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what the term "fragrance" means when it's listed on a label... and why it's worth caring about

You've seen the term "fragrance" on ingredient listings probably hundreds of times... on shampoo bottles, shave gels, balms, sunscreens, etc. If anything, the term "fragrance" sounds like an innocuous catch-all that suggests there's nothing worth talking about. But these days, when many cosumers are paying closer attention to the ingredients in their personal care products, everything is worth talking about, examining and considering in the context of what repeated small exposures to chemical ingredients means for our health and well-being--not just now, but many years down the road.

Technically, "fragrance" refers to a wide range of ingredients used to impart scent either to make a product more pleasant or to mask the potentially unpleasant scent of other ingredients. The "fragrance" compounds can be natural--such as essential oils distilled from plants. They can also be aroma chemicals: laboratory creations that mimic or enhance more expensive natural scents oils.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, fragrance in personal care products is one of the biggest causes of contact dermatitis.  So if you're someone with known allergies, how are you to know which products to avoid if the frangrant ingredients are all lumped under a single, generic term "fragrance?"

That's the million-dollar question.

Every other ingredient in personal care products is required to be listed according to its INCI description;: that's a formal set of accepted terminology for specific ingredients so that consumers can understand exactly what's in the products they're applying to their skin and bodies.  Under INCI labeling, if a product contains herbal extracts, for example, those are required to call out the latin name of the specific plant source. Or, in other words, lavender essential oil is lavendula angustifolia. And for synthetic, chemical ingredients, theyr're required to be listed in standard terminology, as well.

Over the years, however, fragrance ingredients have gotten a big hall pass on this disclosure requirement. Most likely that's because fragrance blends have long been seen as "proprietary" and as falling under the category of "business secrets."

Perhaps someday the labeling requirements will change, but for now if you want to avoid mystery chemicals in your personal care products, then be sure to read labels.

At Fieldworks, we started with the simple desire to create natural, wholeseome alternatives to the mass-produced cleansers, balms and shave products one typically finds on the market. We've chosen to scent our soaps and shave products with natural essential oils. And we don't add scent oils to our balms; any scent they have comes from the beneficial herbal extracts we use.

It might cost more to produce Fieldworks products than it does mass-produced products with their chemical "fragrances." But ours are also the kind of products we happily share with our friends and loved ones. We take pride in our keep-it-simple ethic.

And we believe there are a lot of people out there who--like us--are trying to make better, more healthful (or at least more conscious) decisions about the products we bring into our lives.