If you’ve ever noticed that scented products make your skin itch or become red, allow us to introduce you to the wonderful world of fragrance-free products. Yes, there are quite a few factors that could play into skin sensitivity — hormones, lack of sleep, and even air pollution can cause irritation or redness — but according to Fatima Fahs, MD, a dermatologist based in Canton, Michigan, a variety of different skin types can definitely find fragrances (synthetic or not) to be irritating to the skin.
“Some individuals are actually allergic to ingredients in fragrances, while most people who find them to be a problem just suffer from them as irritants to the skin,” she says. “This can be seen in the form of redness, stinging, flaking and itchy skin.”
You may have heard about synthetic fragrances before, but not all fragrances are man-made. According to Dr. Fahs, many products are infused with essential oils for scent purposes, but that doesn’t mean rash-prone skin types will find them more suitable for their skin.
“Just because something is natural, doesn’t mean your body won’t react to it,” she says. In fact, Dr. Fahs notes that over 80 essential oils have been shown to cause contact dermatitis on the skin — yikes. So, if you notice your skin tends to be reactive to products with fragrance, Dr. Fahs says switching to fragrance-free skin-care and hair-care products may be the best plan for your personal care routine.
Figuring out if a product is truly fragrance-free goes beyond scanning the label. According to Dr. Fahs, there’s a big difference between a product calling itself “fragrance-free” and “unscented.” “While the United States Environmental Protection Agency defines ‘fragrance-free’ as a product that doesn’t contain fragrance materials or masking scents, ‘unscented’ may mean that the product can contain chemicals that mask other odors, and this may still be problematic,” she says.
Dr. Fahs also notes that these marketing terms are not very well-regulated, so she suggests testing any new product on a patch of skin behind your ear or on your inner arm before applying it all over.
Now, it’s time to put all of this useful information into practice. Below, take a look at a few of the best fragrance-free products for those who need gentler, mild formulas in their beauty routines.
The Best Fragrance-Free Skin-Care Products
Aveeno Calm + Restore Oat Gel Moisturizer
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser
Olay Regenerist Collagen Peptide 24 Moisturizer
Aveeno is well-known for its array of gentle beauty products, and Dr. Fahs says the Calm + Restore Oat Gel Moisturizer is a great fragrance-free pick that nourishes skin rather than irritates it. She says this gel-like face cream is “calming, soothing, and lightweight,” which is all thanks to a blend of two soothing extracts derived from oat and feverfew.