Why be fragrance free?
Many people in our community become ill when exposed to manufactured fragrances such as those contained in personal care and laundry products. While almost everyone may have some reaction, some of us experience severe reactions including migraines, blurred vision, nausea, muscle and joint pain, trouble breathing, and seizures.
The Root is moving toward becoming more fragrance-free as part of our overall efforts to increase all kinds of accessibility. Making our events and space fragrance-free is one way to act from our values of community, wellness, human dignity and mutual aid.
tips on How to be fragrance-free
Being fragrance-free means arriving with no fragrance on your body, hair or clothes. Some products that contain fragrance may not smell strongly to you. To be sure, check the label for ingredients such as “fragrance,” “natural fragrance,” or “parfum.”
Products that may contain fragrances include perfume, cologne, shampoo and other hair items, soap, lotion, aftershave, sunscreen, bug repellent, deodorant, makeup, laundry detergent and drier sheets.
Almost all of these products are available in fragrance-free varieties, including deodorant (but not perfume or cologne).
Laundry products are especially problematic because the fragrance chemicals are designed to stick to fabric for weeks or more. Even some “fragrance free” drier sheets contain harmful chemicals that affect people in the same ways as chemical fragrances! There are many safer substitutes, such as wool drier balls. Or, just don’t use drier sheets.
Truly natural fragrances are less harmful than chemical fragrances, but can still cause illness for some people and should be avoided or used sparingly. Even if a product says it is natural, it may not be. The safest choice is to use products without any added fragrances, even natural ones.
For a short, one-time event, you can be relatively fragrance free without purchasing new products:
- Leave off all products that are optional (such as perfume, cologne, aftershave, lotion, hair gel), especially products that stay on you all day (as opposed to those you use and then rinse off).
- Replace scented deodorant with witch hazel, rubbing alcohol, or baking soda (you may want to apply more than once during the day).
- Choose your outfit in advance. Wash it with baking soda in place of detergent, and then dry it without drier sheets.
- If there is a scented product that you must use during the day, think about timing—at least avoid using it during the event or immediately before it starts.
More explanation about chemical sensitivities, and a list of fragrance-free products that are widely available (including many PoC-specific products), can be found at http://eastbaymeditation.org/accessibility/scentfree.html.
Some useful thoughts about chemical sensitivities, fragrances, race and gender can be found at http://www.brownstargirl.org/blog/fragrance-free-femme-of-colour-realness-draft-15.
Information for event organizers, including sample language for fragrance-free requests, can be found at http://thinkagaintraining.com/about/fragrance-free/