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February 04, 2024 5 min read

As a teenager, I was obsessed with scents, from cheap perfumes to exotic Tahiti deodorants. I'd reapply multiple times daily because it made me feel 'clean'.

However, during pregnancy, my favourite scents triggered nausea and gave me headaches. I was intrigued (as a scent-obsessed human), so I started to research why my favourite scents made me feel sick, and what I learned was startling.

According to a 2018 report, more than 1,200 fragrance chemicals have been flagged as potential or known "chemicals of concern". These include carcinogens, chemicals that the EU explicitly prohibits, and endocrine disruptors - which mimic human hormones. These endocrine disruptors worry researchers since tiny doses can considerably affect the wearer.

Why do we not know this? Because fragrances are considered a "trade secret", meaning manufacturers don't need to list what is in their 'fragrance'. Clever.

Let's dive into three ingredients in fragrances and their health impact. The bottom line is that fragrances are highly toxic, so you will never see them at Go For Zero. All our products are made with a safe dose of essential oils only—we choose nature over cheap, artificial chemicals. 

 The hidden truth behind synthetic perfumes

What is the Difference Between Natural vs. Synthetic Perfumes?

The use of natural perfume ingredients dates back thousands of years, with records indicating the Egyptians, Sumerians, and Indians were among the earliest civilisations to rely exclusively on botanicals, herbs, spices, and animal products. In contrast, synthetic perfumes, which rely on artificially created aromatic molecules, came into being in the mid-19th century with advancements in organic chemistry. Lower production costs make these fragrances less expensive than their natural counterparts, and their long-lasting scents have made them increasingly popular. However, they are now the subject of discussions concerning safety and ingredient disclosure, and as such, synthetic perfumes have come under increased scrutiny.

The main issues with synthetic perfumes

Despite the Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act requiring cosmetic product manufacturers to list their ingredients on the labels since 1973, fragrance remains an exception. As a result, companies use it as a loophole to include many scientifically proven harmful chemicals under the "fragrance" label. To make matters worse, the fragrance industry regulates itself, so safety testing is not required before being sold to consumers. That stinks!

The Hard Truth About our Favourite Smells

Like most people, I believed that fragrances are safe and make things "smell clean". However, fragrance products contain a mixture of chemicals used for odour production, solvent and fluidiser, perfume stabiliser, preservative, antiperspirant, and denaturing agent. Let's deepdive into three pollutants found in perfume, their roles, and their impact on our health.

It is important to note that this blog is based on research conducted by The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). This research aims to gain a better understanding of whether certain ingredients in products can have an impact on our health and to increase our knowledge about cosmetic chemicals and their potential harm. It's important to note that research can only show associations, as studies cannot expose people to potentially toxic chemicals. More research needs to be carried out to differentiate between phthalates.

1. Phthalates

  • Phthalates are often referred to as "everywhere chemicals" because they are so common.
  • They are used to make plastics more flexible, and fragrances last longer. Some examples of phthalates include butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP), di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP), di-isononyl phthalate (DiNP), and di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP).
  • Phthalates are found in perfumes, deodorants, shampoos, soaps, nail polish, cosmetics, plastic packaging, vinyl flooring, raincoats, and some plastic children's toys, among many other places.
  • Diethyl phthalate (DEP) is especially prevalent in both men's and women's fragrances as well as beauty and personal care products, as it is used to enhance fragrance.
  • Phthalates are endocrine disruptors, which means they interfere with normal hormone production. They have been linked to several reproductive and developmental effects, such as early onset puberty for girls, reduced sperm count, harm to the developing brain, and reduced fatal growth. Other studies show a link between phthalates and endometriosis and premature delivery in women

Because regulations do not require listing individual chemicals in fragrances, it is difficult to know if phthalates are used in products.

2. Parabens

  • Parabens are popular artificial preservatives. They inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi that can spoil the fragrance and reduce shelf life.
  • Methyl paraben (MP), butyl paraben (BP), ethyl paraben (EP), and propyl paraben (PP) are used in cosmetics, perfumes, deodorants, body care products, and many other products. They are especially prevalent in products with a high water content, such as shampoos and conditioners.
  • Parabens have been found in human breast tumours, so they may play a role in increasing the incidence of breast cancer. Exposure to parabens can seriously damage sperm DNA and male reproductive health. Exposure to parabens during pregnancy can lead to dysfunction of the thyroid gland and weight gain of the infant, especially the male infant at birth. Finally, a significant association between high concentrations of parabens and shorter menstrual periods was found.
  • Parabens have been shown to have more severe effects in young children than in adults because protective mechanisms such as a competent immune system are not yet developed in children, and exposure to chemicals in the early stages of development can disrupt normal patterns of growth. 

3. Triclosan

  • Triclosan is an antimicrobial substance widely used in antibacterial hand soaps and banned by the FDA in 2016. However, it is still used today in some compounds such as fragrances, toothpaste, mouthwash, and acne cream.
  • Studies have shown that triclosan can disrupt the normal functioning of hormone systems in a manner that may promote breast and ovarian cancers and interfere with metabolism. More research needs to be done to fully understand the impact of triclosan on our health.

Finally, research shows that women are more likely than men to suffer from the effects of using fragrance products. One study found that of 33.1% of the population who reported adverse health effects, 64.0% were female, and 36.0% were male.

Sustainable Natural Perfume Brands

It can be challenging to find a safe perfume, especially since companies are not legally required to disclose all the ingredients used to make them. The Environmental Working Group advises consumers to be wary of the terms "fragrance" or "parfum", as they often hide harmful chemicals. At Go For Zero, we believe that taking care of your health should never be a compromise. That's why we do the research for you and only stock natural, safe perfumes that are proudly made in Australia with 100% natural ingredients. 

The top 3 natural sustainable perfume brands are IME, Viva la Body and Peggy Sue. They are vegan, alcohol-free, palm-oil free, creuelty-free, Australian made, plastic-free and smell o so good!

Do Natural Perfumes Last All Day?

Natural perfumes need to be reapplied every 3 - 4 hours as they don't contain phthalates, a chemicals that make the scent last longer. They are designed to be compact and travel-friendly, so you can easily reapply them during the day, just like a lip balm

All our products, from perfumes to soaps, skincare, and more, are naturally scented. We never compromise on your health or our planet. Please never hesitate to reach out if you would have any questions at askusanything@goforzero.com.au

With love,




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