Saturday, March 13, 2010

Smelling Pretty without Inhaling Plasticizers

Scents. We are all drawn to smells, adore them, think about them, describe them (cloying, fresh, intoxicating). To the point that the perfume-cologne industry is a billion dollar business. I used to love choosing what I was going to smell like that day, most scents coming from the Body Shop, Satsuma was my fav.

Our sense of smell is quite closely tied to memory, for obvious evolutionary reasons (bad smell=poison etc). The cerebral space scent is processed has for a neighbour our memory area. Throw in some hormonal effects released when we have pleasant memories linked to pleasant smells and we are good to go! It is not a stretch that aromatherapy actually works from a brain physiological perspective.

Inhaling that luscious scent doesn't just affect your brain... each inhale brings in hundreds of toxic airborne chemicals for your body to process via lungs, nasal and air passages and soaking through your skin. There's a reason so many public spaces are 'no scent' zones now (at least in Canada), chemical sensitivities apply to perfumes for a reason. On average there are 800 chemicals per bottle of store bought 'eau'. 

Such chemicals as synthetic musk (environmental and food chain contaminant and endocrine disruptor) and phthalates (hormone disruptors) are a few that we inhale with each spray. The reason store bought smells last so long? Plasticizers, aka phthalates, or that plastic ingredient that has been banned from baby bottles and children's toys.

Some companies have tried to reduce this nasty chemical, with varied success. Really it seems hit or miss whether to trust these companies- some passing the test and others like Aubrey's Organics and Aveda being caught claiming their perfumes were phthalate-free when in reality they tested high in levels (Ecoholic).

Not only our own personal health, but perfumes and colognes have also been blamed for adding to the environmental air pollution. Recently California fined Axe Body Spray for 1 million dollars for excessive air pollution. California has extremely tight Volatile organic compound laws for air quality and in February 2010, they found that Unilever (owning company) sold, supplied and offered 2.8 million cans of spray that failed to meet the state's clean air standard for aerosol (Environmental News).

So what is a scent loving EcoYogi-ni to do?

Honestly, working in the past four years in scent-free environments (clinics and hospitals) I've gotten used to not wearing perfume. Now when I smell my old perfumes the scent of CHEMICAL leaps out. Ugh, can't believe I smelled so fake!

One thing I have started doing is using essential oils, straight onto my wrist. Clary Sage has been extremely helpful in keeping my sense of balance and equilibrium during my increasingly hormonal 'moon time'. I also love clove and cacao extract. 

With essential oils you need to be extremely careful, in case you have sensitivities. Also, if you are 'with family' (en famille like we'd say in Acadian), essential oils may not be for you. Yancy at 5 Seeds is much more educated in the area of essential oils, for more resources and information please read her thoughts and recommendations.

Essential oils never tend to last as long though, and I'm not really a fan of keeping a little bottle with me in my purse. What if it spills?

Sankalpa Scents by 5 Seed
Another option that I'm very excited about is 5 Seeds Sankalpa Scents. A solid perfume tin, made from natural ingredients that allow for the scent to remain longer. A tin that I can use to refresh my scent? That is genius. Please hop over and read her explanation of the name Sankalpa, it's yogi-perfect. Check out her shop for more details and scent options :)  

Finally, there is always making your own scents using organic vodka and distilled water... it would be interesting to see how long this homemade perfume would last. Pioneer Thinking has some interesting recipes and ideas.

On that note, I am off today to try on 'The Dress' (Yay! Canadian made!) and have an organic eco-spa day with my mom :)

Blessings and happy sniffing!

article copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. I knew there was a lot of crap in perfume, but I didn't know there was that crap in perfume. No wonder I get a headache whenever I go into Sears.

  2. Another great post & reminder. We don't do perfume/cologne in our house generally, due to the lack of regulation on it. Hub sprayed some on last weekend for dinner though and I can STILL smell it in the bathroom. Sometimes I do scented candles still, but for most things we just open the windows or use baking soda on the carpets to get rid of the smell of the pets! ;-)

  3. Wow - I didn't expect to see a plug for my stuff here. Thanks!! You're so sweet!!

    I hear you on the perfume thing. I used to love them, too. I am a very olfactory-focused person! ;) I LOVE smells. A couple years ago, though, all my favorite smells started making me sick. Downy. My perfumes. A few other things. I started smelling CHEMICALS, just like you said. It all smelled so fake, and gave me headaches.

    That's when I started experimenting with essential oils. I am obsessed with them. They're so...well, REAL! :)When I started the business, I thought - how will I ever make perfumes that people can put in their purse? And the solid perfume was born!

    Like all essential oils, my solid blends only last 3-4 hours. But they are easy to reapply. I think it's comforting, too, that it fades in time, unlike the chemicals that sit on your skin and don't fade until you wash them off. Ick!

    I have some for you...will send them off soon!

    Can't wait to hear about your dress and spa day! Have a wonderful, wonderful time!!

  4. i have never been one for starts to irritate my nose after a few hours. but maybe that's because of the chemicals.

  5. I stopped wearing conventional perfume several years ago and now just love good smelling eco-friendly lotions or the pacifica solid perfume that comes in that little circular container. It felt great to not put all those chemicals on me, and I was amazed at how much more sensitive my nose is...even going into a 'regular' grocery store's soap/laundry aisle - it's amazing.

    Great blog post.

  6. I really don't use any artificial smell products (which could have something to do with the fact that nobody ever visits me...better that than my poor social skills). A week or so ago, though, I was borrowing somebody's desk...because nobody could find the key to the room where the desk I usually use is...long story...and noticed this very attractively named air freshener spray (something evoking a lovely forest glen or something) and decided to let loose three or four sprays just to see what it smelled like...without, of course, reading the label to see that you're really only supposed to use one spray in a room considerably larger than the one I was in, and that the stuff was about as flammable as a molotov cocktail...pretty much creating a hardcore toxic environment to work in for the rest of the evening...just thought I'd share...

  7. I wish there were perfume free zones here in the uk! It drives me nuts.. i used to be affected with a heavy headache.. these days it just knocks me completely off balance (inhaling when i'm in among it in town makes me feel drunk - without the pleasure of getting there!) i'm not sure if this is because i've become even more sensitive, or if it's cos the perfumes are much more concentrated! grrrrr! ban them i say.. nasty chemicals :-/

    loved reading this though - thankyou xx


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