It is now widely known that the average woman exposes themselves to about 168 chemicals before leaving the house. According to Liz Cook, natural beauty expert and founder of Australian eco-friendly and vegan perfumery One Seed, women should be wary of spritzing on perfume particularly as most contain hidden chemicals that can cause adverse health effects.
“Chemicals like phthalates and BPA (Bisphenol-A) and toxic ingredients, including powerful endocrine disruptors, exist in almost all perfumes. And we are spraying them all over our bodies and inhaling them,” warns Liz. “We don’t know the long-term effects of some of these ingredients… and we are often unaware of the way toxic ingredients can bioaccumulate in the body.” Some of these ingredients like parabens have been linked to cancer.
In addition, perfumes laden with synthetic ingredients can even cause us to become physically ill. Just merely inhaling them can trigger minor headaches, allergic reactions, dizziness, nausea and even full blown migraines.
As if it couldn’t get any worse, it’s not just your own perfume that can cause these problems – just smelling someone else’s synthetic fragrance can result in sickness.
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Liz Cook is on a mission to make the industry accountable to its customers and clean up its act. She, along with her brand One Seed, are taking a stand against this common industry practice of “secrecy” and seeking full ingredients disclosure. The brand will be the first known perfumery to fully disclose every ingredient included in their organic perfumes.
Their campaign “Nothing to Hide” puts pressure on other perfume companies to do the same and also encourages customers to voice their concerns. Over the next two months, Liz and the One Seed team will hit the press circuit hard to ensure their message gets out through as many channels as possible. She believes that consumers should have access to information – in this case, the full ingredients list – so they can make conscious decisions about the products they purchase.
“What we’re seeing, as an industry, is [consumers] starting to avoid products they don’t know the ingredients for. Especially people who have already made the transition to organic food, natural household products and natural cosmetics,” says Liz. She believes its time for the industry to stop treating consumers like naive creatures. “I think we need to, as an industry, start treating people like they have the right to know. They should know [what’s in their perfume].”
In the United States, the regulatory body overseeing the multi-billion-dollar-a-year perfume industry is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) but it lacks the power to test all ingredients – and even ingredient combinations – to observe effects on health. In fact, of the 80,000 chemicals in consumer products, 25 percent have not been thoroughly tested for environmental hazard or screened for health effects.
To make matters worse, the laws governing toxic chemicals may also be outdated. In the U.S. the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act (FDCA) has not been updated since it was passed in 1938, and the Toxic Substances Control Act hasn’t been updated since 1976. Considering that almost 2,000 new chemicals are introduced each year, this is downright frightening.
“The onus goes back to the company and there is this expectation that everybody has this moral or social conscience and will do the right thing which, as we know, is not always the case,” explains Liz. “Governments have allowed the industry to be almost fully self regulated so that’s a worry.” Robust government policy is required to keep a check and balance on industry. Without it, industry runs amok, putting profit over people’s health in many cases. The tobacco industry comes to mind. So too the asbestos industry.
Thank goodness for people like Liz trying to make a difference in an industry where people seem to have accepted the status quo. The Nothing to Hide campaign should shake things up and finally put the topic of ingredient transparency on the discussion agenda.
Liz admits she doesn’t know if other brands in the perfume industry will be prepared to follow their lead but hopes they do. “Ingredients have never been a point of any sort of discussion in or around this industry, which has always had a long-standing culture of secrecy. We really hope by being transparent other companies will jump on board also and consumers can make better, healthier and more informed decisions.”