These days more and more attention is being paid to the fragrances used in our daily personal care products, and whether they may actually be doing more harm than good. The reason this is becoming a hot topic is because it’s been found that a whopping 30% of Americans experience fragrance sensitivity! (Source) Symptoms of fragrance sensitivity can include not just skin irritation, but also allergy-like symptoms such as headaches and sneezing.
With that in mind, it makes sense to be a bit more mindful about what kinds of fragrances we’re using on our bodies — and especially on our kids. So, let’s explore the types of fragrances out there and if/how they’re suitable for use on your child.
These are by far the most common types of fragrances used in products because they’re cheaper, longer-lasting, and much more flexible in terms of the scent combinations that can be created. For example, when you see a kids’ product scented as “Bubble Gum” or “Cotton Candy,” you instantly know the fragrance is synthetic because those scents simply don’t exist in nature!
If the terms “Fragrance” or “Parfum” are used on a product’s ingredient list, that’s a very strong indicator that the fragrance used is artificial. While manufacturers were initially allowed to use these generic labels as a way of protecting their secret scent combinations, the practice has now also morphed into a crafty way to disguise some not-so-skin-friendly ingredients. In fact, there are now more than 2,500 sensitizing chemicals that can easily be hidden in products by using “Fragrance” on the ingredient list.
This is why artificial fragrances should not be used on your kids and teens — there’s a fairly high chance they’ll by irritated by, or possibly even allergic to, one of those mystery chemicals!
Natural fragrances are scented substances derived directly from plant and fruit leaves, seeds, stems, bark, and peels. They come in the form of waxes, hydrosols, oleoresins, and, most commonly, essential oils. Natural fragrances can also occasionally live under the generic “Fragrance” or “Parfum” label on an ingredient list, but typically they are identified separately and clearly labeled. Orange essential oil and rose water are two common examples of natural fragrances.
The advantages of natural fragrances are greater transparency and lower sensitivity — you typically know exactly which fragrances are in the product (so you can avoid something your child has a known allergy to, for example), and natural fragrances are less commonly sensitizing than their artificial counterparts. However, the downsides of natural fragrances are that they’re more expensive to use which drives up the price of the products that contain them, and there are fewer possible scent combinations (e.g., no all-natural Pumpkin Spice Latte body wash I’m afraid!).
How much fragrance is okay?
For your kids and their sensitive skin, we recommend using products that are completely free of artificial fragrance. None, zip, nada!
As for natural fragrance, it must be noted that due to their potency, even natural substances such as essential oils can irritate the skin if used in improper quantities. The general recommendation for kids is to use no more than a 2% concentration on the skin (meaning, no more than 2% of the product’s formula should be essential oil).
At Kobi, we use only 1% or less of essential oil in our products. This keeps our products kid-safe and imparts a nice, light scent during application, but it also means the scent isn’t going to stick around on your child’s body for hours and hours like a synthetic perfume might.
If in doubt, go unscented
Of course every body is different, and some people’s skin is so sensitive that they don’t even do well with natural fragrances. Or sometimes kids have extra-picky noses and they simply don’t like the smell of most scented stuff.
If you suspect your child falls into one of these categories, the safest approach would be to buy them only fragrance-free or unscented products. With no fragrance used at all, you’re taking the risk of fragrance sensitivity off the table completely.
To make sure every young person can use and enjoy Kobi products, we make an unscented version of every product we put out, such as our popular Unscented Sport Deodorant!