10 Toxic Ingredients Lurking in Common Perfumes and Colognes

Consumers are snubbing their noses at high-priced fragrances and celebrity-endorsed perfumes and colognes, according to the most recent financial reporting. On Tuesday, Elizabeth Arden reported the worst quarterly losses in the company’s history, blaming Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift fragrances that have been less than alluring.

Elizabeth Arden is not alone. In the first half of 2014, L’Oreal’s fragrance revenues slipped 1.5 percent.  The decline in perfume sales is part of a larger trend. Overall U.S. fragrance sales fell by two per cent in 2013, according to the market research firm Euromonitor.

While news reports cite celebrity misbehaviour and consumers’ lack of disposable income as the reasons, perhaps there are other reasons too. Perhaps consumers have become increasingly informed about the toxic ingredients in these products and are less inclined to subject their bodies to them. I would like to share some of my findings from my book Weekend Wonder Detox about the toxic ingredients in perfumes and colognes.

Before listing the ingredients, keep in mind that manufacturers are not required to list ingredients on the labels of these products, nor do they have to reveal any of the more than 400 specific ingredients in “fragrance” to regulating authorities because they are protected as trade secrets. While there may be value in protecting trade secrets, it is time regulators put the health of its citizens above corporate bottom lines. In an effort to ensure transparency about the toxic ingredients found in perfumes and colognes, here are 10 commonly-used ingredients and their toxic effects (based on the chemical industry’s own Material Safety Data Sheets):

Acetone—dizziness, nausea, slurred speech, coma

Benzaldehyde—narcotic, lung and eye irritant, nausea, abdominal pain, may cause kidney damage

Benzyl acetate—carcinogen, eye and lung irritation, coughing

Benzyl alcohol—headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, drops in blood pressure, muscle twitching, convulsions

Camphor—dizziness, confusion, nausea, muscle twitching, convulsions

Ethanol—muscle twitching, fatigue, respiratory irritation (even in low amounts), drowsiness, impaired vision

Ethyl acetate—eye and respiratory irritation


Linalool—respiratory disturbances; in animals:  depression, central nervous system disorders

Methylene chloride—banned by the FDA due to to severe toxic effects; however, the ban is not enforced due to “trade secrets.”

For a recipe to make your own non-toxic perfume click here.

Take the FREE WEEKEND WONDER DETOX QUIZ to determine which detox is best for you.  Check out my new books Weekend Wonder Detox and 60 Seconds to Slim. Subscribe to my free e-magazine World’s Healthiest News to receive monthly health news, tips, recipes and more. Follow my blog on my sites HealthySurvivalist.com and DrMichelleCook.com, and Twitter @mschoffrocook and Facebook. Copyright Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD.

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Bobi E.
Past Member about a year ago

Health before corporate dollars...get rid of this stuff and help us all have a better quality of life. How much of this stuff is banned in European countries?

Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harperabout a year ago


heather g.
heather g.about a year ago

that's probably why I sneeze loudly after spraying perfume....

I wonder whether the traditional French perfumes are now also laced with all these chemicals

Edo R.
Edo R.about a year ago


Joemar Karvelis
Joemar Karvelisabout a year ago


Marianne R.
Marianne R.about a year ago


Alexandra G.
Alexandra G.about a year ago

good to know, thanks

N B.
N B.about a year ago

Perfumes are deadly to some.

judith sanders
judith sandersabout a year ago

Some of this is silly. If you're really concerned about limonene, don't ever touch a citrus fruit or use any cleaners that contain citrus oils.
These chemicals are used in such tiny amounts that you're safe unless you chug the perfume or spray it up your nose repeatedly.
Scaring people who don't know any chemistry is the basis of Schoffro-Cook's career.

Much more important to avoid civet musk, IMHO, because of the cruelty.

Clare R.
Clare R.about a year ago

Very informative, thanks for posting. So... are there any perfume, or skincare brands that use only natural ingredients, without any synthetic chemical ingredients?