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This Ingredient in Your Skincare Could Speed Up Skin Aging

Whether you use a no-frills or a multi-step approach to skincare, the ingredients in your products matter. Mature skin benefits from extra moisture, vitamin C to protect skin cells from damage, and retinol to exfoliate and increase collagen production. But if you enjoy using products with delicious or soothing scents, we have unfortunate news: Synthetic fragrances may accelerate your skin’s aging process.

What is synthetic fragrance?

A synthetic fragrance is any fragrance created in a lab. Many synthetic fragrances are derived from petroleum and natural gas byproducts. This makes them controversial because they may contain phthalates and potential carcinogens. Phthalates are man-made chemical compounds, while carcinogens are substances that may disrupt hormones and cause cancer.

Note: This doesn’t mean that a product containing petroleum is cancerous! Petroleum jelly is safe and widely regarded as one of the best products to use on extremely dry skin.

Why is synthetic fragrance bad for your skin?

After using a product with synthetic fragrances, it’s not likely that you’ll see negative changes immediately. However, those hormone-disrupting chemicals can cause a significant amount of damage over time. As Dr. Cheryl Rosen, Director of Dermatology at BowTied Life, explained to SheFinds, the ingredients in synthetic fragrances can cause skin irritation, inflammation, and oxidative damage, which can easily accelerate skin aging.

So, choose your products wisely! Check those labels, and avoid products that contain the words “parfum” or “fragrance” at the end of the ingredients list. But be warmed: Just because a product says “unscented” doesn’t mean that it is free from fragrance. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) notes that many companies will add a tiny bit of fragrance to their products to mask the scent of other ingredients. So, check those labels! And if you’re unsure of whether an ingredient listed is a fragrance, use the EWG database to find out.

Is natural fragrance okay to use?

The answer to this depends on your skin! Products that contain natural fragrance (think essential oils) may still cause irritation if you have sensitive skin, which can lead to redness, itchy skin, dryness, and even eczema if you have a strong reaction.

Unfortunately, products that contain natural fragrance may not be the best for your skin, either. Any kind of fragrance can cause irritation, which can show up in the form of redness, itchy skin, dryness, and eczema. And just like synthetic fragrance, natural fragrances that cause irritation can accelerate skin aging.

How do I know if a product will irritate my skin?

If you’re worried that a product might cause irritation, the first thing you should do is perform a patch test. Simply apply a small amount of the product to a small area of your skin — such as the inside of your wrist — and leave it on for 24 hours. (Make sure you wash and dry that area of skin before trying the patch test!) Then, observe that area of skin and note any changes. If you experience irritation, it’s best to not use the product.

By carefully checking your labels and avoiding products that contain synthetic fragrance (or natural fragrance, if you have sensitive skin), you may avoid harmful irritation and enjoy happy, healthy — and youthful! — skin.

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