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Synthetic Fragrance, Natural Fragrance, Essential Oils

  • 3 min reading time

As our society grows more health-conscious, there is increasing attention paid to the ingredients in our everyday products. Singaporeans are no exception, with many becoming more vigilant about the substances they use, including fragrances and essential oils. In this article, we'll examine synthetic fragrances, natural fragrances, and essential oils, exploring their potential risks to consumers.

Synthetic Fragrances

Synthetic fragrances are concocted from various chemical ingredients, including petroleum and natural gas. These are designed in labs to mimic specific scents or to create entirely new ones. Synthetic scents are common in a wide array of consumer products, from perfumes and lotions to cleaning supplies.

While synthetic fragrances offer a wider variety of smells and tend to be more cost-effective, they can also pose risks. Some contain chemicals like phthalates, which are used to make the scent last longer but have been linked to endocrine disruption, and synthetic musks, which are suspected to be hormone disruptors.

In the Singapore context, where consumers often live in enclosed, air-conditioned spaces, the concentration of these chemicals can become more significant, leading to potential health risks. A prominent case in 2021 involved a Singaporean woman who developed severe respiratory issues after prolonged exposure to synthetic air fresheners in her office. This incident spurred a national conversation about the potential risks of synthetic fragrances.

Natural Fragrances

Natural fragrances are derived from natural sources such as plants, fruits, and flowers. These are extracted using various methods such as steam distillation, expression, or solvent extraction. The appeal of natural fragrances lies in their perceived safety and their connection to the natural world.

However, "natural" does not always equate to "safe". Some natural substances can provoke allergic reactions or skin irritations. For example, limonene, a common component in citrus-based fragrances, can cause skin irritation or sensitization when exposed to air. In a 2022 case, a Singaporean man experienced severe skin reactions after using a natural, citrus-based perfume.

Essential Oils

Essential oils are concentrated liquids containing volatile aroma compounds from plants. They are extensively used in aromatherapy, cosmetics, and even in some household cleaning products. In Singapore, essential oils have seen a surge in popularity, with many users believing in their therapeutic properties.

However, similar to natural fragrances, essential oils can pose risks. Overuse or improper dilution can cause skin irritations, allergic reactions, and in some cases, even chemical burns. Essential oils are potent, and their misuse can lead to serious consequences. In 2022, there were several reported incidents in Singapore of improper use of essential oils causing skin burns, prompting a reminder from the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) about safe usage.

A Call for Consumer Awareness

As Singaporeans become more discerning about the products they use, understanding the differences between synthetic fragrances, natural fragrances, and essential oils is essential. While these substances can enhance our lives in many ways, misuse or overexposure can pose health risks.

It's crucial for consumers to educate themselves about the potential risks associated with these substances, to read labels, and to use products responsibly. This is particularly important in Singapore's context, where dense living conditions and frequent use of air conditioning can amplify exposure to these substances.

Ultimately, the key to safe use lies in informed decision-making and responsible usage. As the old saying goes, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."


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