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Why You May Need A Fragrance-Free Shampoo

July 28, 2021

2 Min read

Clean hair products with fewer chemicals and more hair-building natural ingredients is a zero-bummer bandwagon that most of us are happy to hop on. Some of us may even opt to go one step further and opt for a fragrance-free product. According to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Rachel Nazarian, MD, FAAD, of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City, there’s a reason some people may want to avoid added fragrance in shampoos and hair care. There’s also a happy medium—because fragrance-free doesn’t have to mean scent-free.

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Take a closer look at shampoos with added fragrance

One reason people opt out of products with fragrance is fear that its ingredients may contain phthalates aka the chemicals that give plastics their flexibility. While the FDA maintains phthalates do not “pose known risks for human health,” a report by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states phthalates in hair and skin cosmetics can be absorbed by the body and that “some phthalates are suspected endocrine disruptors,” affecting hormones and metabolism. Studies on the link between phthalates and human health are limited, but one area of concern is for pregnant women: The EPA notes a “handful” of studies that have shown an association between prenatal exposure to phthalates and preterm birth, shorter gestational length, and low birth weight. Rest assured that Prose hair care products are always phthalate-free. 

More research is needed to determine the risks of the phthalates—and certainly more transparency is required from cosmetics labels who hide their ingredients behind the bucket term “fragrance.”

Who should use fragrance-free shampoo?

Fragrance is of special concern for certain individuals: “People who have sensitive skin, underlying inflammatory skin conditions such as rosacea, or who already have a contact allergy to other ingredients are best off avoiding fragrance in their hair care,” says Dr. Nazarian. “The risk for them is much higher.”

The good news for clean beauty fragonerds

So you want enchantingly gorgeous-smelling hair without unknown ingredients? Mother Nature has got your back. She’s got a dizzying bounty of essential oils and natural fragrances that, when added to hair care formulations, prove going fragrance-free definitely doesn’t mean scent-free. For example, Prose’s custom hair oil is naturally scented with almond oil, giving it a light, sweet scent. 

“I recommend looking for shampoos that have natural ingredients without necessarily adding perfume,” says Dr. Nazarian. “Some coconut oil shampoos and conditioners have a natural scent that’s super pleasant and has a lower risk of irritation than added perfumes.

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April Walloga is a beauty and lifestyle editor who’s written extensively on hair health and the root causes of hair loss. She is the former and founding editor in chief of and has been a lead editor at publications like Business Insider, Gotham magazine, and In her spare time you can find her perusing what’s new at Sephora or enjoying Riverside Park with no less than her third cup of coffee that day.

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