Fragrance is perhaps the most hotly debated ingredient in skincare. Loved by many and hated in equal part, it can be a total dealbreaker for some. But is fragrance all bad?
Well, that all depends on your skin.
For some, fragrance can really mess with their skin. It can sensitise it, causing irritation and break outs. However, this isn’t the case for everyone. Some people can use fragrance with absolutely no problem at all. Depending on the scent and how strong it is, it can add an extra layer of luxury to a product and enhance the user experience. Sometimes unscented products can be a little underwhelming in that respect, but ultimately it comes down to personal preference.
The truth is that sometimes skincare ingredients don’t always smell the best and fragrance is often used used to mask it. However, there is a lack of transparency when fragrance is listed in the ingredients list. The single ingredient ‘Fragrance’ on the INCI list can be any number of fragranced ingredients all hiding under the one name, which makes it really hard to work out exactly what you’re intolerant to if it’s not listed in its entirety.
The tricky thing is, your skin can change how it feels about fragrance almost overnight (like in my case), though it is pretty uncommon. Where you were using fragranced products with no problems one day, you now have a cluster of breakouts.
So is fragrance-free the answer? Well… not really. Fragrance-free falls into the same category as ‘clean’ and ‘natural’ – it’s an unregulated term. Also, there may still be some sort of natural fragrance (essential oils or plant extracts) or scent masking chemicals added to minimise the bad, naturally occurring smell of the active ingredients. As we all know, essential oils are also one of the worst offenders when it comes to skin irritation, so going for natural fragrance often isn’t any better for the skin than synthetic.
Your stance on fragrance will be very personal to you and how your skin reacts to it.
There is no blanket right or wrong way to think about fragrance. Personally, I really enjoy it but my skin can’t tolerate it anymore, and that’s totally fine. I would prefer a small amount of fragrance because products that have no scent are really underwhelming from a self care point of view for me, but I actively avoid fragrance and essential oils to avoid break outs. If you find a fragranced product doesn’t work for you, that’s totally fine, you can just stop using it – and it’s as simple as that ladies and gents.
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