Is Fragrance-Free A Marketing Catch-Phrase That's Causing More Harm? – Violet Botanical Skincare

Is Fragrance-Free A Marketing Catch-Phrase That's Causing More Harm Than Good?


My husband has sensitive skin. Products with questionable ingredients make their presence know after a couple of uses. The telltale sign of a cluster of tiny red pimples form on his skin.

Recently, I purchased a fragrance-free, toxic-free laundry detergent that is supposed to clean your clothes like new. I’d heard a lot about the product, so I decided to give it a try. After a couple of days, my husband developed a red streak of tiny pimples going down his leg. He asked if I used a new laundry detergent. I replied, “Yes, but it’s fragrance-free and non-toxic.” Usually scented detergents cause his skin to react.

That was the only change in products coming in contact with his skin. So, I resigned myself to re-wash all of his clothes in my regular unscented, non-toxic laundry detergent. Within days the red streak of tiny pimples disappeared.

I was curious how a fragrance-free, non-toxic product could cause a fragrance reaction. I had to do some sleuthing. Believe it or not, after a few clicks to a few of my favorite research-based websites, I got to the bottom of the problem. My husband was experiencing a chemical reaction.

I needed to delve a little deeper to fully understand the science behind it all. Yes, I can be a science nerd at times and will happily get lost in research for hours.

My nerdiness paid off. It boiled down to masking fragrances. They are fragrance components in fragrance-free/unscented products. Their name explains their function. They are synthetic compounds used to cover-up the smell of other chemicals in a product. Say what? They use fragrances to mask fragrances?

My pursuit of an answer led me down a rabbit hole. I found out that masking fragrances are not required to be listed on the product label. They are considered ‘trade secrets’. Hmmm, interesting. There could be hundreds of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in a product that aren’t listed on the ingredient label.

Further research stated that the terms ‘natural’, ‘organic’, or ‘hypoallergenic’ don’t necessarily mean fragrance-free either. Fragrance-free products may also cause skin sensitivities/allergies due to fragrance ingredients as preservatives.

This left me wondering – are there any truly fragrance-free/unscented product ingredients? I venture to say, “No.” Chime in below and let me know what you think.