5 Shocking Facts About The Fragrance Ingredients in Makeup

The vague ingredient "fragrance" on the label of your makeup may seem harmless enough ... until you do a little research. What big cosmetic companies use for fragrances may shock (and disgust) you. Luckily, there are plenty of great fragrance-free makeup options on the market, and more to come thanks to a better understanding of just what "fragrance" really means. Here are five must-know facts about this suspicious ingredient in your cosmetics.

1. "Fragrance" Can Mean Almost Anything

"Fragrance" is one of the many cosmetic ingredients that do not come with rules or regulations under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means that cosmetic companies can use almost anything in their products and mask it under the label of "fragrance" without the need for federal government approval. While fragrances must meet standard safety requirements, a company does not have to list fragrance or flavor ingredients individually. This is why just the generic word "fragrance" on an ingredient label should serve as a red flag to shoppers.

2. Many Fragrances Are Not Cruelty-Free

Scents that come from plants or herbal sources, such as lavender or citrus, typically do not come from animal sources. Other common fragrances, however, use animal parts or byproducts and are definitely not cruelty-free. Odors such as ambergris, civet, castoreum, and hyraceum all come from animals. Ambergris comes from sperm whales, civet from the civet cat, castoreum from beavers, and hyraceum from the rock hyrax. Beware of anything with "musk" scents, because this fragrance typically comes from the musk deer. Killing these animals for fragrances has resulted in some species becoming endangered.

3. Fragrances Often Have Disturbing Ingredients

Ever wonder why many conventional cosmetic companies choose to use the vague ingredient "fragrance" instead of listing exactly what the product contains? It's because the truth would disgust the average buyer. Not only are animal-sourced fragrances steeped in cruelty - they come from places you don't want to know about. Musk, for example, comes from a hairy pouch in front of the penis of the male musk deer. Civet is a paste from the secretions of the cat's perineal glands. Castoreum comes from the castor sacs of beavers (between the base of the tail and the pelvis). Hyraceum comes from petrified secretions - literally old defecation and urination from the rock hyrax. Grossed out yet?