“If you only change one thing in your beauty routine, the ingredient you should avoid is fragrance,” says Lindsay Coulter, the David Suzuki Foundation’s resident green living expert. Labelled as “parfum” on Canadian beauty product labels, fragrance isn’t just in colognes or perfumes; in fact, it’s added to everything from body wash to shampoo to face creams. Even unscented products can contain fragrance compounds that act as masking agents. “It shows up as one word [on the ingredients label], but it can be a concoction of hundreds of different ingredients,” Coulter explains. According to research published by the Canadian Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association, these anonymous chemical compounds can trigger allergies and asthma, cause hormone disruption, and in many cases, are harmful to fish and other wildlife after they get washed down the drain.
Not ready to give up smelling pretty? There are still plenty of green alternatives, says Jen Newell, a Toronto-based naturopath. “I recommend that people opt for products with essential oils or other natural scents,” Newell says.