Perfume and cologne wearers, listen up. Do you care about what you put in your body? Because the truth is, you could be putting thousands – yes, thousands – of chemicals right into your sweet-smelling pores with each and every spritz of that bottled flowery stuff.

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the fragrance industry uses 3,100 stock chemical ingredients to formulate their mixes of musky this and floral that. The thing that’s most frightening of all? They don’t have to tell you about any of it. When’s the last time you read an ingredients list on a bottle of conventional perfume or cologne? And if anything is listed, there’s often a whole lot more going on than you may know about!

“The average fragrance product tested contained 14 secret chemicals not listed on the label,” says the EWG. “Among them are chemicals associated with hormone disruption and allergic reactions, and many substances that have not been assessed for safety in personal care products.”

Where does your favorite brand line up? In recent lab tests, “Laboratory tests commissioned by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and analyzed by Environmental Working Group revealed 38 secret chemicals in 17 name brand fragrance products, topped by American Eagle Seventy Seven with 24, Chanel Coco with 18, and Britney Spears Curious and Giorgio Armani Acqua Di Gio with 17.”

The fact is, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t assessed most fragrances: “Fragrance secrecy is legal due to a giant loophole in the Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1973, which requires companies to list cosmetics ingredients on the product labels but explicitly exempts fragrance.”  Fragrance companies obviously take advantage of this exemption — And your health may be the cost of all of this!

According to analyses, the perfume industry has only published safety reports on 34 percent of its unlabeled ingredients. And even those disclosed are worrisome: think allergic reactions, hormone disruption, and accumulation of chemicals within your body’s tissues.

And what about those produces you use that might not be fragrances in themselves but just include a “fragrance” of some kind? Well, that’s a secret, too: “Ingredients not in a product’s hidden fragrance mixture must be listed on the label. As a result, manufacturers disclose some chemical constituents on ingredient lists but lump others together in the generic category of ‘fragrance.’ In fact, ‘fragrances’ are typically mixtures of many different secret chemicals, like those uncovered in this study. On average, the 17 name-brand fragrances tested in this study contained nearly equal numbers of secret and labeled ingredients, with 14 chemicals kept secret but found through testing, and 15 disclosed on labels.”

These chemicals make their way through your skin and into your body, where they could camp out and do some serious damage. And, it turns out that, while perfume was long considered some sort of aphrodisiac concoction, many now feel the opposite is true. According to the New York Times, in 2007, 15 percent of U.S. women said they did not wear fragrance, up from 13 percent in 2003. In the women’s department, at least, spending is also down: “spending on upscale women’s fragrances declined, as part of a multiyear trend. $1.97 billion was spent, down from $2 billion in 2002,” reports New York Times. For many, the article states, “fragrance has worked its magic in the opposite direction, as a romantic deal breaker.”

And, beyond romantic encounters, some places are asking for all of us to cut back on the sprays altogether for all kinds of reasons, including the fact that many of us have allergies to these chemical storms: “a few workplaces and cultural sites are trying to become fragrance-free zones. Some doctors’ offices ask patients not to wear perfume because some medical personnel or patients may have allergies or asthma that could be exacerbated by scent. Some schools ask students to forgo perfume and even scented deodorants if a teacher has a fragrance allergy — much like peanut butter has been removed from some cafeterias.”

The bottom line here? Step away from the perfume. Drop that cologne. And keep away from other products with fragrances, including your hair products, lotions, creams, makeup, and the like. It’s not good for you, and you may be aggravating the allergies of people around you.

Just smell natural, the way we are meant to – not like some bottle of chemical flower throw-up.

If you can’t live without a scent of some kind, just make your own non-toxic variety, made from natural essential oils, which is a whole lot better for you than who-knows-what chemical and a whole lot less likely to irritate those around you.

 Image source: Felipe Ernesto / Flickr