The Difference Between “Fragrance-free” And “Unscented” Beauty Products


Your favourite beauty products will almost always mention the terms “fragrance free” and “unscented” in their packaging. Although these terms seem similar in meaning, there is a huge difference in their technical aspects. Understanding these differences is crucial for choosing the right product for your skin. Most parabens and oils can be harmful if you do not ascertain what lies behind these apparent looking but actually misleading fancy terms.

Fragrance Free – What is it?

A fragrance free product does not contain an ingredient, the utilization of which is to impart smell. However, it does not mean that an essential item with smell would be absent as an ingredient. It implies that if an ingredient’s job is to act as something else, other than scent, then the product would still be labelled “Fragrance Free” even if that ingredient is scented.

The Difference Between “Fragrance-free” And “Unscented” Beauty Products

Unscented – What is it?

Products labelled “unscented”, on the other hand, have an extra ingredient, usually a chemical, added in to neutralise the smell. This is done to hide the off-putting smells of some of the ingredients, but these chemicals may have adverse effects on the skin. Another risk that this label may include that it can mask a scented ingredient which you may be allergic to, like lavender or citrus.

The Difference Between “Fragrance-free” And “Unscented” Beauty Products

Fragrance is added in a beauty product to enhance its sensory and psychological appeal in general. Added fragrance is of three kinds, that is, “essential oils”, “synthetic fragrances” and “natural fragrances”. While smart consumers tend to choose natural products all of these have possibilities to cause allergic reactions or respiratory problems if not looked for wisely. With mostly unchanged laws and conduct since the Food, Drug and Cosmetic act (1938) companies are not required to disclose the fragrance ingredients, therefore, you should keenly look out for following words to steer clear from added scent instead of confusing “unscented” with “fragrance free”.

 

  • Camphor
  • Dyes
  • Parfum
  • Citral 
  • Linalool
  • Acetone
  • Acetyl Cedrene
  • Anisyl Alcohol
  • Phthalates
  • Harsh preservatives
  • Menthol
  • 1,4-dichlorobenzen

 

(Extract from the list by Environmental Working Group (EWG) listing problematic and toxic ingredients used for fragrance.)

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