Fragrance In Skincare - Cause For Concern or A Non-Issue?

An olfactory conundrum.

There has been a shift away from fragrance in skincare with the rise of an almost vitriolic level of contempt levelled at it. This contempt may stem from consumers cottoning on to products overstuffed with fragrance and synthetics to a near comical level. Unfortunately, these products have become a sort of legend of their own and have come to represent the whole, taking up a permeant residence in the pantheon as a cautionary tale to any sensitive skin-haver to stay tf away from fragrance. Aside from these outliers though, and they are outliers, is this histrionic song and dance about fragrance in skincare necessary?

For most of us, a fragrance that features in a skincare product of any repute is not a cause for alarm. A fragrances inclusion is also surprisingly not of any cosmetic benefit. So, why is it in there in the first place?

WHY IS FRAGRANCE IN SKINCARE?

A fragrances inclusion in a formulation is usually to do with masking the scent of other ingredients or to make the experience of application a pleasurable one, or some combination of the two. In any case, a developer’s intent is generally not to cause distress and we must assume that there was the best of intentions when formulating. We certainly can’t imagine a team of cackling scientists creating a super weapon designed to cause mass inflammation masked as an anti-ageing day and night serum. A fragrance in skincare becomes a problem, however, when applying to sensitive skin prone to irritation.

WHY YOU MAY WANT TO STEER CLEAR OF FRAGRANCE

When building out our skincare routine, we should be aiming for products with actives that tackle our myriad skincare needs while omitting those that don’t serve us. The same is true of other skin-condition triggers, like a fragrance. If you know that you have a sensitive complexion prone to outbreaks, suffer from rosacea or eczema or are one inhalation away from a fragrance induced headache it would behove you to steer clear of fragrances in your skincare. If none of this applies to you, chances are you’ll be totally fine.

IS FRAGRANCE-FREE BETTER?

Imagine a moisturiser with unapparelled anti-ageing properties, only the scent was unpleasant, and application was displeasurable. Now imagine that same moisturiser only the scent was pleasant, and application brought back fond memories of childhood. Given the choice between the two, nine times out of ten you would go for the pleasant-smelling formulation over the grody alternate, opting for the former only in the case that it may exacerbate a skin condition. We’ve already discussed that fragrance serves no cosmetic benefit, so an uplift in your skins condition doesn’t come into the decision-making process at all. It all comes down to the experience of application and should inform your decision-making process in a real world setting too.

Fragrance in skincare has received a less than favourable wrap in recent years due to a few bad apples tarnishing its reputation. While of no apparent cosmetic benefit, a fragrances use is more in the realm of evocation, namely in a creating a positive application experience. While there is certainly cause to give heed to a products ingredient listing for those with sensitive skin and existing skin conditions, on the whole a fragrance does no more harm than good. It's merely there for a good time.


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