Rant & Rave: Added Fragrance

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Added Fragrance

I’m not a fan, usually, as the scents are often floral-based and overwhelming. I’m using a face moisturizer right now that works well, but I loathe the scent of it.

— Christine


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Agona Avatar

I hate added fragrance. The least offensive of added fragrance to me though is mint or vanilla. Rose makes me gag. Not a big fan of Too Faced’s chocolate scents either. I would think companies would err on the side of not, for those who have sensitivities AND the fact that not all scents are universally liked?

Stephanie Avatar

Rant: There’s not much worse than floral, perfume-like, or soapy scents in anything that goes on your face – but there’s a special place in hell for brands that put any of these fragrances in their lip products.

Rave: Even though I could do without scented products, I don’t have issues with food scents. They don’t give me headaches or make me sneeze like other fragrances.

Michelle Avatar

There’s no rave for added fragrance!
Added fragrance has destroyed many perfectly good products by making them irritating, and in many cases too strong smelling.

Ryou Avatar

But nowadays, I can’t stand them at all. If anything fragranced gets near my face my eyes starts to water.

A few days ago I decided to wear a strongly scented cuticle butter and I made the mistake of scratching my face. The spots I scratched (very lightly) got even itchier, and almost immediately turned into raised red bumps.

The funny thing is that I used to be okay with fragranced products to a degree. I loved tasty-smelling lip products, and I can still tolerate mildly scented lip products somewhat. I still prefer unscented, though.

raloves Avatar

I prefer scented products. But not to the extreme, I remember a Maybelline lipgloss that I couldn’t use due to strong floral scent. I love chocolate scent in lipsticks and Too Faced products. Nars lipsticks for example have no appeal to me due to being scent free. Also scent free products can smell chemical which to me is worse.

Tiffany Avatar

I have anosmia (no sense of smell) and before I had been diagnosed/picked up on the issue I was buying all kinds of fragranced products that were making my skin freak out. I started reading labels after that, and sure enough, fragrance was everywhere, and I wish I had some more warning before slathering stuff all over my sensitive skin. So, from the most inconsequential demographic of disabled people to cosmetics companies everywhere: stop it. And maybe put warnings for extracts and other ingredients non-smelling people have no idea are stinky since they’re not just simply labelled “fragrance.”

kjh Avatar

I, too, am virtually anosmic, and have been worked up, treated for it, until I gave up. Comparatively speaking, somewhat insignificant. However, haven’t you eaten things that were off, but highly spiced, so you didn’t detect the ‘off?’ (And gotten sick…) Happens a few times a year. I also nearly gassed myself, bec. I was unable to detect it. If it had been midwinter, or I hadn’t had a window open, or had not had a visitor, it would have been curtains. I’m fortunate to had smell for 25 years, so I have a brain library of scents/odors. There’s a real weird episode on The Witch Doctor Will See You Now about restoring smell via acupuncture in ?Hong Kong. Funny, bec. those who never smelled did detect odor, but could not i.d. it, obviously. Now that I have a bazillion allergies, I can still figure them out. Ironically, limonene, linalool, citral aren’t great….and I love the scent of lemon. Those 3 are major irritants to many, and are in so many products.
Fragrance: No. and I’m like Tiffany, have to research to avoid it.

Lea Avatar

Rave: Agree with most – rave is a bit of a strong word in this instance, but…I don’t mind mildly scented face products, like Sunday Riley etc. and for lips, I prefer vanilla, but YSLs melon scent is fine too (though I think that’s more American preference vs European).

Rant: None of this Too Faced nonsense – ugh. I just don’t want to risk putting that stuff near my face! While I love Guerlain products, I abhor the scent. It does dispute, but I want to gag when I open my canister. The pressed version is more tolerable at least.

Mariella Avatar

Rant, rant, rant, rant! Like Linda, I’m fortunate not to be bothered by scented products but even so, I don’t see the “wisdom” in putting them in any cosmetics but especially in EYE SHADOWS!!! TooFaced, I am looking at YOU with your peach and peanut butter and liver and onions scents (all in keeping with themes, of course!) And while scent doesn’t bother me, I was surprised by just how heavily scented Guerlain’s Baby Skin “foundation” is – is the Guerlain signature violet scent but it’s far more overpowering than in anything else I’ve ever purchased from them.

I am old and remember when Clinique was groundbreaking for launching their “hypoallergenic/fragrance free” line of skin care (though, apparently, even they used a “masking fragrance” in their skin care). It was so revolutionary at the time and now it seems that we’re taking a giant step backward.

Thea Avatar

Rant: Added fragrances break me out if it’s anything that goes on my skin. I also find most of them to be too strong in most things.

Rave? I like flavored lip balm.

Shira Avatar

I am super careful with fragrance because it’s bad for the face- yet so many high end brands insist on adding it! Tarte shape tape has fragrance which makes me sad but skincare is where I’m pickiest- if I’m using something that’s supposed to be good for my skin, it absolutely cannot contain fragrance. What’s the point of exposing my skin to irritants over and over? No thanks.

Ashleigh Avatar

I’m usually okay with fragrance in makeup and I love fragranced lotions (but I prefer to choose the scent), not a fan of it in skincare especially in products that (claim to be) formulated for sensitive skin. I’ve made expensive skincare purchases that have had overwhelming scents to them, what the heck.
I don’t mind a lot of scents in products that other people find offensive though, like melon (YSL lippies) or rose (Ouai haircare) or patchouli (Macademia professional haircare)

Nancy T Avatar

HATE it in face and worse yet, eyeshadows! I do not need/want smelly or flavored eyelids, mmkay? ?

In lipstick or gloss, I don’t mind a vanilla,ie: MAC, or light fruity scent, ie; Bite, Milani. But I’m not a fan of noticeable floral perfumed lipstick at all. Which has me bummed because I love how my Guerlain Air Kiss looks on me for a MLBB&G(littery). However, that smell, though! ?

maria Avatar

I don’t like added fragrance in any skin care even if it smells nice it doesn’t belong in skin care. I would rather not have it in makeup but I don’t mind if it being in makeup and I would still make the purchase if I like the product. I do like fragrance in lipsticks especially if it is a vanilla base I would rather have a nice fragrance in a lipstick than not especially if the lipstick smells waxy at all I won’t use it at all.

WildDove Avatar

I prefer unscented for face products, and will even go out of my way to not buy or return scented face products. EL took me out of one of their survey groups years ago for protesting about a strongly-scented high-end face cream. EL reps at Macy’s have steered me toward Clinique if I mentioned I wanted unscented. I was a big fan of Becca’s original Luminous Perfecting Foundation, then a few years later they added a scent to it that I could not abide, so I switched to MAC and other brands — I don’t know what the scent situation is with Becca foundation today, haven’t bought it for years.

Lulle Avatar

It depends in what product. I prefer unscented formulas for anything that goes on and around the eyes. For the rest of the face, I like a light scent, and I enjoy heavily fragranced body products (usually citrusy scents). The problem with unscented skincare or makeup products is that they often smell plain bad from their ingredients!

Anne Avatar

For me it’s a definite don’t. I have sensitive skin that gets easily set off by added fragrance, and if I want scent, I have cologne/perfume for that. There are so many products that I would use except their added fragrance makes my skin freak out, and I know a ton of other people who are the same, so those companies are losing consumers by adding fragrance.

Helene Avatar

I’m not sensetive so generally I don’t mind scented products. That said, I don’t really get why you’d want added fragrance in eyeshadows.
I love the vanilla scent in MAC lipsticks, I also love the Dior lipstick scent.
While I love the naturla scent of roses I find the lipglosses I tride from By Terry smelly in a not so good way, I think the scent in them are just too strong.
I guess I’m mostly raving when it comes to fragranced products for lips, and ranting when it’s in eyeshadows.
For other products that I put on my face, I’m neutral.

Celia Avatar

HATE it in my skin care. DO NOT WANT. I can be alright with it in certain products (Guerlain, the Marc Jacob’s Coconut Bronzer, etc) but I would still prefer those products not have it. In my skin care routine it is a no-go, banned ingredient. I’d rather my skin care smell like the less-pleasant, more-clinical scent of their ingredients than risk fragrance irritation. Also I don’t want added fragrance to mess with my intentional fragrance. If I’m wearing Tom Ford Ombre Leather 16 you can bet I want to smell like that and not any of my makeup. In makeup I like the smell of the natural waxes and inherent powder smell and that’s enough for me.

Genevieve Avatar

Rant: Adding fragrance to any skincare and makeup product is seriously a no no these days. The fragrance itself causes skin irritations and the smell is often overwhelming. Sometimes I think brands use a trowel when adding the fragrance, it’s that strong. And scented makeup is eg peanut butter and jelly, is just plain silly.
The worse part is when brands reformulate an item and then add scent! Now that can ruin someone’s much loved product.
Rave: No raves at all!

Kat Avatar

In skincare, added fragrance is my biggest no-no. I’ll deal with it sometimes in cleansers because I feel like it’s hard to avoid there, but otherwise I’d rather my skincare smell like poo than have added fragrance! Reducing unnecessary ingredients and irritating products has been a recent skincare goal and added fragrances are definitely in there. I also don’t like heavily scented makeup, although if it fades upon application I can usually get over it.

I do like nicely scented body care products, like body washes and creams, although my current body moisturizer (Gold Bond Rough and Bumpy) smells like sour feet.

I mostly hate a lot of those designer skincare lines with mediocre products chock full of perfume. It feels like just trying to sell people a name.

Nicole D Avatar

Rant only. The problem with the added fragrance in the beauty products is that it can contain 100+ chemicals, all hidden and labelled on the beauty products under one single word: “fragrance”. FDA’s stance on fragrance in cosmetics is really…astonishing; while admitting on their website that “fragrance and flavor formulas are complex mixtures of many different natural and synthetic chemical ingredients, (…) they are the kinds of cosmetic components that are most likely to be “trade secrets.” Some components of fragrance formulas may have a potential to cause allergic reactions or sensitivities for some people. FDA does not have the same legal authority to require allergen labeling for cosmetics as for food.” So, fragrance = undisclosed potential allergenic ingredients = trade secrets = no action ?!?

FDA can do something if they really put the health of the consumers above the commercial interests of the corporations. And as consumers we have the right to ask them to do it. They can do what the Europeans did; by 1999 the EU identified 26 fragrance allergens, for which information should be provided to consumers about their presence in cosmetic products (the Cosmetics directive required that the presence any of these 26 substances be indicated in the list of ingredients when its concentration exceeds 0,001 % in leave-on products and 0,01 % in rinse-off products). Canada has stricter regulations than the U.S. (Health Canada being the regulatory body here) but it does not come close to the European legislation. How we become allergic ? From the EU website : “To cause a skin allergy, a certain minimum amount of the fragrance substance must penetrate the skin and attach to a skin protein. Only once the fragrance substance is attached to a skin protein can it provoke a cascade of events in our immune which ultimately ends in allergy symptoms.
Whilst there are fragrance substances that directly bind to skin proteins, we also know that there are other types of fragrance substances which have to be chemically transformed before they can bind to skin proteins. This transformation occurs on the skin, for example in the presence of air or sunlight, or under the skin after reacting with skin enzymes (‘bio-activation’). Such transformation processes may turn a non- or weakly- allergenic substances into potent skin allergens.”

Maybe we are not sensitive to fragrance/certain chemicals today, but we can easily become tomorrow, due to the cumulative effect of certain ingredients found in the beauty products that sit on our faces for hours every day. And it’s always easier to prevent than to cure, imho. Sorry for the long rant.

(Tried to post the comment with links to the FDA & EU website re: fragrance in cosmetics but the comment was not registered, so I will post without the links, but you can search for them easily).

Silvia Avatar

Great lengthy post I appreciate it and fully agree. I think the FDA could do lot better I worry on products for babies and is too.
I don’t mind a very light scent but prefer not to have any especially in my face. I thought I would enjoy the Physians Formula butter bronzer but I find it heavy. On lips I like mint, vanilla but very extremely there agreeing with some saying to cover a chemical taste. But hate when is heavy. Don’t like heavy perfume neither. It kills me with a headache or nausea won’t ever forget those who worn them. Lol!

Silvia Avatar

Great lengthy post which makes a lot of sense I appreciate it and fully agree. I think the FDA could do lot better in many areas I worry on products for babies, teenagers and us adults too.
I don’t mind a very light scent but prefer not to have any especially on my face. I thought I would enjoy the Physicians Formula butter bronzer but I find the scent rather too heavy scented. On lips I like mint, vanilla but very extremely there agreeing with some saying just to cover a chemical taste instead. But hate when is heavy. Don’t like heavy perfume neither. It kills me with a headache or nausea won’t ever forget those who worn them. Lol!

Nicole D Avatar

Glad you found some helpful information in my rant, Silvia. FDA and Health Canada could do so much more. In the past couple of years however, Health Canada started to improve considerable its legislation re: food and cosmetics and this was mostly due to the Trade Agreement concluded with the European Union (CETA). The EU pushed for stricter regulations in order to accept to buy Canadian products. I saw Health Canada listing for the first time German guidelines and studies with respect, for instance, to heavy metals in toothpaste. I find that the EU legislation is generally stricter with respect to the ingredients and labelling of food and cosmetics. The problem in North America is that is difficult to find truly independent studies with respect to the effects of certain ingredients/components in food, cosmetics and medications. The regulatory bodies rely mostly on the manufacturer’s declarations and studies. The problem is that usually the manufacturers contribute financially to the labs or to the research centers doing the studies; therefore it’s hard to call these studies independent. In Europe, the governments finance directly such studies, in addition of having departments/commissions employing specialists dedicated to assessing the safety of the products/ingredients. The only way for us is to inform ourselves and when in doubt, to avoid and chose safer options.

Karen Avatar

I would prefer no scent at all, although my skin is not sensitive to fragrances. If there must be a scent, I prefer it to be as subtle as possible. However my least favorite scents are food related. Way too often they just come off as “wrong”, and I also don’t understand the attraction of putting food smells on skin. As far as lip products, as long as there is no bad taste I am much more forgiving. If a lip product has a nasty taste I will never use it again.

That said, I remember a night time facial moisturizer I used once that had no added fragrances, just the odor of the ingredients. After trying it a few times I just couldn’t bear to apply it again, It had a smell like, I kid you not, earwax, and it lingered. In that case I probably would have continued to use it if that very offensive smell could have been disguised with a spa or lightly floral scent.

Tammy Avatar

I absolutely despise mint, vanilla, cinnamon, patchouli, and melon scented products. I don’t mind the chocolate scent in Too Faced palettes; I don’t really notice it. It’s a shame I didn’t like the Peach palette, because I loved the smell of it! That one was strong; even after I re-packaged it to send it back my entire living room smelled like that palette.

Rebecca Avatar

I avoid added fragrance in skincare and face products as my skin can be quite sensitive. However I mostly don’t mind it in eye or lip products. I do find adding scent to eye products overall to be a little unnecessary but don’t mind as it doesn’t really cause any problems when on (and I can’t smell my eyelids). I’m picky with scents for lip products as some are just that sickly sweet almost medicine kind of fruity which I just cannot stand, however I absolutely love vanilla scents in lip products.

Alison Avatar

Rant: Sensitizing and worse, there is nothing good about gratuitously adding synthetic fragrance, i.e. phthalates to cosmetics or skin products (or nail products). I have exactly 3 Dior lipsticks and they all are fragranced. And as much as I like the colors, I don’t wear them. Back of drawer, eventually garbage. Lesson learned. I never buy Dior lip products no matter the enthusing about them. And given that their eye shadows have been so uneven, this basically led me eventually to tune out the brand. Same with Guerlain and meteorites– scented, not a whole lot else of interest. And I’m on my way to tuning out the brand. It’s not a conscious decision. There are too many brands, a certain range of colors, and too little time. And with too many products, if one brand adds gratuitous fragrance, I’ll turn away from the product and maybe not come back.

Wednesday Avatar

I much prefer no fragrance with a couple of caveats.

First, some nights when I have overdone the anti-aging skincare, I reach for essential oil face care because 1. it works by far the best to soothe my skin and 2. the scents are sometimes part of the whole experience. I’m very big on May Lindstrom. Her products are heavy in scent, but all natural and downright heavenly.

Second, sometimes the smell of a non-fragranced product nauseates me. FAB cream cleanser. I frequently use it as step two in my double cleansing routine, but end up using an Indie Lee more frequently because the FAB makes me want to vomit. Of course, the nauseating one is more budget friendly. Sigh.

Ginny Avatar

I hate it in makeup and skincare. Always either stings, makes me gag, or (worse) breaks me out. I somewhat tolerate it in small amounts in lip products but not those soapy perfume scents though I am a huge fan of those “lickable” scents/tastes. I’d rather smell that soapy perfume floral aroma in real perfume or a candle, not on my face. I’d also prefer the natural scent of the product, except maybe those disgusting waxes and oils, than the added fragrance.

Lys Avatar

I prefer face products (both skincare and makeup) that are fragrance-free or only lightly scented, such as rose or almond. Not necessarily because I don’t like other/stronger scents, but mostly to avoid my sensitive skin will react to the ingredients. For body and hair products, however, I really like perfume 🙂

Deborah Avatar

I don’t have issues with scented products – oh except coconut – but if I absolutely loved the product I would grin and bear it I suppose. I especially love the subtle rose fragrance added to some Chanel products!

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