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Toxic Chemicals in Fragrance graphicThe word “fragrance” (aka “parfum”) is used as an umbrella term for dozens of different ingredients that make up that fragrance. Companies are legally allowed to keep individual fragrance ingredients secret because they’re deemed “confidential business information,” or what’s also known as a “trade secret.”

Unfortunately, many common fragrance ingredients can be toxic to human health. For example, phthalates have been linked to reproductive and developmental harm, and synthetic musks like galaxolide and tonalide are potential endocrine disruptors that don’t break down in the environment, and studies show they’re present in blood and breast milk. The International Fragrance Association (IFRA), which represents the world’s fragrance houses, has a published list of fragrance ingredients in use; on that list are chemicals like styrene (linked to cancer in the National Toxicology Program’s 13th Report on Carcinogens), resorcinol (linked to endocrine disruption on the EU’s Endocrine Disruption Priority List), and methylparaben and ethylparaben (listed on Washington State’s Chemicals of High Concern to Children List) [Women’s Voices for the Earth report].

In addition to chemicals linked to human health harm, some common fragrance ingredients are allergens. While not everyone reacts to allergens, people who are sensitive to them have a right to know if they’re used in products so they can avoid them.


We believe in full ingredient disclosure for products. We believe shoppers have a right to know everything that’s in a product. We believe all items – whether fragrance, scent, or sub-ingredients – should be listed on the label so that consumers can make healthy choices for themselves. We believe that total and complete disclosure should be the new norm for safe and healthy products.

Our goal is to move brands toward 100% ingredient transparency on labels so that everyone who uses MADE SAFE™ certified products has access to ingredient information.

We recommend this because we know that companies making products from safe ingredients have nothing to hide. Research shows that ingredient information is increasingly important to consumers, and fosters consumer trust in brands. We want people to fully trust the certified products from the brands we work with.

We understand that some companies rely on confidential business information and trade secrets for protection. However, we also know that many companies, both large and small, have been fully disclosing ingredients for years without damage to their profits. We believe that full transparency can be accomplished without harm to a company’s bottom line—in fact, full transparency will increase consumer trust and confidence to increase profits.

Essential Oils

MADE SAFE permits the use of essential oil ingredients for scent, after we have vetted them (see our process). Essential oils are complex ingredients made up of many naturally occurring subcomponents. Made Safe will generally permit sub-ingredients of essential oils which are naturally occurring as part of that larger ingredient. We do this even though there can be subcomponents of any ingredient that we may not permit as a stand-alone ingredient. One example of this is D-Limonene. When it’s a subingredient of an essential oil it may be contained in a product, but as a stand-alone additive, we would not permit it. Each essential oil must go through our rigorous evaluation process in order to determine whether or not that ingredient passes. One single problematic ingredient means an entire product does not pass our certification.

Synthetic vs. Natural Fragrance

At Made Safe we are not against synthetic fragrance options providing they can pass our screen and meet our standards. At this point, we haven’t found a synthetic fragrance ingredient that can pass.

Tips for Safer Shopping

  • Avoid products that just list “fragrance” on the label, and look instead for ones that list ALL ingredients.
  • Look for fragrance sourced from essential oils.
  • Try to reduce your use of fragranced products so you can lessen your exposure to the 10-100 chemicals that make up a single fragrance.
  • If you’re trying to avoid fragrance altogether, look for “fragrance-free” as opposed to “unscented,” which actually means that there are chemicals in that product to mask the scent.
  • Shop our Fragrance-Free area where all products are MADE SAFE certified and don’t contain any fragrance ingredients.