We love how a sweet smelling shampoo can transform our shower into an aromatherapy experience, but are the added chemicals in fragrance actually doing more harm than good? To find out if we should select a fragrance-free cleansing option, we consulted dermatologist Dr. Naissan Wesley. Here’s why those with sensitive skin might benefit by making the switch.
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Opting for a fragrance-free shampoo could be the key for achieving a healthier scalp, Dr. Naissan O. Wesley, M.D., FACMS and Arbonne Scientific Advisor, points out. Think of your scalp as extra sensitive skin that needs to be treated with as much (or more) care as the skin on your face. “Switching to a fragrance-free shampoo can be helpful for those with sensitive skin on the scalp, dry flaky scalp, or itching,” she says, noting the potentially harmful side effects of fragrance.
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Shampoos made without fragrance have fewer bad ingredients overall, which is a clear benefit. “Different ingredients in hair products can sometimes contribute to inflammation. If fragrance (which is one of the most common contact allergens) is causing the inflammation, then stopping the fragrance can often help to decrease the inflammation,” explains Dr. Wesley. Eliminating the cause of the inflammation will lead to healthier hair and more robust growth – it’s that simple.
Though we take fragrance for granted, it isn’t a given in our shampoos — and depending on your level of sensitivity it might be best to seek out an unscented option. Dr. Wesley emphasizes the fact that fragrance is often an irritant, and this will cause the scalp to react adversely. “Fragrance, if the person is sensitive to it, can sometimes lead to irritation. Irritation can sometimes lead to itching or discomfort, or to visible symptoms such as redness or scaling,” she elaborates.
Though there isn’t one standout problematic chemical in fragrance, most shampoos are usually made from chemical fragrance mix, or a particular parfum. “Essentials oils, with their fragrant nature, may also be used to create fragrance,” adds Dr. Wesley — though since sensitive scalps might have a reaction to these as well, so make sure you’re only products with all natural scents.
Dr. Wesley recommends Vanicream’s Free and Clear Shampoo: $9.99 and Arbonne True Hair Daily Shampoo: $26, which she says, “contains no artificial fragrance, only fragrance derived from natural botanicals and essential oils.”
Fragrance and scalp health are definitely linked, so if you’ve been dealing with a scalp issue but nothing seems to remedy it, the underlying problem might just be fragrance. “If you’ve developed an issue with scalp irritation, dryness, flaking, or itching, consider trying a fragrance-free shampoo and conditioner to see if it alleviates your symptoms,” encourages Dr. Wesley.