November 30, 2021
From Vegan Life

Perfume is the next frontier in vegan and ethical beauty. Currently, the safety of fragrance chemicals is not determined by any governmental agency globally in any comprehensive fashion. Instead the fragrance industry has been trusted to self-regulate, and to establish its own safety guidelines. Their research arm is a biased inside organisation that works to benefit their bottom line, and we, the environment and animals are suffering. The fragrance industry has been getting away with selling toxic petrochemicals to us since the 1800s.

Ancient civilisations harnessed natural botanicals for their fragrance for millennia. It remained this way until the Industrial Revolution. As the middle classes emerged the shopping dynamic shifted, and mass consumption was introduced. The artisanship of perfumery was taken over by the chemical industry. Scientists found a way to replicate natural scent for a fraction of the cost by substituting naturals with synthetics.

Why does this matter?

2001 study by the Environmental Protection Agency and The European Commission on Endocrine Disruption notes that 95 per cent of chemicals used in synthetic fragrances are derived from petroleum and linked to cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders, and hormone disruption. Phthalates (used to improve sillage), can cause early puberty in girls and reduced sperm count in men. They are listed as a Priority and Toxic Pollutant under the U.S. Clean Water Act, based on evidence that they can be toxic to wildlife and the environment.

Since the 1800s, all perfumes from Chanel and Tom Ford to Britney Spears and Beyonce, are chemically closer to your toilet bowl cleaner than to botanicals. Not only are they harming our health and the health of our pets, but they are also destroying the environment and killing wildlife.

Things To Look Out For

  1. Fragrance/Parfum. Look at the ingredients of your favourite perfume, cologne, shampoo, or anything containing ‘fragrance’. You are very likely to see this nebulous ingredient. This singular word is a fragrance loophole hiding hundreds of toxic synthetics. Even if the hidden ingredients are vegan from source to shelf, this loophole means that once the product is used, we are still causing harm. Synthetics bio-accumulate and do not break down in the environment. Once we casually rinse off these products, they are causing long-term damage to aquatic wildlife downstream by interfering with the animals’ natural ability to eliminate toxins from their system.
  1. Latin ingredients. Legally, if a brand is using natural ingredients, they need to list it using what’s called the INCI name (its botanical name) e.g., Pelargonium graveolens (geranium). The natural ingredient will be written in Latin followed by its English name in brackets. If you see this, you’re getting natural ingredients. But if it sounds and reads like a chemistry class, it is synthetic.