Why the world is going fragrance free

Fragrance within skincare and beauty products is incredibly common and used to be something that only people with sensitive skin would avoid. Yet, over the recent few years there has been an evident consumer shift when it comes to buying new skincare and makeup products that do not contain these fragrant chemicals, but why? 


Firstly, it is worth noting why companies decided to include fragrance in their beauty products in the first place.  The fact of the matter is that consumers used to indulge in fragranced products and believed it to be a more luxurious product if a Chanel moisturiser had the iconic No.5 scent, in lieu of nothing.  Similarly, cheaper brands would include relaxing or uplifting scents in order to capitalise from the ‘self-care’ movement and make consumers feel as though they can recreate a spa experience at home, by breathing in calming scents that could be associated with such an experience.  It can also affect and boost your mood.  For years consumers adored this factor and would often buy and recommend products largely based on the scent, so what changed?


Part of the ‘fragrance-free’ movement was driven by skincare experts sharing the truth about skincare products.  Most notably is perhaps Hyram on Youtube, who recommended every product imaginable from sunscreen to the cleanser.  The biggest takeaway from his videos about ingredient lists and what actually makes skincare products effective was that fragrance is bad!  With over 4.5 million subscribers accumulated based solely on skincare product recommendations, it is clear that his influence has extended wide.  He was able to accessibly teach people what skincare is actually meant to do based on certain ingredients – something most people are never taught. 


The rising trend of fragrance free was also made possible by the affordable brand ‘The Ordinary’.  By marketing their serums and moisturisers often below £10, it has become easier than ever to shift to ingredients that do not irritate your skin.  Other fragrance free skincare brands that do not break the bank that are worth noting are:

  • Cetaphil 
  • CeraVe 
  • First Aid Beauty
  • Paula’s Choice


Why fragrance in skincare products is actually bad:

– People sometimes think they simply suffer from redness or acne, when it could actually be a subtle allergic reaction to fragrance.

– Fragrances are one of the leading causes of allergic contact dermatitis (ACD).

The American Academy of Dermatology reported fragrances to be the leading cause of allergic reactions to skin.

– Fragrance, parfum, and essential oils have no functional purpose in skincare products and provide absolutely no benefit to your skin. 

– The long-term effects of fragrance can also be bad, as they can begin to irritate your skin from first-use, if this continues for years then it can result in severe skin reactions and long-term scarring from acne.


Spotting fragrance in products can be difficult because there are legal loopholes that brands can go through, for example: a product can state that it is fragrant free, but then you get home, open it and you’re bombarded with a jungle of scents.  This is because, although it can be free from ‘fragrance’, ‘perfume’, or ‘parfum’ (these are all the same thing) it could still contain essential oils – which technically does not count legally as a ‘fragrant’ but it does do the exact same thing (nothing beneficial) so this should still be avoided.


Whilst many huge skincare brands use copious amounts of fragrance for no real reason, hopefully this consumer shift that we’ve witnessed over the recent years will motivate and embolden brands to take the leap into fragrance-free so we can all feel confident in the products we apply every day. 

Featured image: by Wikimedia Commons with license 

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