According to the Environmental Working Group, the average fragrance has 14 chemicals that are not featured on the label. Rather than listing out the specific chemicals, companies can simply include “fragrance” as an ingredient, thanks to an FDA loophole that makes it legal.
It’s tough to know exactly which chemicals are hidden in each formula, but any scented product likely includes phthalates. The petroleum-based chemical keeps all the elements in a perfume evenly distributed, but the troubling concern is that one in particular, diethyl phthalate, has been shown to disrupt certain hormones.
Other studies have linked phthalates to liver and breast cancer. It’s unclear how much is too much, but rubbing perfume onto skin daily allows these chemicals to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Other troubling chemicals include octoxynols and nonoxynols. These can also result in hormonal problems. In addition to perfumes, these chemicals can be found in facial cleansers, aftershave, astringents, hair color, and acne treatment.
The European Union plus several countries, including Canada and Japan, have banned phthalates, yet the chemical remains legal in the U.S.