Do you know the difference between scented, unscented & fragrance-free? I learned the hard way so you don’t have to!
Scented– It’s when fragrance is added to your product to give it a pleasing smell. Think of scents like warm vanilla, citrus and coconut lip balm. ..Yumm… I don’t know how those tropical scents always get to me… but it might mean I’m overdue for a vacation. In these products, the scents are easily identifiable and will make you smell great, but are also more likely to irritate if you have sensitive skin.
Fragrance-Free– Cannot contain ingredients where the primary goal is to make a product smell good. Oddly, this means a fragrance-free product CAN have a scent, but the scent will be a mish-mash of all the ingredients in the product. Sometimes that random mish-mash magically smells pleasing, but sometimes the result can end up smelling like a musty sofa. I once bought a fragrance free shampoo from an upscale grocery store that made bath time smell like the beer soaked counters at the local pub. This can help explain why you might be a little hard pressed to find things like fragrance free deodorant — a chemist friend who recently made such a product tells me its natural scent is reminiscent of worn leather shoes. Hmm…
Unscented – It turns out unscented products include a scent! Surprise! BUT the purpose of the scent is to mask the smell of a product just enough to hide its unusual undertones. Conceptually, it’s sort of like those odor eater shoe insoles that try to neutralize that stinky feet smell. Companies will spring for unscented when they find they have a really great product, but the scent just needs a little work.
Why is this important to know? Because if you have highly sensitive skin, you could still be allergic to masking fragrances or actual functional ingredients. It could also help you realize why your “fragrance-free” product has a whiff of something unrecognizable or smells like musty sofas.