At first I was afraid, I was petrified
Kept thinking I could never live without you by my side
Sound familiar? Like me, I’m sure you’ve sung your heart out to Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive over the years. Her mantra of finding the inner strength to move on is a classic moment for so many women… these days, my inner strength is no longer needed for personal break-ups. I recently summoned my courage to break-up with my perfume. That’s right. I marched Gucci and DKNY out the door.
Just turn around now
Cause you’re not welcome anymore.
Why? Well, let me tell you a story. When I was a young girl, my darling mum would spray herself with Elizabeth Arden’s Red Door fragrance. It’s a memory that will stay with me forever, watching her get ready with all the excitement of a night out ahead, putting on her makeup and spraying this classic perfume on every inch of her body. Despite conjuring up lovely memories, it was a perfume that made me gag and feel nauseous seconds after the spray travelled through the air. Little did I know, this overpowering perfume would be the first time I experienced the effects of toxic fragrances.
Fast-forward 25 years. And there I was, nursing my terminally ill mother, trying to figure out whether the side effects of everything we put into our mouths, onto our body and into our hair could negatively impact our health. Among other items, my research landed upon perfumes and the chemicals that went into these terribly ubiquitous beauty products.
Throughout this journey of discovery I remember tirelessly researching to find information about synthetic fragrances in perfumes. I was horrified to discover that 95% of chemicals used in fragrances are synthetic compounds derived from petroleum. Many perfumes also contain alcohol, which when sprayed directly onto your skin can make it photosensitive to sunlight and more likely to suffer from sunburn, leading to wrinkles, pigmentation and potentially skin cancer.
All perfumes are a concoction of up to 200 or more chemical elements, many of which are yet to be established as safe for human exposure. One chemical commonly found in perfumes is phthalates – and in studies of rodents exposed to certain phthalates, high doses have been shown to change hormone levels and cause birth defects.
I also discovered that the fragrance industry is self-regulated, which means it can do whatever it wants. Australian law says that fragrance ingredients are not important enough for consumers to know about, so they remain a trade secret. All those chemical compounds are not required to be listed on any product that claims to be a fragrance or perfume.
So despite the glorious aromas of some of the modern-day fragrances, these hazardous formulations are linked to causing severe migraines and allergic reactions, asthma, central nervous system disorders and some of the ingredients in synthetic perfumes are potentially being identified as carcinogenic.
There was my light bulb moment. All my memories of itchy, watery eyes when I wore chemical perfumes, a wheezing chest (which triggered my asthma) and, of course, memories of mum’s Red Door making me feel nauseous – it all came together to form one conclusion. Enough was enough. It was time for a divorce.
My next step was no re-bound move – my new fragrance love is here to stay and it’s an all-natural, chemical-free option. The abundant variety of gorgeous non-toxic brands that create essential oil blends recreate new memories for me, without the fear of harm to my health or to those around me.
Vanessa Megan’s range is my personal favourite – her Darling Natural Perfume is a heady mix of sweet florals with hints of spice. If the earthy tones are more your bag, then try Winter Gray. Let’s not leave men out of the fragrance equation – Earths Purities Pure for Him Eau de Cologne No. 1 is 100% natural and vegan and is made from a blend of pure essential oils, fruit extracts and organic fractionated coconut oil with vanilla, green apple, black pepper, and bergamot notes, creating a warm, masculine scent. Finally, Flora Remedia’s Transformative Scents come in handy handbag-sized 10ml roll-ons. The ‘Calm’ blend is soothing for the mind, with hints of fresh flowers and a sweet, soft musk-like scent.
If only these natural fragrances were available when Mum was in her younger years. Despite missing her with every ounce of my being every single day, I will be eternally grateful to her for triggering my light bulb moment that signalled the beginning of my wellness journey. She continues to make my inner light shine brightly and I will continue to pursue chemical- and toxin-free health and beauty alternatives in her honour.
Love you Mum, xx
See the whole natural perfume range here