Estimates vary, but around 3% of us may have an allergy to one or more fragrance compounds commonly used in our toiletries, toothpastes, household cleaning agents, air fresheners, scented candles, and other consumer goods.
In the EU, cosmetics regulations recognise 26 fragrance allergens. They include natural components of essential oils — such as eugenol, geraniol, and limonene — and artificial fragrance compounds — such as methyl 2-octynoate, butylphenyl methylpropional, and amyl cinnamal. The 26 must be declared when present in concentrations greater than 0.01% (wash-off products) or 0.001% (leave-on products). They are typically positioned last in a list of ingredients. If none are listed, it does not necessarily mean the product is fragrance free, as other, non-26 fragrance components could be present (sandalwood, for instance, is free of them). Look for ‘parfum’, ‘fragrance’ or the obvious presence of essential oil.
Although other household detergents have less strict regulations regarding their labels, they do have to declare the presence of fragrances and fragrance allergens on packaging.
The situation in the US is rapidly changing, with more transparency in fragrance declaration being demanded.
Other than ‘fragrance free’, look also for ‘hypoallergenic’. Although this term is not defined in law, and does not guarantee a fragrance free product, it usually indicates an unfragranced product, less likely to trigger sensitivities.
Here are some brands and ranges worth exploring:
Skincare and cosmetics
Fragrance-free brand with skin-beneficial ceramides.
This brand may not win any ‘natural’ awards, but has a large range of affordable fragrance free products in no-fuss packaging that often come dermatologist-recommended for problem skin issues.
Green People Scent Free (Worldwide)
Full range of no-fragrance products — including shower gel, cleanser, shampoo and conditioner, deodorant, face cream and lotion — from a very natural and highly respected British brand.
MIR Skincare (UK)
Boutique brand — UK based and entirely fragrance free.
Various skin ‘fixing’ products for problem skin and eczema — available in the UK from Boots.
Skin creams / lotion, cleansers, suncream, deodorants and shaving cream — all free from common irritants, as well as fragrance, and named in a 2017 study as one of the most hypoallergenic brands of cosmetics in the world.
NB. You may also find this article on Allergen Free Skincare useful.
For an article listing fragrance-free conditioners, which happen also to be free from preservatives called MI and MCI, click here.
Free & Clear are a US brand offering fragrance free hair products for sensitive skins. Click here to learn more.
Dishwashing detergents, laundry products and general household cleaners.
Meliora Cleaning Products (US)
Laundry soaps and powders. All-purpose home cleaner. Also free from dyes, preservatives and optical brighteners.