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Most-used ingredients

This list  comes from the scientific analysis of many commonly-used fragranced products, including personal care products, cosmetics, and cleaning products.

1,4 dioxane

Hazardous in case of eye contact  - causes irritation to the eyes. Hazardous in case of skin contact - causes skin irritation, and is a permeator (that is, it's absorbed into the bloodstream through the skin). Hazardous if inhaled.

A probable carcinogen (cancer-causing substance).  Carcinogenic effects proved for animals and possible for humans. A mutagenic (mutation-causing) substance.  Causes mutations (alternations in genes) in mammals (such as humans). The substance may be toxic to blood, kidneys, liver, skin and central nervous system. Repeated or prolonged exposure can produce organ damage. (Source www.sciencelab.e/xMSDS )

2,4 dimethyl-3-cyclohexene-1-carboxaldehyde (Triplal 1)

This substance is “hazardous according to the criteria of the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission ( US)":

It causes severe irritation to eyes.  It causes irritation to the skin and may cause sensitization (create allergic responses) by skin contact.If swallowed it may cause irritation to upper gastrointestinal tract (throat and stomach).

(Source: Steinemann, A, “Fragranced Consumer Products and Undisclosed Ingredients”, in Environmental Impact Association Review, Vol 29, issue 1, Jan 2009.)

3-hexen-1-01 (hexanol)

Causes redness and pain in the eyes.  Causes dry skin.  If inhaled causes cough and sore throat. If swallowed causes a burning sensation. (source:


Causes redness and pain in the eyes.  Causes redness and pain to the skin.  If inhaled causes a cough.  If swallowed causes 

 diarrhoea, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. (Source: International Chemical Safety Card)

Benzyl acetate

Causes redness to the eyes.  Causes dry skin.  If inhaled causes a burning sensation, also confusion, dizziness, drowsiness, laboured breathing and a sore throat. If swallowed causes a burning sensation, also convulsions, diarrhoea, drowsiness amd vomiting. The substance may cause effects on the central nervous system.

This substance is mutagenic (it causes mutations, that is changes genes) in mammals (such as humans). Repeated or prolonged exposure can produce organ damage. (sources: International Chemical Safety Card,


Causes eye irritation.  may cause burns to the eye.  Causes skin irritation.  May cause skin burns.  If inhaled,  may cause respiratory tract irritation. The vapours may cause dizziness or suffocation. (Source:

Beta-phenethyl alcohol

Causes redness and pain to th eyes.  Causes redness to the skin.  If inhaled, causes cough, laboured breathing, shortness of breath and a sore throat. If swallowed, causes pain in the abdomen and a burning sensation. (source: International Chemical Safety Card)

Carene isomer (isodiprene)

May cause eye irritation.  Causes skin irritation.  May be harmful if absorbed throughh the skin.  May cause sensitisation (creates allergic responses) through skin contact.  If inhaled, may cause respiratory tract irritation. If swallowed, may cause irritation of the digestive tract.  (Source: MSDS at national-toxic-encephalopathy-foundation)


Toxic by inhalation – gas is absorbed quickly by the body, but very slowly removed from the body. This substance is an irritant. It is mutagenic (causes mutations, that is changes genes) in humans. It is a possible carcinogen. It may cause systemic (whole-body) effects. It is a possible teratogen (causes birth defects). Gas can be absorbed through the skin.

In low concentrations may cause narcotic effects. Symptoms may include dizziness, headache, nausea and loss of coordination. In high concentrations it may cause asphyxiation. The victim may not be aware of asphyxiation.

Autopsies in humans have revealed damage to the lungs, liver, kidneys, brain, gastrointestinal tract, cardiovascular system and respiratory tract.

Following exposure to low concentrations, symptoms may not appear for 12-24 hours. Chronic poisoning from inhalation or skin absorption may cause blurred vision, numbness of extremities, confusion, hallucinations, somnolence (sleepiness), bronchospasm (spasms in the airways), inebriation (signs of drunkenness), ataxia (difficulty in moving) and tremors. (sources: and


Causes redness, pain and burning to the eyes.  Causes dry skin.  If inhaled, causes cough, headache, fatigue and drowsiness. If swallowed, causes a burning sensation, headache, confusion, dizziness and unconsciousness. (Source: International Chemical Safety Card)


Causes redness of the eyes.  Causes redness and pain to the skin.  (Source: International chemical Safety Card)

(When limonene is exposed to the air, it changes into 1.2-oxide.  This substance is a known skin sensitiser (that is, creates allergic responses). 3% of dermatitis patients are sensitised to limonene.” (source and references: Wikipedia)

“ The air oxidation of limonenes is essential for its sensitizing potential, and potent (powerful) allergens are created.”

(“Air Oxidation of d-limonenes Creates Potent Allergens”: Karlberg et al, in Contact Dematitis, 1992, May: 26(5),


Causes redness and paion to the eyes.  Causes redness and pain to the skin.  May be harmful of swallowed or inhaled.

(Source: International chemical Safety Card)

“Linalool is used in 60-80% of fragranced cleaning & cosmetic products. Linalool breaks down when in contact with oxygen (that is, when exposed to the air), forming a by-product that may cause allergic reactions such as eczema. Recommendation is to not buy large bottles of fragranced products and replace the lid after use.” (Source and references: Wikipedia)

You can replace the lid after use, but when the product is on your skin it will be exposed to the air and it will produce the allergy-causing by-products.


Causes serious eye irritation.  Causes skin irritation. May cause allergic skin reaction. Harmful if inhaled - it irritates the  respiratory tract (throat and windpipe). In high concentrations, pinene is very destructive of mucous membranes (the lining of the nose and mouth). May be fatal if swallowed. (Sources: and

“Irritates skin and mucous membranes. Causes skin eruptions, is a gastrointestinal irritant, causes delirium, ataxia(dificulty in moving). Inhalation causes palpitations (heart racing), dizziness, nervous disturbances, chest pain, bronchitis and nephritis.”

(source: Buvari, S(ed) The Merck Index, plus many other refs at

“White Musks”

These are made up of various chemical formulae, but they are all synthetic versions of natural animal musks ( eg from deer). They’re used in large quantities in laundry detergent to mask the unpleasant smell of the detergent ingredients, and to give washing a “clean” smell.

“Nitro musks and polycyclic musks were used in large quantities, especially in laundry detergents, until the 1990s. At that time they were discovered to be extremely harmful. They inhibited the body’s defences against other toxic exposures and they were linked to increased risk of breast cancer and hormone disruption. They don’t break down in the environment and can accumulate in human body. Musks have been detected in blood, breast milk and newborns. The more an individual is exposed to fragrance, the higher levels of these chemical their bodies accumulate.

In some parts of the world their use has been restricted or banned.

In the 1990s two new classes of musks, macrocyclic musks and alicyclic musks were devised by chemists. They are more expensive to produce than the older musks, but because of the health problems with the older musks they may be used to replace them.”

(summarized from Wikipedia entry “Synthetic Musks”, references on that site.)

Have they been replaced? We can’t know, because the box only says “fragrance”.


Phthalates are a class of more than a dozen chemicals commonly used in personal-care products. They help to lubricate other substances in the formula, allow lotions to penetrate and soften the skin and help the fragrance last longer.  They're in most fragranced personal care products such as shampoo, conditioner, deodorant etc. 

Researchers have found that exposure of the unborn child to phthalates can produce "phthalate syndrome" which includes several kinds of deformities of male sex organs. In adults, exposure to phthalates increases the risk of testicular cancer and impaired sperm quality. This is because phthalates mimic human hormones - the body can't tell the difference, and the whole hormone balance in the body is disrupted. 

If a product has "fragrance" or "parfum" on the label then it almost certainly contains phthalates.

(Source and references: Slow Death by Rubber Duck, Rick Smith & Bruce Lourie)

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