A Newbie’s Quick Guide to a Life Without Fragrance

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Fragrance ingredients are commonly used in beauty, and personal care products such as soaps, shampoos, conditioners, hair sprays, lotions, soaps, candles, laundry detergent, and cleaning products – the list goes on. And every day we are exposed to a shocking number of unlabeled, unregulated fragrance chemicals without our knowledge.

Indeed, more than 4,000 chemicals are currently used to scent products, but because fragrance formulations are considered a “trade secret”, U.S. regulations don’t require manufacturers to disclose ingredients. So instead, one word, fragrance, may simply be listed on the label.

Don’t distress, we’re here to help you through our quick guide to a life without fragrance. We’ll explain exactly what fragrance-free means and help you get started. Be sure to read all of our articles so you can start your fragrance-free life. But first…

Why are fragrances bad for you?

According to scientific literature and studies, a wide range of chemicals found in personal care, beauty products, and cleaning products have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and other adverse health effects. Allergies to fragrance are widespread, and they can range from a reaction to the scent of a flower or soap to an allergic reaction to something you put on your skin. In addition, several studies have linked fragranced product exposure with a range of health issues, including:

  • Migraine headaches
  • Skin problems like dermatitis (red, itchy, irritation of the skin)
  • Rashes and hives
  • Asthma attacks
  • Respiratory difficulties (coughing and shortness of breath)
  • Mucosal symptoms (such as congestion and watery eyes)

Allergies develop over time. If you keep getting exposed, again and again, you can develop a fragrance allergy, and one day you may find yourself sneezing when applying your favorite scent, or your skin may react strongly to a product from your regimen.

However, trying to avoid fragrance chemicals is one of the most difficult challenges for modern consumers. We live in a scented world where many everyday products are heavily scented. Even unscented products may contain fragrance chemicals to mask the odor of other chemicals that are deemed unpleasant.

What does fragrance-free mean?

Fragrance-free means that no artificial aromas are added to mask the natural scent of other ingredients in a product. However, products can still contain perfume even if there is no discernible scent in the final product. For instance, some products labeled “unscented” may contain fragrance ingredients to mask the odor of other chemicals without giving the product a noticeable scent.

Some manufacturers label their products “natural”, and instead of containing fragrance, they may contain “essential oils” or “natural scents”, which people with sensitive skin may find difficult to tolerate. The fact is that just because a product is labeled as organic or natural doesn’t mean it won’t irritate or cause an allergic reaction.

Living a fragrance-free life

The health effects of fragrance can be severe, and consumer demand is increasing for fragrance-free products. But, unfortunately, it can be difficult to find completely fragrance-free products – particularly in the US market.

So, if you want to avoid fragrance, what should you do? The best treatment for perfume allergy is avoidance; however, it is difficult to avoid all fragrances. Reduce your risk of allergic reactions by opting for products labeled as fragrance-free, and don’t be misled by the term “unscented“.

Follow our website for tips on how to live a fragrance-free life.

Fragrance-free product review

One of our biggest challenges has been to find products that are truly fragrance-free and not merely unscented or using natural fragrances (that, too, are problematic).

That’s why we search for and review the best fragrance-free products (and the worst). Look for our fragrance-free product recommendations in categories such as:

If there is any product or product category you would like for us to review, submit a comment below.

Read more about perfume and living fragrance-free

Steinemann (2017), Health and societal effects from exposure to fragranced consumer products

U.S.Food and Drug Administration, Fragrances in Cosmetics

Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (2020), Right to Know: Exposing toxic fragrance chemicals in beauty,
personal care and cleaning products.


At withoutfragrance.com, we have extensive experience researching, reviewing, and writing about fragrance-free products within beauty, personal care, and household products. Our experience is based on years of working with fragrance-free products and with some of the best experts in the field, including dermatologist and leading researchers.

We spend countless hours searching for fragrance-free products, and we are committed to finding the best fragrance-free products on the market. By reading our advice, guides, and product reviews, we hope you will save time and be able to live better fragrance-free.

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  1. I just recieved my amazon order listed as
    hand lotion. Its reeking of Overpowering perfume!! And chemicals. Deceitful!! Its called love beauty and planet. Ugh.

  2. Hi
    I was diagnosed with an allergy to salicylaldehyde and anisyl alcohol .
    This happened after a bleach burn
    I now have lots of skin eye and other issues .
    Please do you know of a hand gel that is good please , has mine has been discontinued and also a nail polish remover .
    I currently use the kind and free nail polish .
    Thank you

    • Hi Gill,

      We’re sorry to hear about your allergy to salicylaldehyde and anisyl alcohol. We are not aware of hand gels suited for your allergy. We have tested fragrance-free hand gels, but not for allergy to salicylaldehyde and anisyl alcohol.

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