Fragrance-Free vs. Unscented: Are They the Same, and Why Does it Matter?

When parents choose skincare products for their little ones, they often prioritize factors like gentleness, effectiveness, and safety. While many grasp the importance of scent, nuances are often missed.

Let's first introduce the important distinction between fragrance-free vs. unscented. Products labeled as "fragrance-free" do not contain any added fragrances. This means that no ingredients have been included specifically to impart a scent to the product. Products labeled as "unscented" may contain masking agents that neutralize or hide the smell of the other ingredients, giving the impression that the product has no scent. While some babies really need "unscented" products for different reasons, parents must be aware of the pros and cons of each to make the right decisions.

Keeping that distinction in mind, here's a simple guide on how to choose scented products for your baby:

Dos:

  1. Acknowledge the Role of Scent in Newborns' Well-being: Newborns heavily rely on their sense of smell to recognize parents and caregivers. Choosing fragrance-free, unscented, or lightly scented products helps maintain this bond while prioritizing skin health.

  2. Opt for Fragrance-Free Options: Select products labeled as fragrance-free or specifically formulated for sensitive skin. These options are less likely to contain potentially irritating ingredients like Amyl cinnamal and Benzyl benzoate, making them safer for delicate baby skin.

  3. Introduce Organic Fragrances for Older Babies: As babies grow, they can benefit from organic fragrances such as chamomile and lavender to promote relaxation and calmness. Incorporating these natural scents into skincare products for older babies offers a soothing experience without compromising skin health.

Don'ts:

  1. Assume All "Baby" Products are Safe: Just because a product is marketed for babies doesn't guarantee it's free from harmful ingredients. A Danish survey found amyl cinnamal in 34% of children's skincare products analyzed. Always scrutinize the ingredient list to ensure it meets safety standards for your baby's skin.

  2. Beware of Unscented Products: Unscented doesn't necessarily mean fragrance-free. Some unscented products may contain fragrance-masking ingredients that can irritate sensitive skin. Check the ingredient list to confirm suitability.

  3. Ignore Signs of Irritation: Redness, rash, or discomfort on your baby's skin after using a skincare product should not be ignored. Persistent irritation may indicate an adverse reaction to certain ingredients, including fragrances, and warrants attention from a healthcare professional.

By recognizing the importance of scent in baby skincare selection, parents can make informed choices that address both the physical and emotional needs of their little ones.

Source: Danish survey on children’s skincare products in 2007