ASK DR. DESAI: Tips for buying green personal care products
What is fragrance or parfum? These are ingredients that are often a complex mixture of several dozens of compounds. Often they are protected by manufacturer trade secrets and hence are very difficult to identify. Even products labeled as unscented may contain a masking agent to make our brain not perceive the smell.
What is the purpose of fragrance or parfum? Fragrances are used to impart a pleasant smell, define a brand or to designate a distinctive line of products such as perfumes, colognes or deodorants as part of a marketing strategy.
What health risks are associated with fragrance or parfum? Health risks posed by these unlisted ingredients range from allergies, migraines, or asthmatic attacks. Some synthetic musks used in fragrances are also shown to accumulate in fatty tissues of aquatic species while being toxic to them. Perfumes are frequently cited in dermatologic (skin) related allergic reactions. In addition, agents used to improve the performance of fragrances such as diethyl pthalate (DEP) are known to be endocrine disrupters or simulating natural hormones.
So the next time you buy personal products, try and choose formulas that are fragrance or parfum free. Natural essential oils are a better alternative, although some natural oils may also cause allergic reactions. Stay tuned for the next monthly installation of this series to learn about what else you need to be on the lookout for and avoid.
Dr. Vinay Desai is a naturalist and a pharmaceutical scientist with a Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences. Through community awareness programs, Dr. Desai helps educate people in the sustainable practices of using solar power and green personal care products.