Fragrance —The Other Dirty F Word

set of colorful perfume bottles in shop window


Fragrance, or as I call it—the other dirty F word—may be sabotaging your hormone health and fertility. Before we can understand why fragrance is so problematic we have to understand what exactly fragrance is. Fragrance is a word used to describe one or more of thousands of undisclosed chemical ingredients. Thanks to consumerism trends, it is found in almost every personal care and household product you can buy including makeup, deodorant, soap, shampoo, lotion, cleaning products, laundry detergent, and even garbage bags. While the use of pleasing scents to cover up “bad” odors has been happening since humans have been stinking up this planet, the chemical revolution after the 1940s led to the use of many fragrance chemicals that contain endocrine disruptors including phthalates and parabens. These disruptors are put into thousands of products with disregard to the impact they have on heath and fertility.

The term endocrine disruptor means a chemical that disrupts natural, healthy hormone production, metabolism, and action. These chemicals can increase or decrease hormone production and interfere with hormone cross talk. Preventing hormones from doing their job is a pretty big deal and the outcome can cause a significant impact on the body including fertility. For example, endocrine disruptors found in fragrance can cause irregular periods without ovulation, implantation issues, and problems in pregnancy. They can interfere with healthy sperm production and change the size and shape of sperm. They can even disrupt the development of the male and female reproductive system in utero leading to infertility discovered when that child later becomes an adult trying to conceive.

Although the medical journals are publishing research on the health problems caused by endocrine disruptors in fragrance, it is unlikely that personal care and household products are going to carry a warning label any time soon. Who would buy a bottle of hair spray that came with a warning “May cause irregular periods, infertility and deformed sperm.” Be proactive now and only purchase fragrance free personal care and household products. They exist, you may just have to do some research to find them— see my list below for ideas. You can also check the safety of all of your products on the environmental working group resource “Skin Deep Cosmetics Database” to ensure they are free of endocrine disruptors.

Bonus: By going fragrance free you are improving your health and also the health of everyone around you by not exposing people to second hand fragrance. Pretend it’s the 1980s again and “Just Say No!” to fragrance.

  • Desert Essence Organics Fragrance Free Lotion, Shampoo & Conditioner
  • Earth Science Fragrance Free Shampoo & Conditioner
  • Alba Hair gel
  • Seventh Generation (or similar) laundry detergent and All Purpose Cleaner
  • Schmidt’s Deodorant Sensitive Skin Formula


Braun, Joe M. et al. 2014. “Personal Care Product Use and Urinary Phthalate Metabolite and Paraben Concentrations during Pregnancy among Women from a Fertility Clinic.” Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology 24(5): 459–66.

Marques-Pinto, André, and Davide Carvalho. 2013. “Human Infertility: Are Endocrine Disruptors to Blame?” Endocrine Connections 2(3): R15-29.

Patel, Seema. 2017. “Fragrance Compounds: The Wolves in Sheep’s Clothings.” Medical Hypotheses 102: 106–11.

February 1, 2019


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