The F-Word

Not THAT f-word. I love that f-word. F-ing love it. No, I’m talking about another f-word.


Most of my life I’ve had to avoid this f-word...


Fragrance free lotion, fragrance free laundry detergent, fragrance free soap. Then when my body still broke out in rashes I didn’t understand why. Every time I stepped into a doctors office with yet another rash, they said it was “definitely eczema”, they would give me a list of ingredients to avoid, suggest some products to switch, “here’s a prescription”, and “sorry... we don’t know what is really causing it.” I thought I only had to eliminate fragrance from things which touched the parts of my skin that developed a rash.

What I didn’t realize is how wide-spread the f-word is or what it really meant. I thought “fragrance” was just anything that smelled, and usually smelled pretty good. I also didn’t realize what completely avoiding good scents was doing to my emotions, and I certainly didn’t realize how many different ways my body could absorb fragrance. Then I started to focus on eliminating more products with fragrances: shampoo, conditioner, hair gel, deodorant, cleaning supplies... the list goes on. Later I would learn that we need scents in our life as humans; we just need to know which scents are healthy, and which can cause harm. 

What is “fragrance”?

Let’s talk about the definition for fragrance... yes, it means a scent, but in our world it means so much more on a list of ingredients. It means “proprietary” which directly translates to “we do not need to disclose the complete list of ingredients to our consumers”. Scary? Not really, after all there are plenty of healthy and harmless ingredients which can be hidden in the word fragrance. No, this isn’t about fear, at least I try not to fear monger. It means if you are trying to do better for you and your family by reading ingredients this company just slapped a big ole blindfold over your eyes which makes it impossible to verify their ingredients. Or in my case, my dermatologist has recommended some ingredients to avoid and this product can't be verified safe for my use.


What ingredients make up “fragrance”?

Honestly just about anything, but mostly substances which smell good. These can be natural occurring substances, like plant extracts and essential oils, or they can by synthetic (man made) ingredients. Technically a company can hide whatever they want in their “fragrance” and the FDA does not require them to disclose it. I like to believe companies aren’t knowingly throwing harmful ingredients into this category just for the sake of harming us, but I do believe there are products which have been around for years, which contain ingredients we now know to be harmful, and to reformulate their products is a costly and time consuming process. Despite their best efforts if a company can not remain profitable it will cease to exist, no matter how big their heart is.

What are these harmful ingredients? Too many to list here, but many have been linked to health issues currently on the rise. I’ll spare you the list; it is scary.

So why not just completely avoid products with fragrances?

Let’s talk about those scents and emotional connection. Why do we need SAFE scents in our life? On a dumbed-down scientific level the limbic system in our brain, which is linked to our emotions, is best influenced by smells. Inhalation is the best way to reach this system. When we completely eliminate scents we lose control of providing “good” or “happy” smells to this system, and instead rely on whatever is in our environments (which we often can’t control) or there’s little to no scent at all. The latter not being a bad thing, but then you miss that euphoric rush of smelling something that smells so damn good. You know the one, the euphoric rush actors on commercials use to sell you on more products with that F-word.

Essential oils; why are they safe? Why are they our best option? They are plant derived, and plants cause allergies, so why are they better than synthetic? 

First, essential oils when used with care are safer because they are indeed natural, and our bodies usually respond better to natural products (there are exceptions).

Second, essential oils are extracted from plants by steam distillation (for most species) which puts the lightest molecules in the bottle and leaves behind the heavier molecules, including the protein molecules, which are what trigger allergies. This is why people who swear they are allergic to goldenrod can sniff goldenrod essential oil straight from the bottle without an issue; completely different parts of the plant.

Last, I mentioned “use with care” because high quality essential oils are super concentrated chemical constituents straight from the plant, so a little will go a long way. Too much too fast without dilution can cause an adverse reaction, not an ALLERGIC reaction (which is your immune system attacking a foreign substance), but a potentially unpleasant reaction like a burning sensation on your skin or in your nose. 

Synthetic scents and fragrances are composed of chemicals derived from other sources such as petrochemicals. These derivatives have been shown to cause adverse reactions in our bodies, some of which can be severe. I’ll spare you the trip down the rabbit hole as you can Google this as well.

Back to the F-word.

Where can you find it? In just about anything... cleaners, candles, soaps, lotions, shampoos, conditioners, makeup, you name it. It is everywhere, and it irks me because it doesn’t allow me to be an intelligent consumer. I have a right to know what I am exposing myself to. If you think simply avoiding the F-word is enough, unfortunately there are plenty of ingredients right there on labels that have similar negative effects on some, if not all, of us. This is why I recommend a gradual, and self guided, approach to cleaning up your products.

Pick one product, and write each ingredient down on a list. Research each one. Decide for yourself if what you read makes sense, and if it may be something worth ditching. Google is great for this practice.

If your product fails this test, pick a new product to try instead. This is where I usually try to shove a Young Living product your way (because I know it will pass this next test), but regardless of where you buy from follow the same task of writing down the ingredients and researching each one. I suggest first looking for that F-word which will invalidate this exercise, as well as any ingredients which failed your previous test, and moving on to another product. No F-word, no blindfold. 


Take your time. Yes, you’ve been using these products for years, and if someone has put fear in you there might be an eagerness to throw out everything. Don’t feel you need to do this. Progress, not perfection. Know better, do better. All those other cliche quotes fit in right here, but this does NOT need to be rushed. How can we empower you to do your own research and read labels if we push you into switching faster than you can keep up with the practice? Also, money... throwing out unused products and switching is expensive. Let’s be smart about this.

You’ll also enjoy watching the change in yourself and your family during this next step. Perhaps your energy levels will increase. You might find you aren’t getting sick as often, as long, or as severe. Sleep might come more easy to you, and it might be for longer periods of time. This is just a short list of what I have experienced.

What do you think? Are you ready to give up the F-word?

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