Why is fragrance bad for your eyes?

One of our Peep Club founding principals is that we  formulate without known eye irritants – and one of the biggest offenders is fragrance or parfum. Fragrance (also known as parfum)  is known to cause sensitivity and irritation when applied topically to the skin, especially when applied near the eyes. And yet fragrance is everywhere – think of the skin cream you use, the mascara, the eye makeup remover – if it smells nice, it might (but not always!) have fragrance in it. Many of the large cosmetics houses (L’Oréal, Lancome, Estée Lauder etc.) especially the more luxury cosmetics houses - have a signature scent that they add to all cosmetic products across their lines – this includes products used around the eyes (when it comes to makeup: mascara, eye shadow and when it comes to skincare; eye makeup remover, wipes, eye creams). 

How does fragrance affect your eyes?

It you have a perfectly healthy tear film this likely doesn’t affect you (yet!) – but if you do have a more vulnerable tear film – you have sensitive or dry eyes, any of these lovely smelling products are more likely to be causing your eyes irritation. So if you’re wondering why your eyes seem red or itchy or watery after applying a cosmetic – think about whether it could be the fragrance of it. But even if your beautiful smelling products aren’t causing you any obvious irritation that you can see or feel there is a growing body of evidence that your skin reacts to the cumulative application of fragrance – so it is likely causing irritation or maybe even inflammation even before you can see it. Our guidance is that it is much better to choose a fragrance-free alternative (even though it won’t smell as luscious you’ll be protecting the longevity of your skin and eyes!). 

What is fragrance?

It is important to distinguish what we mean by fragrance – there are largely speaking three categories. The first, is the obvious, blends of either plant or synthetic fragrant oils that are added to a formula with the sole purpose of improving the scent of the product. Second, is certain ingredients (usually plant derived – such as essential oils) which might have been included for other reasons (for example, to help the skin) but also, naturally, have a pleasant aroma. Either of these two categories could cause irritation. The third category is natural plant-derived ingredients that naturally smell wonderful but will not cause irritation – the most common of these is; coconut (we use it in ourSoothing Coconut Eye Balm), Cucumber, Cocoa (eg Cocoa Butter), Shea Butter (we use it in ourEye Rescue Lidstick). 

What does fragrance-free mean?

Fragrance-free only applies to the first category – which means that the product has not be formulated with the addition of ingredients to adjust the scent. However, the product could still have ingredients from category two that have not been included for fragrance but might still have a scent and that might cause irritation. If the formulator is being very transparent they will (and should!) disclose this in the INCI/ ingredient list if the ingredient is used in any kind of significant volume. They will disclose this by using one of the terms below – however, it is very difficult to monitor or police this so this is not a guarantee – do not rely only on ingredients lists!  

What to look out for?

The tricky thing is that it is hard to discern fragrance from an INCI list or ingredients label alone. The most obvious ingredients to look out for are:






Rose extract(Rosa damascena)

Source: https://www.paulaschoice.com/expert-advice/skincare-advice/sensitive-skin/why-fragrance-free-products-are-best-for-everyone.html