It’s not exactly news that beauty products can have some unsavory effects on the environment (just picture all your empties piling up in landfills), which is why green beauty brands are helping to change the beauty industry. But one of the products used daily by many people might be causing as much pollution as a car: perfume.
Spritzing a beloved fragrance can be a transformative experience — to a musky wood forest, a field of lavender, or perhaps Britney Spears’s private island. While perfumers are able to bottle up some of Mother Nature’s best smells, what you’re spraying into the air as you mist yourself with a fragrance is actually harmful to the environment, according to a surprising new study from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Published in the journal Science, the study finds that using scented products (which include items such as perfumes, hair sprays, air fresheners, and paints) emit the same amount of chemical vapors as petroleum emissions from cars — even though 15 times more petroleum is burned as fuel. Yikes.
Before you panic, it’s not that you’re spraying something 15 times worse than fossil fuels on your body every day — not exactly. Each spritz of your perfume contains “volatile organic compounds (VOCs).” Once you spray, the VOCs react with sunlight and other chemicals in the atmosphere to form ozone pollution, NOAA explains.
VOCs can also be damaging to your health. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, VOCs can have minor side effects such as irritation and headaches, as well as major ones: we’re talking links to kidney, liver, and nervous system damage, and potentially cancer.
The problem is that the beauty products designed to make you smell like Kim Kardashian are formulated to evaporate, taking your intoxicating aroma and the chemicals into the air around you. “Perfume and other scented products are designed so that you or your neighbor can enjoy the aroma,” Jessica Gilman, NOAA atmospheric scientist and co-author of the study said. “You don’t do this with gasoline.”
So, what does this mean for your favorite fragrance? At the moment, it’s unclear. “We hope this study spurs collaboration between atmospheric scientists, chemical engineers, and public health researchers, to deliver the best science to decision-makers,” said Brian McDonald, lead author on the study. “The strategies that worked in the past might not necessarily work as well in the future.”
In the meantime, consider spritzing sparingly or switching to some essential oils.
For more natural beauty news:
- 10 Green Beauty Brands You Need to
- [Editor-in-Chief Michelle Lee Goes Green For A
- Walmart Pledges to Be More Transparent About Its Personal Care
Here’s how kids would make perfume:
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