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Fragrance and Essential Oils in Skincare: Are they Safe?


Let’s face it: skincare is more than good hygiene or attempts to stop the effects of time — it’s self-care. Indulging your skin in a deliciously scented product often feels like a key element of the self-care experience. You don’t just want a moisturizer, you want a lavender-scented moisturizer that will help you destress and make people around you notice how wonderful you smell.

In recent years, however, there has been much debate surrounding the safety of fragrance and essential oils in skincare. Some say that both fragrance and essential oils should be avoided in skincare, while others say that the matter may not be entirely so black and white.

Certainly, skincare has never been a one-size-fits-all approach. Finding what works or doesn’t work for your skin is a continuous process of exploration; fragrance may irritate one person’s skin while not affecting another person’s at all. 

It’s a complicated issue: what’s the difference between fragrance and essential oils? Are essential oils safe for skincare? Which types of essential oils should be avoided, and which are okay?

Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about fragrance and essential oils in skincare so that you can make the most informed decision for your skin. 

Fragrance: the secret ingredient

The word “fragrance” or “parfum” on an ingredient list usually refers to a complex mixture of chemicals creating the scents you love. 

Every ingredient that goes into the preparation of a skincare product must be listed on the ingredient label. Although many of these ingredients have names so complex they are only decipherable to scientists, the ingredients are standardized by the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI). This means that someone in France, Canada, or Mexico can look at the label and see the same spelling. 

There is one ingredient that is an exception: fragrance. 

Fragrance is the only ingredient that doesn’t have to say what it really is. Why is this? In the 1960s, perfume brands were worried about people stealing their unique blends if they had to list all the ingredients. As a result, the Fair Packaging and Labelling Act of 1967 was created, saying that companies didn’t have to list all the ingredients but could just say “perfume” instead. This allowed your favorite brands and perfumes like Chanel No.5 to protect its signature scent.

Some people use the fact that they can’t know exactly what is in the fragrance as a reason to avoid it. However, many of the other chemicals or active ingredients in skincare possess strong scents which may make you not want to use them at all. If you can’t stand the scent of your fragrance-free skincare, is it any good?

That choice is yours.

Is fragrance bad for sensitive skin?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, fragrances are considered the leading cause of allergic reactions on the skin, which leads to over 5.7 million physician visits every year. 

However, as mentioned before not all skin types are the same. People who should avoid fragrance in skincare are those with inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, acne, or rosacea. The more sensitive your skin is, the more likely you are to have a reaction to fragrance in a product. The degree of irritation can depend on the type of fragrance and your specific skin type. 

Face skin vs. body skin

Not all skin is created equal. The skin on your face is much thinner than anywhere else on your body, which is why it is most sensitive and susceptible to signs of aging. It also means that you may need to be more careful about what you put on your face than the rest of your body. 

Unless you have sensitive skin on your body, it is not likely that scented lotions or moisturizers will affect the skin on your arms and legs. 

If you enjoy fragrance in your skincare products…

If having delicious, heavenly smelling skincare is part of the experience for you, you’ll love the range of scents you can find at Goya Naturals. From tropical coconut scents to floral rose and lavender, we help keep your skin healthy and smelling great.

Shop all Goya Naturals products. 

What makes essential oils different than fragrance?

Essential oils are the natural oils from the plant obtained through distillation. They can come from plants, flowers, bark, and resins, and they capture the “essence” or characteristic fragrance of that plant. 

Here’s where it gets interesting: although fragrance is exempt from labelling, essential oils are not. If a product is created with essential oils rather than fragrance, they must list every ingredient, and there are federal dermal limits for the amount allowed in the formula. When you buy a product with essential oils, there are no hidden or surprise ingredients — you can find everything you need to know listed in plain language on the label. 

The different types of essential oils

Even within the realm of essential oils, there are many different qualities and types. Synthetic essential oils use synthetically reproduced chemicals to recreate some of the properties found in nature. They are a cheap way of imitating the aroma of a plant and often do not even include trace compounds of the plant itself. Some cheap synthetic essential oils have even been found to contain lead and other toxins.

Natural essential oils, on the other hand, are derived from a real plant. At Goya Naturals, we use only pure, traceable, natural essential oils in our products. We also make sure to use our essential oils in the proper dilutions so that your skincare has a beautiful scent but doesn’t have any harmful effects. 

What about citrus essential oils?

There are, however, some essential oils that should be avoided. Citrus essential oils have gained popularity in DIY skincare routines in recent years because they are thought to brighten skin and fade dark marks. However, citrus oils are actually so acidic they often irritate the skin instead. What’s worse, they can cause photoallergic reactions, meaning they react with the sun to cause phototoxic burns.

This is why at Goya Naturals, we don’t use any citrus essential oils in our products and only use those that benefit your skin’s health, such as lavender or mint. 

Lavender: Can help calm stress, improve sleep, and support a positive mood. (Try Goya Naturals Whipped Body Butter or waste-free Lotion Stick in lavender.)

Mint: Can help clear dead skin cells and offer supple hydration. (Try Goya Naturals Sweet Mint Lip Balm.)

If you prefer skincare without fragrance…

If your skin is reactive to fragrance and you prefer to use skincare that only uses essential oils, Goya Naturals has an extensive range of products for you to choose from. Our Purity Collection is made for people with sensitive skin and only features products made with pure, traceable essential oils, so that you can feel confident you are choosing the safest option for your skin. 

Shop the Purity Collection now.

Choose your skincare wisely.

Like many things in the world of skincare, there are pros and cons to essential oils and fragrance. However, having healthy, glowing skin doesn’t mean you can’t smell nice. Making informed, wise decisions about the essential oils that are used in your skincare can help you get the most out of your skincare products. 

At Goya Naturals, we are committed to continuing our learning to provide you with the best-smelling and safest products for your skin. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out, and we would be happy to chat!

For more information on all Goya Naturals products, follow us on Instagram! (@goyanaturals

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