You smell amazing. No, really, your sense of smell is mind-bogglingly sensitive, able to detect over 1 trillion distinct scents – including the emotions and health of the people around you. Three cheers for your schnoz!
The good, the bad & the funky
With such a powerful sense, it’s no wonder that artificial or overly intense smells can make you feel sick. A passing jogger in a cloud of sports deodorant. A relative with perfume so strong it sticks to your clothes. Moth balls. Cat pee. Two dollar shops.
On the flipside, certain aromas that are positively intoxicating. Think: sun warmed beeswax, fresh lavender, crushed gum leaves, stovetop coffee, rain on dry earth, your lover’s left armpit.
Most people gravitate towards scents that are subtle, natural and evocative – which begs the question: Why are so many beauty and skincare products filled with overpowering artificial fragrances? These stinky wafts aren’t just off putting, they’re also bad for your health.
What’s in a smell?
Even though fragrances are invisible to the naked eye, they’re as real as any other ingredient you’ll see listed on a label.
Fragrances are made up of airborne chemicals that travel into the nose and bind to olfactory receptors. This triggers a tiny electrical signal that travels to your brain, which then recognises the odour. This process is called olfaction.
Scent chemicals interact with your body in other ways, too. They can enter your mouth, settle on your skin and be absorbed into your bloodstream. And in a world of synthetic fragrances derived from petroleum, gas and wood pulp, is it any wonder that sensitivities to fragrances are on the rise?
Eau no! Synthetic fragrance woes.
Have you ever wondered how scents in beauty products are created?
While it’s tempting to assume they’re all sunshine, rainbows and pure petal perfume, the truth is that many synthetic fragrances are based on gnarly materials like petroleum, gas and wood pulp.
You might see them listed as musk, ethyl methoxycinnamate, phthalates or simply ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’. An alarming number are proven endocrine disruptors and carcinogens. And all of them are unnecessary, in our humble opinion.
For reasons we’ll never quite understand, the creators of commercial skin and beauty care products insist on adding so much fake fragrance that it’s a surprise their customers don’t faint. Or maybe that’s the idea?
How do artificial fragrances harm your skin and health?
Fake fragrances are intended to be pleasant, communicating cleanliness, attractiveness or luxury. But in reality these airborne nasties erode your health and choke the planet’s atmosphere. Smells like irony to us. Here are just a few reasons why volatile organic compounds (or VOCs) are bad news.
- They’re air pollutants like any other, causing headaches, breathing difficulties and asthma.
- They disrupt the protective barrier of your skin, creating microscopic cuts and triggering conditions like hives and contact dermatitis.
- A troubling number of fake fragrances have been linked to hormonal disruption, infertility, birth defects, autoimmunity and cancer.
- Fragrance chemicals can lead to neurological issues like migraines, depression, hyperactivity and Alzheimer’s.
- In a study of 42 fragranced baby products, over 600 VOCs were detected, a third of which are potentially hazardous.
- The ongoing exposure to fake fragrances over time can lead to persistent hypersensitivities and allergic responses.
- And all of these harmful effects hold true for our environment too, because that’s where these artificial fragrances end up.
Seven skincare ingredients that stink
So what should you look out for – and shun – when choosing beauty and skincare products? Here are some of the main offenders.
- Fragrance oil
- DEP (Diethyl Phthalate)
- DBP (Dibutyl phthalate)
- DEHP (Di(2-Ethylhexyl) phthalate)
Well that’s nice to nose
At Beauty and the Bees we’re passionate about low key lovely aromas in skincare. Safe, subtle, natural, alluring.
We love scents that leave space for mystery. Sniffs that soothe your nervous system and uplift your spirit. Whiffs of something delicate and delightful that leave you (and the people around you) wanting more. In short, nature’s pheromones.
It goes without saying that you won’t find a single synthetic scent in our range, but we take it one step further by steering clear of strong essential oils too. They can be harsh and problematic for folks with sensitive skin, despite being “natural”.
Our favourite fragrances from nature
Our favourite scents are beeswax absolut, a beautiful sweet resin derived from real honeycomb with a soft floral and warm, rich sweet aroma. benzoin resin: a warm beautiful sweet natural resin that exudes “ tears” of resin from the tree bark which are collected from two types of styrax trees: Styrax benzoin, native to Sumatra, and Styrax tonkinensis, which grows in Southeast Asia. We have used this in our moisture creams and other products for 30 years for its skin soothing and healing properties and it beautiful scent.
Vetiver a super useful native North Indian grass is grown for many purposes:plant helps to stabilise soil and protects it against erosion, but yields the most wonderful smoky intense essential oil that not only smells beautiful but is antiseptic and also fixes other scents: we love it !
We’d love to hear about your favourite scents and aromas. What smells can’t you get enough of? Which natural fragrance shows off who you are? Share your thoughts in the comments.