Asked by: Carolyn Roberts, Liverpool

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‘Fragrance-free’ doesn’t mean that a cosmetic product doesn’t smell of anything. It means that it doesn’t have any fragrance chemicals in it. These might be synthetic fragrances, but they could also be certain natural compounds, such as fruit oils.

However, labelling regulations only affect compounds that could cause skin irritation. Other ingredients such as olive oil or shea butter have a mild scent but they don’t count as fragrances for the purposes of product description. Cosmetics referred to as unscented have been formulated to remove any smell, but they do this by adding masking chemicals, such as phthalates, rather than removing the scent molecules.

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luis villazon
Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.

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