheners and many unnecessary toxin filled cleaning products are the cause of many health issues from headaches to serious illnesses such as environmental illness or MCS multi chemical sensitivity a condition now recognized for Canadian Human Rights. Luckily more and more employers and Drs offices and laboratories are ensuring scent free offices to help their employees and clients have a healthier environment to work in and/or attend appointments in. Please read ingredients in everything from shampoo, soaps and cleaning products. A great air freshener is vanilla extract -warmed it makes your house smell like home sweet home. Christmas time cloves and cinnamon on the stove yum... Coconut oil is a great perfume free scent to wear, Please be kind to others go chemical based fragrance/scent free... THANK YOU!!!!

Joy McCarthy   •   September 18, 2016

cat   •   October 18, 2017

It's devastating how many harmful things people put onto their bodies unknowingly, great article really opens my eyes. My dog has pretty bad allergies and when people in my household refrain from using scented products it really makes a difference,really makes you wonder what is in these products..yikes

Rachel Molenda   •   October 19, 2017

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