According to Health Canada, an estimated 2 to 5 per cent of adults may experience mild reactions to the chemicals in cosmetics. For those who suffer from allergies related to chemicals found in fragrances, California-based Rich Hippie offers a synthetic-free alternative perfume.
"We don't use any synthetic ingredients. We just use the real thing," says Rich Hippie owner Nannette Pallrand.
"... It is more time consuming, more expensive to produce...but it is worth it because it is safer for your health, safer for the environment and a much more beautiful scent."
The two-year-old company has 22 perfumes with rich titles like, "Bohemian Wedding," "Summer of Love" and "Hoochie Coochie" as well as unisex scents like "Nirvana." For the potent fragrance, Pallrand uses old-world French perfume manufacturing methods.
"The perfume industry was traditionally in France where there was a huge wine industry," says Pallrand of the wine alcohol she uses in Rich Hippie. "In France, famous perfume houses would pop up near these vineyards. After World War II, chemical companies needed a new market and went into different areas, like cosmetics."
The result is perhaps one of the most intoxicatingly fresh and light scents on the market that didn't make my throat sore or make my eyes itch.
According to Pallrand, all of the ingredients in Rich Hippie perfume are organic, including the alcohol that is made from organic California grapes as opposed to alcohol derived from petroleum. However, Rich Hippie is not certified organic.
"Perfume recipes are something that one doesn't give out. They are a closely guarded secret," she says, "To certify, one would have to give up the recipe and sources to the certification agency."
Pallrand will disclose that she gets ingredients from around the world: rose and camomile from Morocco, orange blossom from Tunisia, vanilla and ylang ylang from Madagascar, to name a few.
And although the luxurious ingredients are both exotic and expensive, the actual perfume is packaged in simple pharmaceutical bottles.
"I didn't want to do what large conventional companies do where most of the money is spent on the packaging and not the product."
However, the actual perfume box is an impressive shock of yellow and hot pink calligraphy reminiscent of Sofia Coppola's punkesque queen, Marie Antoinette. No retailers in Toronto carry Rich Hippie - yet - so it can only be purchased online. Which raises the question: How does one find a fragrance without smelling it beforehand?
"We sell sample kits of the perfume in small vials," says Pallrand.
Sample kits run between $55 to $325 while full bottles are $225 for a 1/2-oz. vial and $675 for 2 oz. Available at rich-hippie. com
To many people, the word "fragrance" means something that smells nice, such as perfume. We don't often stop to think that scents are chemicals. Fragrance chemicals are organic compounds that volatilize, or vaporize into the air - that's why we can smell them. They are added to products to give them a scent or to mask the odor of other ingredients. The volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) emitted by fragrance products can contribute to poor indoor air quality (IAQ) and are associated with a variety of adverse health effects.
Exposure to fragrance chemicals can cause headaches; eye, nose, and throat irritation; nausea; forgetfulness; loss of coordination, and other respiratory and/or neurotoxic symptoms. Many fragrance ingredients are respiratory irritants and sensitizers, which can trigger asthma attacks and aggravate sinus conditions.
Fragrance chemicals are the number one cause of allergic reactions to cosmetics -- not only to the primary users, but also to those who breathe in the chemicals as secondhand users. Phthalates in fragrances are known to disrupt hormones and are linked in animal studies to malformations of the penis, as well as adverse effects on the developing testes.
In health care facilities, fragrance can come from a number of sources:
scented cleaning products;
fragrance-emitting devices and sprays;
workers, patients, and visitors who are wearing perfume, cologne or aftershave; scented cosmetics, skin lotions or hair products;
or clothes that have been laundered with scented detergents, fabric softeners or dryer sheets.
Indoor air quality can be greatly improved in health care facilities by adopting a hospital-wide fragrance-free policy that includes a fragrance-free policy for employees, maintenance products and non-employee hospital occupants.