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Dirty Dozen Exploration: Parfum

Dirty Dozen Exploration: Parfum

What does the word “parfum” mean? Parfum is a placeholder word for a wide variety of possible chemicals. It is also known as aroma or fragrance. Fragrance recipes are considered trade secrets. Manufacturers are not required to disclose fragrance chemicals in the list of ingredients. Most companies will not list out the specific chemicals and simply put the label “parfum”. Fragrance is not only used in perfumes. It’s also in a majority of cosmetic products, laundry detergents, and cleaning products. Learn more in the link below. 

The chemicals in parfum can have disruptive effects on various body systems, including hormonal and endocrine functions in women. 

“The word "fragrance" or "parfum" on the product label represents an undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients used as fragrance dispersants such as diethyl phthalate. Fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system.” (David Suzuki Foundation). 

Musks are particularly concerning, as well. “Several musk compounds are persistent in the environment and build up (bioaccumulate) in the fatty tissue of aquatic organisms. Measurable levels of synthetic musks are found in fish in the Great Lakes and the levels in sediment are increasing.” (David Suzuki Foundation).

These chemicals get flushed down toilets and drains. They find their way into natural water systems. At first it could seem like the small amounts of chemicals would not make a difference. However, the sheer amount of chemicals we use and the fact that we use them daily cause the small amounts to gradually add up. This is called bioaccumulation. These chemicals cycle through the ecosystem, showing up in birds, fish, plants, and soil. 

To limit this, we can spend our money with companies that do not engage in these harmful practices. We can clean our routine and our beauty lifestyle, and feel good knowing that we are contributing to the purity of our own bodies and Mother Earth at the same time. 

What can you do to avoid exposure to parfum chemicals?

  • Look for “fragrance free labels”
  • Stick to brands that use essential oils as fragrance 
  • Switch out perfume for natural and clean products 
  • Read labels 
  • Use the EWG database to look up chemicals of concern

We want you to be safe and happy with your product choices! It’s possible to smell amazing without sketchy chamicals.


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