A new F-word has emerged in skincare over the past few years: fragrance. And there’s a lot of noise about why you should avoid it. While there are a lot of truths, there are also a lot of misconceptions floating around and plenty of gray area. It’s no surprise that with all the confusion, what we’ve ended up with is a whole lot of fear. With that, a whole new trend emerged: fragrance-free. But what does that actually mean? The answer is not so cut and dried. We delve into the myths around fragrance in skincare to set the record straight.
Myth: Fragrance is added to skincare products to scent your skin like perfume
According to Chris Caires, Perricone MD Chief Innovation Officer, fragrance is a common additive “to either mask an odor that comes from another material (usually an active ingredient) or to provide a more enhanced sensorial experience.”
Truth: Many high-performance (read: active) ingredients just don’t smell that great. That may not seem like a problem if the product is doing its job, but the reality is that you simply are less likely to use a product that doesn’t smell good. And if you don’t use it regularly, those powerful active ingredients aren’t going to have a chance to do their job.
Perricone MD's #1 best-selling product, Cold Plasma Sub-D/Neck is one of the most popular neck creams on the market. Since its inception, fans of the product saw immediate results. In a consumer-use study, 83 percent of users reported an improvement in the appearance of firmness of the neck area after just 45 days of use. However, the number one complaint was its aroma – more medicinal than enjoyable. While effective and loaded with potent anti-aging ingredients such as DMAE, Alpha Lipoic Acids and more, the scent in neck cream's original formula just wasn't that appealing.
Taking in consideration their consumers' feedback, Perricone MD created a new formula to provide an even more enhanced version of the already beloved product. The new Cold Plasma Plus+ Sub-D/Neck has been reformulated to address the number one complaint – scent. The neck treatment now contains a non-irritating fragrance leaving no scent whatsoever when applying the product. 80% of consumers reported they like the new fragrance. This was also tested on sensitive skin (and passed with flying colors), creating a win-win all the way around.
In addition to the improvement in scent, Cold Plasma Plus+ Sub-D/Neck now features new key ingredients including Peptides and Encapsulated Caffeine and now has a more luxurious, quick-absorbing and hydrating texture. Consumers have even claimed seeing more powerful results after using the new formula, with 97% of consumers reporting more hydrated skin around the neck, 87% seeing smoother skin around the chin and jawline and 86% seeing an improvement in skin elasticity on the neck.
Myth: Fragrance-free is better for your skin
Here’s where that gray area comes in: There are no regulations around the term “fragrance-free.” According to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), ”fragrance-free” falls into the same category as marketing words like "natural," "non-toxic," "clean" and "safe"—they have no official or legal meaning when it comes to cosmetic labeling.
On the FDA’s own website, it states that “even some products labeled ‘unscented’ may contain fragrance ingredients. This is because the manufacturer may add just enough fragrance to mask the unpleasant smell of other ingredients, without giving the product a noticeable scent.”
Additionally, the FDA does not require each fragrance to be listed individually. Even if a product doesn’t list an added perfume or specific fragrance, chances are good that one of the items in its ingredient list is providing a scent, even if that scent is a preservative to keep the product fresher longer.
Then there’s a whole category of “masking scents.” According to Dermatology Times, “the goal of a masking fragrance is to give the perception that the product is unscented. Thus, unscented does not mean fragrance-free, but rather smell-free.” What’s more, masking scents aren’t required to be listed on a label.
The bottom line is that even fragrance-free isn’t actually free of fragrance most of the time.
So, if you’re applying a product you believe to be unscented and not having a reaction, it’s just because the scent ingredients it contains are safe and non-reactive for your skin.
Myth: Fragrances are really bad
“A fragrance is just anything that has an odor. It’s not a specific class of compounds, so it’s impossible to make a general claim about whether they are irritating or not,” says Caires. “People with very sensitive skin have to take a more minimalistic approach to their skincare because every ingredient has the potential to cause a reaction. Avoiding fragrance is just one way people can reduce their overall exposure.”
This is similar to the idea of “clean beauty.” While there’s no universal definition of it, it typically means minimal to no synthetic ingredients and the absence of any controversial ingredients. Essentially, clean beauty is toxin-free beauty. “Clean” doesn't mean that ingredients are 100 percent natural, because a lot of synthetic ingredients are safe (and conversely, some naturally derived products are not). The same goes for fragrances in skincare."
Myth: Products are better without fragrance
When a fragrance is extensively tested on sensitive skin and deemed to be safe, it can actually enhance your experience with the product, as with the reformulated Cold Plasma Plus+ Sub-D/Neck Treatment. Here’s why it’s a Perriconista favorite:
DMAE helps smooth and contour sagging skin. According to research, the benefits of DMAE “include a potential anti-inflammatory effect and a documented increase in skin firmness with possible improvement in underlying facial muscle tone.“ One study even found that topically applied DMAE led to the appearance of increased thickness of both the epidermal and dermal skin layers and the appearance of collagen-rich skin.
Peptides help improve the appearance of skin that has been damaged by collagen breakdown. Peptides are long chains of amino acids and when applied to the skin’s surface, they work to improve skin thickness and firmness as well as smooth fine lines and wrinkles.
Encapsulated Caffeine increases the microcirculation of blood, which helps skin to immediately look tighter and smoother. “Encapsulating caffeine allows it to cross the skin lipid barrier even more efficiently, helping to deliver the other key ingredients deep into cells where they can maximize their benefits to the skin. To take it a step further, massage the encapsulated caffeine into the skin to help reduce unwanted puffiness and bloat."
This potent combination targets the major signs of neck aging--wrinkles, creases, sagging and rough, crepey texture--to help restore the fragile area’s youthful firm and smooth appearance.
What makes you more likely to use your skincare products more often? Is it how they smell, how they feel or the results you see?