Is Fragrance In Skincare Really A Bad Thing?

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If you like to have skin that is nourished, healthy, and looks as good as it feels, then there's a good chance that you carefully choose the products that you use on both your face and your body. Along with considering how long each item and step might take, how it's meant to do its work, and what kind of effect it's supposed to have, you'll also want to decide whether or not you should be using skincare products that include fragrance. That's because fragrances can be pretty darn iffy. In fact, when it comes to your skin, you may have reason to worry that the sweet-smelling elements are doing more harm than good.


"Fragrance has taken center stage in the skin care conversation lately because of its link to inflammation and its effect on premature skin aging," dermatologist Dr. Corey L. Hartman explained to Paula's Choice Skincare. "Like exposure to ultraviolet light, chronic inflammation through exposure to sun, heat or fragrance can increase oxidative stress, free radical formation and degradation of collagen and promote a skin texture that is not as firm or even as it should be."

While that might make you want to run off and get rid of your perfume collection this very minute, you might also be wondering whether or not the fragrance that's specifically found in skincare is a bad thing. The answer is something that you need to keep in mind if you truly want to take care of your skin.


Fragrances in skincare products can cause problems

The fragrances that can be found in skincare products may be organic and hypoallergenic which is always a plus. However, a fair share of the fragrances that are used are synthetic and they're not necessarily listed on the packaging, according to VitalSkin Dermatology. They can also increase problems with hyperpigmentation, worsen skin conditions and inflammation, and cause allergic reactions. If you happen to be sensitive to fragrance, then you might experience something called irritant contact dermatitis. Dr. Parisha Acharya, an aesthetic doctor at Waterhouse Young, explained what this is to Refinery29, saying, "If the skin's barrier is damaged, it will result in tiny cracks which allow moisture to leak away and foreign substances like irritants in. Signs of a damaged barrier include dryness, redness, itching, stinging, and breakouts."


Beyond that, you might find yourself dealing with allergic contact dermatitis, with Dr. Emma Wedgeworth, consultant dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson, saying, "This may occur due to the fragrance being recognized as a foreign molecule by the skin and activating an immune response" (via Refinery29).

When it comes to either or both conditions, Dr. Wedgeworth says, "[The] skin can feel uncomfortable and become red and inflamed with patches of dryness, flaking, and itching." In extreme cases, some people suffer from swelling as well as blistering. This may make you wary of using fragrances on your face, but does that mean you shouldn't use them on your body either?

Fragrance in skincare might be okay for some areas

You probably don't use the same skincare product on your face that you use on the rest of your body. Although you might now be leaning toward ditching any fragrance-filled products that are meant for your face, you might be wondering if you need to get rid of your favorite sweet strawberry-, luscious vanilla-, or lilac meadow-scented body wash.


"Any product meant for the face, neck, or eye area should be as added-fragrance-free as possible. It's not so bad to have fragrances in your body products that are applied to generally less sensitive skin. Neck and eye skin is thinner and can be more vulnerable to fragrances," Karen Fernandez, the lead aesthetician of SkinSpirit, explained to Byrdie. Māsk Skincare also notes that while there's more fat under the skin on your body, which makes it less susceptible to wrinkles, that same area doesn't have as many sweat glands or oil glands. This can make the skin on your body less finicky.

At the same time, that doesn't mean that your body's skin is completely safe from fragrances. Shuting Hu, Ph.D., a cosmetic chemist and the founder of Acaderma, told Byrdie, "If you are noticing that your skin is reacting negatively to a product, and you think it might be from the fragrance, it's best to consult with an allergist or dermatologist who can help identify the cause."