Strawberries in the Desert

Story telling from Australia

Sniffing out a fake

Finding beauty products when you can’t tolerate synthetic fragrance is tricky. Any amount of fragrance – however slight – and I get a headache, runny nose, sore eyes and tight lips. When it’s really bad my teeth tingle. I get agitated. It’s not panic exactly, more an oppressive sense of growing alarm that there’s no fresh air.

The desert air of Broken Hill was a joy compared to Sydney.

Sometimes, sitting in my studio in the back yard, I can tell when a neighbour has put the washing on. I can smell that someone’s got an important meeting or a hot date by the quantity of perfume or aftershave they’ve used. I just hope they’re not going to meet someone like me.

Essential oils are 100% pure and natural so they’re fine but synthetic fragrance contains benzene and formaldehyde, both of which cause cancer in humans. The percentage is miniscule, which is why it’s allowed, yet somehow I react to that miniscule percentage.

lavender-894919_1920The problem comes when companies add a trace of essential oil to a base of artificial fragrance then make up a fancy product description and twitter on about the beauty of ‘naturally derived ingredients’ and tout their ‘earth-friendly’ credentials.

I’ll know something’s up at the first whiff.

All of our natural ingredients are sourced from organic farms. Yes, but do they contain any unnatural ingredients as well?

I hesitate to name and shame but there are companies out there claiming to produce 100% natural products that contain fragrance. They call it ‘aroma’ in the hope you won’t notice.

I notice.

Essential oils have served us well since 4,500 BC. The best book I’ve ever found on their extraordinary power is The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy by Salvatore Battaglia.

Sadly, artificial fragrance has taken over. It’s added to nearly everything, from toilet rolls and dishcloths to bin liners, never mind shampoos, conditioners, washing powders and cleaning products.

So if you come across someone in a supermarket discreetly sniffing toilet rolls, please don’t call security.

It’s probably just someone like me.



10 comments on “Sniffing out a fake

  1. Grey Dove
    January 21, 2016

    Dear Deb,
    First, my sympathies on your extreme reactions! I have a relative with similar problems, and react badly to Some artificial fragrances too so I really feel for you!

    I would like to add a couple of thoughts please.

    Most important I am One Hundred Percent with you, I Loathe seeing all natural fragrance, or scented with essential oils on products that are artificially scented. Some times it is so obvious, when (for example) a product is scented with apple fragrance. Sorry people, there is NO Such Thing! If it is a fruit scent that isn’t citrus than it is almost definitely synthetic! (The exception here are lip balms and other products that use Flavours, not scents! I am referring to essential oils only!) The same goes for a lot of flowers who’s volatile oils are simply too delicate to be effectively extracted or used in products. And others are just too expensive. I’d love to work with pure essential oils of rose, jasmine, sandalwood, vanilla and verbena to name a few, but when five to ten mls can cost a hundred dollars plus, and closer to sixty mls are needed to make a two pound batch of cold processed soap I’m sure you can appreciate it is beyond the reach of many soap makers, and the majority of their potential customers.

    I would like to mention though that synthetic fragrances have improved a lot in recent years and many no longer contain the truly terrible ingredients of yesteryear. I only work with very high-quality ones in my bath products. That isn’t to say that someone with an allergy won’t have a reaction (which is why we do always keep fragrance free products in stock and can take orders for products made exclusively with a small selection of essential oils), but for those of us who are lucky enough not to have an allergy and do love some of those fragrances we could never afford in natural form the new fragrance oils do offer a healthy alternative.

    One last item to note, if you want to shop for your own essential oils please be very careful where you buy them. France is the biggest exporter of lavender essential oil, and they annually export hundreds of pounds more essential oil of lavender than they actually produce. Adulterated and fake oils are out there. Chances are if you are buying retail and the price is Really Good there’s a reason for the “deal”. Alternately oils like peppermint, lemon and orange are Extremely affordable and they and many others (including the expensive ones) can be bought in bulk at low prices on soap supply websites. It pains me when I see someone buying a five ml bottle of pure peppermint essential oil for ten or twelve dollars when from a more honest seller (or wholesaler) they would be able to buy a one hundred and twenty ml bottle for that amount of money, or a two hundred and fifty ml bottle for a few dollars more.

    Please forgive my rant!

    Thank you for helping to spread the word, I really hope you continue to do so!
    Grey Dove

    Liked by 1 person

    • debhuntwasinbrokenhill
      January 22, 2016

      Hello Grey Dove thanks for all that fantastic information, this community of bloggers is such a generous place, and so helpful. It always makes me laugh when I see products ‘scented’ with banana for example. As you say, it’s simply not possible to extract an essential oil from bananas! As for buying essential oils I always try to buy from place like the Australian College of Aromatherapy, or at least follow links from such websites so you know you are buying professional grade oils. I wish I’d bought more rose oil when I was in Morocco a few years ago, it was so much cheaper there 🙂


      • Grey Dove
        January 22, 2016

        Dear Deb,
        Thank you, glad you didn’t mind my rant!

        I forget about gems like banana, definitely an excellent example. The ones in floral that are most likely to get me going are gardenia, honeysuckle and frangipani/plumeria. There are others dear knows but those are so fake!

        The reputable sellers of oils for aromatherapy definitely have a high quality product. Some of those can even be used in food (although most of them aren’t allowed to say as much) and a candy made with orange or peppermint essential oil is very special (not to mention cakes and cookies!). But most well established soap making suppliers do carry good high-quality essential oil, if you ever need or want a larger bottle. I know of some in Australia (though not off the top of my head) and there are several in the States, Canada and the UK. Having a larger quantity can feel incredibly luxurious. Most of those sites also carry hydrosols or distillate waters (also called floral water, like rose water) which is another Wonderful way to get a light and relatively inexpensive fragrance. The “water” is the residue of the distillation of the essential oil so it only has the pure essence of the plant and water. Its a natural by product of the extraction process. Lavender, rose, chamomile and orange blossom are all fairly common and are terrific just as is. They can be used for everything from facial toners to room sprays, and once you start mixing them with other things (oatmeal or clay for a fabulous facial mask for example) the list just goes on and on.

        Sorry, pet topics, … in case you didn’t guess.

        I envy you that buying opportunity in Morocco, that must have been wonderful!

        Yours sincerely,
        Grey Dove

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Eliza Waters
    January 22, 2016

    Chemicals are making us sick and most of us don’t even know it. There are roughly 85,000 chemicals in use today, most have barely been tested and none in combination with others. Scary prospect. Organic produce and natural cleaners that our grandmothers used is what we need to move back towards. And getting a few good houseplants to clean the air as I mentioned in my recent post. ;-D


  3. solidgoldcreativity
    January 22, 2016

    I sympathise, Deb. I have adverse reactions too. I once had to give up a friendship because she wore Red Door and I couldn’t bring myself to tell her my issue. A male friend described RD as the cat has missed the litter tray 🙂 Many washing powders make me gag and, yes, what’s with toilet paper smell? Detest it. But the ultimate in my pantheon of crimes against the soul is the killer, otherwise known as LYNX!!! And poor misguided blokes are spraying themselves with it!!!


    • debhuntwasinbrokenhill
      January 22, 2016

      Mine started when a French flatmate wore excessive perfume, I couldn’t understand why I was so irritable whenever she was around. It must have been the perfume. Or maybe not!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. candidkay
    January 28, 2016

    I am not as sensitive as you in that way but I can tell you when I was pregnant, I became a bloodhound. I could smell things from seeming miles away! I can only imagine what it must be like for you . . .


  5. debhuntwasinbrokenhill
    January 28, 2016

    Maybe I should be grateful I never had children! I can smell aftershave through a locked door.


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This entry was posted on January 21, 2016 by and tagged , , , , , .

I'm a writer based in Australia with a passion for gardening, remote places and people with a story to tell.

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