From moisturizers to serums to sun care, fragrance is added to all kinds of skin care products to make them more pleasurable to apply. But research shows that a growing number of consumers are opting for fragrance-free skin care alternatives, and it's a trend that seems to be gaining traction. Here's a look at some common myths and questions on the topic of fragrance.

What Is Fragrance: Natural vs. Synthetic

So, exactly what is fragrance in skin care products? The answer is fairly straightforward: it's any ingredient or combination of ingredients added to a product to make it smell a certain way. It could be to cover up an unpleasant or chemical-like smell, or it might simply be there to add a pleasant aroma to an odorless substance.

If you've wondered why fragrance is bad, your assumption may be the result of marketing efforts over the years. Fragrances can be made in two ways: either with chemicals or with natural ingredients. Synthetic fragrances have garnered a bad reputation in the past for containing hidden toxins, such as parabens and phthalates. Although fragrances today aren't generally harmful, some people—especially those with sensitive skin—might like to avoid them. Many skin care products contain natural fragrances like rose and lavender. These are usually created with a mixture of natural-origin ingredients and essential oils.

Are Natural Fragrances Better for Sensitive Skin?

No matter the source, some fragrances may contain allergens. So, both natural and synthetic fragrances may cause irritation to very sensitive skin types. If you have a more resilient skin type, however, you may not experience any irritation at all and, in fact, may benefit from the therapeutic element that fragrance brings to a product—whether natural or synthetic.

Who Should Use Fragrance-Free Skin Care Products?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, fragrance is one of the most common causes of allergic contact dermatitis, and 1 percent of the general population suffers from fragrance allergies. Fragrance-free skin care, such as the gentle formulations available in EltaMD products, is recommended if you have a skin condition, such as dermatitis or eczema, or very reactive and allergy-prone skin. If you're unsure, do a patch test before committing to a new product, and consult a Dermatologist for advice. You may also simply prefer a fragrance-free product, even if you don't have an allergy.

Does Fragrance Do Anything Else?

Fragrance doesn't directly benefit the skin, but it can enhance the experience and bring a luxurious element to your regime. Rose and lavender, for example, can be very relaxing, whereas a citrus scent in a vitamin C product can create a feeling of invigorating freshness. Fragrance can also evoke positive emotions and happy memories, especially if you've used a product during a special time in your life, such as a honeymoon or the arrival of a new baby.

Adding Fragrance-Free Skin Care to Your Routine

Whether you're already a fan of fragrance-free skin care or you want to try it for the first time, EltaMD has plenty of options—from cleansers to moisturizers—that soothe skin and minimize the risk of irritation. If you're looking to stay protected from the sun, EltaMD also has a high-quality range of broad-spectrum sunscreens.

Deciding What's Right for Your Skin Type

Put simply, if you suffer from skin sensitivity and dryness, switching to a fragrance-free skin care regime may help to improve your complexion and leave you feeling more comfortable. However, fragrance­—whether natural or synthetic—is usually a safe addition to skin care products and may help to bring a more luxurious feel to your routine.


  • Catherine Hufton

    Catherine Hufton is a UK-based freelance journalist and writer who has worked for some of fashion's most iconic companies and written for the world's best known magazines and newspapers. Beginning her career at Net-a-Porter and Matches Fashion over 12 years ago, she has created content for L'Oréal, Elle, Harper's Bazaar, The Telegraph and more.

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