There’s much to be said about the excitement that comes with walking by a Bath & Body Works and seeing their yellow and red 75 percent off signs in the window — come on, we all have a favorite scent we’ve been using since the 7th grade. I’ll be the first to admit that I delight in the pleasure of finding that perfect perfume, and I know that whenever I wear it,my day is bound to be a good one.
Perfumes, colognes, and other body sprays may enhance our natural scent, but at what cost? Fragrances of all kinds contain thousands of harmful chemicals that threaten both your physical health and the Earth’s atmosphere. Most of these chemicals are synthetically made, and according to KConserves, nearly 95 percent of the chemicals in our colognes and perfumes come from fossil fuels. Essentially, we are spraying some of the most potent and toxic chemicals in the world directly onto our bodies and into the air we breathe.
If you’ve never checked the ingredient list on the backs of your fragrances, you’ll be shocked by the number of hazardous chemicals that go into even a small bottle of perfume. Some of the most alarming chemicals most commonly used in fragrances include benzyl alcohol and acetone. If you’re not a chem major, let me break this down for you: benzyl alcohol has been classified as harmful by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review because it can negatively affect your liver and immunity, cause allergic reactions and alter your brain chemicals. Likewise, acetone is on the hazardous waste list for the EPA, RCRA and CERCLA as a risk to the central nervous system. If these chemicals are harmful to ourselves, imagine what it is doing to the environment.
The most obvious adverse effect of fragrances is the impact on indoor and outdoor air quality. As the thousands of chemical compounds are being sprayed onto your body, they also linger in the air. It would take copious amounts of these fragrances to cause significant longterm damage to the ozone, but nevertheless, it is still harmful for you and the people around you. More direct environmental damage is targeted toward water quality and marine life. When you spray fragrances on your body, they get absorbed into your clothes. When you throw your clothes in the washer, these chemicals are entering the water and harming ecosystems in lakes, rivers, and oceans. Dead fish that have been found washed up at shore have had traces of the exact chemicals we use to avoid “smelling bad.” One of the best alternative options to using these harmful fragrances is either buying or creating your own essential oil blend. Youngliving.com has numerous DIY recipes to help you create your own unique scent. Essential oils are not only more environmentally friendly, but they all also serve specific health purposes. Lavender oil, for example, is one of the best oils to use if you’re stressed out. Whatever your body needs, there is probably an essential oil to help remedy it. Not only is this beneficial for your health, but essential oils are highly potent, so a little goes a long way! This helps cut down the amount of packaged fragrances you are buying, especially the bottles made with plastic.
The next time you find yourself at West Acres, I challenge you to avoid those oh-so-tempting sales in the windows of Bath & Body Works, Victoria’s Secret, and Macy’s. Instead, I invite you to try out making your own fragrances and fully reap the benefits of essential oils! I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
Mariah is a junior double majoring in Music and Global Studies, with a concentration in development studies. She enjoys singing in the Concordia Choir, being involved in the theatre department, traveling, and spending time in nature. This is her second semester on the Concordian staff.