Monday, May 16, 2011

The Nose Knows

Does anyone remember that old Jewel song that goes: "I'm sensitive, and I'd like to stay that way"?

Well, I'm sensitive.

Scent-sensitive, that is.

I realize this makes me sound like a Victorian weakling fainting away, but in all seriousness, the scent of most modern cleaning products gives me an instant migraine. Sometimes, when I'm traveling and I look at a beautifully-made hotel bed, then slip between the cool, white sheets, my first thought is I'm nauseous. The smell of various detergents sends me into a tailspin.

Don't get me wrong. I like stuff that smells good. It's not like I go around trying to sniff rotting garbage. But to me, "smells good" means "smells natural". I love the smell of fresh rosemary, lavender, or jasmine. Not so much, the chemical versions of these scents.

This hits home every time that I'm around most modern cleaning products, especially when I put on clothes washed in regular detergent. All of these cleaning products have "Fragrance" listed as an ingredient.

If you go to the Skin Deep Cosmetics Safety Database page on "Fragrance", you find that this vague ingredient category rates an 8 (out of 10!) on their hazard scale. The fact is, most companies don't disclose what makes their cleaning products smell good. And so we're kept in the dark. What we do know, however, is that if companies don't reveal any more about the exact ingredients they're using, they fall into the category of immunotoxins.

Through some very unscientific experimenting, I have created my own test for whether a scented product should be in my home.

I'll keep something if:

1) the scents come from essential oils.
Cool. I'm down with this.

2) the scent disappears soon after use.
I know, I know. Don't we all want our homes to smell like flowers? But natural smells tend to fade quite quickly. If you wash your clothes and the scent of detergent stays for several days, then you're dealing with Fragrance with a capital F which stands for ... well, you get the idea.

It's hard, because smelling awesome is one of the gifts of modern society. I mean, no one wants a return to the days when you carried a bouquet 'cuz everyone was so stinky. But I think we've gone a bit too far in trying to make everything smell fabulous.

If I have to choose between my immune system and my detergent, I choose my immune system.

(Illustration courtesy of the Graphics Fairy)


Olivia said...
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Anonymous said...

I agree with you on chemical scents.

I just planted some lavendar, a curry plant, chocolate mint and sweet basil. I love THOSE scents! Now I just need to learn how to make potpourri...