Can perfume improve my health?


Spritzing on some perfume every morning certainly makes you smell nice. But can it actually improve your health, too?“Spritzing on some perfume every morning certainly makes you smell nice. But can it actually improve your health, too?iStockphoto/Thinkstock

As you’re rushing through your morning routine, trying your best to get to work on time, you’re probably not giving much thought to how your spritz of perfume is affecting your health. Are you putting your health at risk when you forget to dab your pressure points with perfume before grabbing your keys? Or is it that methodical spray of perfume every morning that is a risk to your health?

Studies show conflicting results claiming everything from adverse reactions to the mixture of perfume and sun exposure, to a French perfume that has appetite-reducing qualities. And let’s not forget the risk of contracting the West Nile virus by wearing a perfume that attracts mosquitoes. However, most research falls into two main camps. Most believe perfume can improve your mood but, for those who are allergic to fragrance, it can also be a health risk.

Your sense of smell is a particularly strong sense, because it is linked to the brain’s limbic system, which is where emotions originate. This is why the smell of chocolate chip cookies can take you back to a childhood memory of sitting in your grandmother’s kitchen. It is for this same reason that perfumes and other fragrances have been connected to positive mood changes. For example, studies using mood maps have found the scent of clementines to be stimulating while the smell of vanilla is calming. When these fragrances are found in perfumes, they have the same mood-changing power. One study even found that fragrances cause a measurable reduction in muscle tension.

But research shows the effects of perfume aren’t all good. According to a U.S. report by the National Toxic Encephalopathy Foundation, fragrances, like perfume, cause serious health risks in one in five people. Simply being in the same room as someone wearing perfume can cause migraines, nausea or asthma-like symptoms. This health risk is gaining momentum in the political world, with some calling perfume "the new second-hand smoke." Bills have even been written to ban perfume in the public to protect those adversely affected by fragrance.

Another health risk in the perfume world is related to counterfeit fragrances. A 2009 study carried out by Harper’s Bazaar found that knock-off versions of designer fragrances contained urine, antifreeze and dangerous bacteria. There’s no arguing that applying these rouge ingredients to your neck and wrists is a health risk.

If you’re applying perfume purchased from a legitimate store, and you’re one of the lucky four in five who are not adversely affected by fragrances, the health benefits seem to outweigh the risks of wearing perfume. But, that may not be the case for the next person you share an elevator with.

Lots More Information

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  • De Vader, Christy and Barker, Paxson. "Fragrance in the Workplace is the New Second-Hand Smoke." National Toxic Encephalopathy Foundation. February 2009. (Aug. 26, 2012)
  • International Fragrance Association North America. "Benefits of Fragrance." (Aug. 26, 2012)
  • Jio, Sarah. "Health Controversy: Whoa—A French Perfume That Claims to Make You Thin?" Aug. 2, 2012. (Aug. 26, 2012)–a-fre.html
  • Langston, Eleanor. "Beauty experts reveal why wearing perfume can make your skin more sensitive in the sun." Fitness Magazine. May 2010. (Aug. 26, 2012)
  • Ricapito, Maria. "The Fight Against Faux Fragrances." Dec. 9, 2009 (Aug. 26, 2012)
  • Warrenburg, Stephen. "Effects of Fragrance on Emotions: Moods and Physiology." Oxford Journals. Jan. 1, 2005. (Aug. 26, 2012)
  • "Alabama Health Officials Provide Tips Against West Nile." Aug. 24, 2012. (Aug. 26, 2012)


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