I have a bone to pick with the beauty industry. Forget the labelling, the bold claims and whether the products we buy actually work - I want to look back at a product's history to the point where someone, somewhere decides they will market it to those with sensitive skin… and then fills it with fragrance. That person needs a reality check (and perhaps a different job).
Not everyone with sensitive skin will react to artificial fragrances, but still - it is the most common allergen found within cosmetics and can be potentially irritant, so why bother at all if sensitive types are your target audience? I'd much rather slather on a cream or serum with no scent whatsoever, safe in the knowledge that my skin won't be red and blotchy within seconds, than enjoy a scent for a few fleeting moments after putting it on. The idea of beauty and pampering may conjure up images of fragrant bubble baths and aromatic oils, but when your skin is as temperamental as the British weather, all you really want is trusted formulas that contain no nasties.
Next week marks the annual Allergy Awareness Week (28th April - 4th May), and considering that over 50 per cent of people suffer from some kind of skin sensitivity, it's a good time to look at t he ingredients that might be the root of the cause . Of course, labels are to blame too - boldly claiming something is suitable for sensitive skin when it's not fragrance-free is an oversight, in my view, and something I'd love to change.
"Originally the term 'parfum' was created to protect perfumery formulas, but these days it has become more of a labelling loophole,” explains organic expert and Pai Skincare founder Sarah Brown . “European legislation allows hundreds of cosmetic ingredients to be hidden under the term 'parfum', including major skin sensitisers like phthalates and even unrelated ingredients like preservatives. The only way for sensitive skin sufferers to know exactly what they're putting on their skin is to avoid products with 'parfum' listed in the ingredients list."
So, until the day the beauty boffins take note of our reactive needs, here are my top five fragrance-free products of the moment. It's a good place to start.
Green People Scent Free Shower Gel
£9.95, Buy online
This organic, clean and ethical brand has a whole range dedicated to fragrance-free formulas (hurrah!) and my current favourite is this body wash. Shower gel is surprisingly hard to find in sensitive-friendly forms and this does the job perfectly, lathering up into a soft foam and gently cleansing without irritating. Perfection.
Philip Kingsley No Scent No Colour Shampoo
£16, Buy online
Since a nasty reaction to a leave-in conditioner I've been super strict with my haircare and went for the obvious ingredient to leave out: fragrance. I have to say, shampoo is probably the only product that I really miss having a lovely scent in as who doesn't want that freshly washed fragrant swish every now and then? However, needs must - and this shampoo is my shower staple. It gently looks after both hair and scalp and I don't leave the house with a red face - it's win-win.
Lanolips Golden Ointment
£17.99, Buy online
I'm slightly cheating here as this does have a natural 'parfum' but contains no artificial fragrances or colours; it has 100% naturally derived ingredients and is all the better for it. The clue is in the name - an 'ointment' for dry skin, this is intensely thick, with the purest grade of lanolin, manuka honey and vitamin E creating a product that's nothing like anything I've tried before. Once you slowly smooth it in (it takes a bit of time) the work pays off and a silky, moisturised sheen is left behind. Dry skin is no more.
Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm
£21, Buy online
The first thing that drew me to Clinique was their 100% fragrance free ethos which applies to all products, meaning I don't have to second guess their ingredients and can simply get down to the nitty gritty: whether they actually work. Well, this one certainly does - an incredible cleansing balm which almost looks like wax when you first open up the jar, but softly glides onto skin and makes fast work of removing a day's worth of makeup to leave healthy, glowing skin behind. I couldn't cleanse without it.
Clayspray Pore Refining White Clay Mask
£44.50, Buy online
Though a little put off by the price (I use masks quite rarely so it's not something I'd usually invest in), this product completely won me over when I tried it for our Gloss Report on cleansing masks and it's been a bathroom staple ever since. With a super short ingredients list and a clever spray formula, it leaves my skin softer than any other product I've tried and really does seem to tighten up pores so that my complexion looks healthier and brighter; it lasts a long time and is worth every penny.