Fragrance-Free Products: What It Means

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While it's not the same for everyone, many people experience allergy-like reactions after coming in contact with fragrance ingredients. This has led to an increase in companies that offer fragrance-free products.

Although "fragrance-free" is sometimes used interchangeably with "unscented," they are not the same. Fragrance-free products are those that do not contain synthetic or natural fragrance materials. Unscented products often do not have a noticeable scent, yet they may contain fragrance chemicals that mask or neutralize the odors of other ingredients.

This article will discuss the benefits of fragrance-free products.


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Why Fragrance-Free?

Fragrance-free products are a necessity for people with a fragrance sensitivity. Even if you do not have a sensitivity, choosing fragrance-free products can help those with sensitivities limit their exposure. Over 50% of the general population prefer workplaces, healthcare facilities, hotels, and airplanes to be fragrance-free.

Fragrance-free products offer the same functionality as fragranced products but without the potential health and environmental concerns. Emissions from fragranced products can negatively impact outdoor and indoor air quality and human health for at-risk populations.

One out of three people in the United States experiences respiratory difficulties and migraines after exposure to fragranced products. Fragrances are also one of the most common causes of contact dermatitis, along with nickel and poison ivy.

What Kind of Products Are Fragrance-Free?

Fragrance ingredients are often added to household cleaning products, skincare, haircare, makeup, and more. Companies are taking note of the increased demand and selling more fragrance-free products.


Because fragrance ingredients can irritate sensitive skin, healthcare providers or dermatologists often recommend fragrance-free makeup for those with dry skin, acne, redness, and more. 

Although fragrance ingredients in cosmetics must meet the same safety standards as other ingredients, the law does not require them to be approved by the Food and Drug Association (FDA) before being sold. Additionally, the FDA does not have the legal authority to require allergen labels on makeup as they do with food.

Fragrance-Free Makeup Brands

  • Clinique
  • Tower 28 Beauty
  • Tarte
  • Wander Beauty
  • bareMinerals
  • Almay


Fragrance in shampoo and other types of haircare is another cause of irritant contact dermatitis. If you experience scalp irritation, redness, or inflammation after using a fragranced shampoo, you may benefit from changing to fragrance-free hair care products. By removing products that irritate your scalp, you may also notice improvements in the overall health of your hair.

Fragrance-Free Haircare Brands

  • Kristin Ess
  • Drybar
  • Briogeo
  • Free & Clear
  • The Ordinary
  • Devacurl
  • Melanin Haircare
  • Earth Science


Some skincare products, especially deodorant soaps, can be too harsh for dry skin or people with skin conditions. Avoid using fragrant skincare products to help heal itchy, dry skin and prevent it from returning.

Adults and children with eczema should also avoid using fragranced skincare products as they can cause flares.

Fragrance-Free Skincare Brands

  • Cetaphil
  • CeraVe
  • Vanicream
  • La Roche-Posay
  • Aveeno
  • Aquaphor
  • Avène


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed its Safer Choice label to help buyers select and identify products with safer chemical ingredients. They also have added a "fragrance-free" certification to accompany the Safer Choice label on products entirely free of any fragrance materials.

Despite having a fragrance-free certification, the EPA acknowledges that products may still have a scent because some ingredients and solvents may carry an odor.

Fragrance-Free Cleaning Products

  • PUUR
  • Seventh Generation
  • Dr. Bronner's
  • Sensitive Home

What To Look For On a Label

A fragrance-free product should be labeled as such. However, companies that use scent masking materials also tend to use the term on their products. This is because there are no Federal standards or definitions that govern the use of words such as:

  • Hypoallergenic
  • Fragrance-free
  • Allergy tested

Essentially, it is left up to the company to decide what they want it to mean.

One study looked at 174 best-selling moisturizers sold on Amazon. Researchers found that 45% of products labeled "fragrance-free" contained fragrance.

Interestingly, no law requires companies to disclose individual ingredients that make up a fragrance.

To be sure your product does not have fragrance materials, avoid products with the words:

  • Parfum
  • Perfume
  • Fragrance
  • Aroma
  • Essential oils


People with sensitive skin, sensitive noses, or certain health conditions can benefit from using fragrance-free products. When looking for products without fragrance ingredients, choose a brand with "fragrance-free" on the label. You'll also want to check the product label for any potential fragrances. Unless your healthcare provider has advised against it or you've had an adverse reaction in the past, there's no reason to give up your fragranced products entirely. Ultimately, it's about what works best for you and your body.

A Word From Verywell

Sensitivities to fragranced products are not uncommon. You may benefit from fragrance-free items if you experience headaches, itching, or redness after using certain personal or cleaning products. If reactions still occur, schedule a visit with your healthcare provider for testing to determine the root cause.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is unscented the same as fragrance-free?

    No. Unscented products do not have a scent, yet they may contain fragrance chemicals that mask or neutralize the odors of other ingredients. In contrast, fragrance-free products are entirely free of fragrance ingredients.

  • Why do many products contain fragrances?

    Fragrances are often added to products to mask chemicals or other smells that may otherwise be unpleasant. Additionally, many people associate a fragranced product with an overall pleasurable experience.

  • What are scent-free products?

    Scent-free products do not have a noticeable scent, but they may still contain chemicals.

10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Environmental Protection Agency. Safer choice: Fragrance free.

  2. Steinemann A. Fragranced consumer products: Exposures and effects from emissions. Air Qual Atmos Health. 2016;9(8):861-866. doi:10.1007/s11869-016-0442-z

  3. Steinemann A. Fragranced consumer products: exposures and effects from emissionsAir Qual Atmos Health. 2016;9(8):861-866. doi:10.1007/s11869-016-0442-z

  4. American Family Physician. Diagnosis and Management of Contact Dermatitis.

  5. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Fragrances in Cosmetics.

  6. American Academy of Dermatology Association. How to care for your skin in your 60s and 70s.

  7. American Academy of Dermatology Association. How can I find eczema-friendly products?

  8. Environmental Protection Agency. Safer choice label- Fragrance free.

  9. Food and Drug Administration. "Hypoallergenic" cosmetics.

  10. Xu S, Kwa M, Lohman ME, Evers-Meltzer R, Silverberg JI. Consumer preferences, product characteristics, and potentially allergenic ingredients in best-selling moisturizersJAMA Dermatology. 2017;153(11):1099-1105. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2017.3046

By Lindsey DeSoto, RD, LD
Lindsey Desoto is a registered dietitian with experience working with clients to improve their diet for health-related reasons. She enjoys staying up to date on the latest research and translating nutrition science into practical eating advice to help others live healthier lives.