Chemicals We Put On Our Bodies #1: Makeup and Perfume.

Many people are concerned about chemicals in the world around them.

Whether it be fly sprays or cleaning compounds some people worry that they may contain chemicals that could be harmful with long term exposure.

But what about chemicals that we put on our bodies – makeup and perfume/cologne for example?

I’m not exactly sure what’s in makeup, whether it be foundation or blush or eyeliner or whatever, but I suspect that these are mostly harmless inorganic compounds, perhaps with some glycerin or other inert base.

With perfumes and colognes however it’s a different story.  It is well known in the chemical industry that fragrance chemists have amongst the highest rates of cancer.  And the reason should be pretty obvious.  Most carcinogenic compounds are aromatic in nature – indeed, benzene, a highly carcinogenic compound, it is the most basic aromatic molecule there is.

No one quite knows why some molecules smell different to others, but without exception they are organic in nature.  The very act of smelling tells us that there is an interaction with the sensors in your nose.

And the problem is, that no one knows what is actually in these perfumes, what is in Chanel No.5?  It’s a proprietary formula – a secret.  And it will always remain that way.

For me personally, my view is that the chemicals most likely to cause cancer to me are fragrant products that I put on my body – Cologne for example.  And the puzzling thing is that no one seems to ever ask the question – are these chemicals safe?  The reason is, I think, that people think “how can something that smells so nice be harmful?”

There is a perception that nasty chemicals must smell nasty.  This is most definitely not the case.  So we simply don’t know.  As a consequence I rarely use Cologne or aftershave.  One must of course be aware of personal hygiene, so I wear a good quality deodorant that will stay with me all day, but that’s it.  I’m not putting any other chemicals on my body until I know what they are.

Contrast this for example with moisturising lotions or insect repellents or pharmaceutical products where they will readily tell you what the chemicals are.

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