Is Fragrance Bad For Hair?

Is Fragrance Bad For Hair featured photo

Just like everyone else, I also deal with bad hair days, including some nasty odor. Fragrance in hair care products seems to be the answer to this but I can’t help but ask, is fragrance bad for hair or not?

In hair care products, fragrance can either be synthetic or natural. Synthetic fragrance is made up of tons of undisclosed chemicals. These can trigger allergies and skin irritations and can be a major health hazard. Natural fragrances are safer and healthier since they forgo synthetic chemicals.

Not all fragrances are bad. As we’ve said above, some fragrances in hair and skin products and cosmetic products are safer than others. And of course, not everyone will react the same way to all fragrances. It’s all a matter of personal preference and you should take the time to see how you will react to certain fragrances.

Below, let’s dive into fragrances in hair care products and possible reactions to them. We’ll also touch on whether you can use perfume on your hair or not.

Is Fragrance Bad for Hair?

Hair care can be a very personal journey.

It’s only natural to always want your hair to look its best, no matter the occasion. And wanting the best for your hair also means wanting the best hair and personal care products.

When we’re shopping for skincare  and beauty products, we like to inspect the ingredients list closely.

But how many of us do the same thing for hair care products? After all, they’re basically ‘soap’ you apply on your hair and rinse off before you get out of the shower.

Most hair care products smell good. Companies and manufacturers include several fragrances in their formulas to increase the chances of consumers choosing them. Whether it smells of aloe vera, lavender, vanilla, or citrus – these are all fragrances.

But are fragrances good or bad for hair?

The answer depends on the kind of fragrance used.

Synthetic and artificial fragrances

Synthetic fragrances are man-made fragrances. Their scents are achieved by mixing chemicals.

The thing is, in the personal care products business, companies and brands can get away with forgoing listing what these chemicals are to achieve that man-made scent.

To do this, they often call their products’ fragrances their “trade secret”. When these fragrances are present in personal care product formulas like hair care products, they’re simply listed as “fragrance”. Companies don’t need to list any ingredients and chemicals that make up their fragrance.

The problem with this loophole manufacturers have been using is a single synthetic fragrance in a product can be made up of hundreds to thousands of chemicals they don’t disclose.

In most cases, these chemicals can cause allergic reactions and adverse risks to your health and overall well-being.

Natural fragrances

Natural fragrances are an entirely different story though. These are natural and forgo the use of synthetics and chemicals to achieve their scent.

Natural ingredients like coconut oil or aloe vera have natural scents that most personal and hair care products use because their natural fragrance smells good and soothing.

When it comes to fragrances for hair, au naturale is the way to go as it’s healthier and lessens the risks of allergic reactions.

There may still be reactions, especially if someone has an especially sensitive nose or skin, but it’s far less than what would be the result of synthetic fragrances.

How Do the Scalp and Hair React to Fragrances in Hair Products?

Fragrance can be present in a lot of hair products on the shelf. You can also unknowingly use them on your scalp and hair.

Sometimes, fragrance in hair products can be harmless, but other times, it can have adverse effects on your scalp and hair, especially if you’re allergic to these ingredients and chemicals.

On the surface, bad reactions to fragrances can cause dry, brittle hair. This leads to breakage and hair loss.

If your scalp doesn’t agree with fragrances and the ingredients that comprise them, this can lead to an itchy scalp with dandruff and a lot of flaking. In turn, this causes you to scratch and pick at your scalp, further leading to wounds and scabs.

Health risks from fragrances

Fragrances in hair care products have the potential to irritate the skin and eyes and trigger allergies. It can also trigger asthma and cause respiratory issues when inhaled.

Fragrances are made up of tons of chemicals that companies aren’t required to disclose because they are what are considered “trade secrets”. Because of this, consumers have no idea what they’re putting on their skin and body.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some chemicals, like fragrance chemicals, can enter the body and bloodstream through the skin. This means we could be allowing these unknown harsh chemicals into our bodies which can potentially cause major internal health risks.

These chemical compounds can disrupt hormones and hormonal systems or injure organs. Without disclosing what they are, we can be allowing neurotoxins and carcinogens into our bodies without us knowing.

Is Fragrance in Shampoo Bad?

Fragrances in shampoo may help mask the smell of the scalp and hair. However, fragrances, especially synthetic fragrances, in shampoos can have adverse effects on your scalp, hair, and overall well-being.

If you only see natural fragrances on the label, you only need to make sure you’re not allergic to them and you’re good to go. But then again, if you feel much safer, go get yourself a fragrance-free shampoo.

Avoiding Fragrance in Hair Care Products

If you’d like to skip fragrance-free shampoos and other hair care products, the good news is not all forms of fragrances are bad for you. Natural fragrances in the form of essential oils are much safer than their synthetic counterparts.

What you want to avoid as much as possible are synthetic fragrances. You can do this by learning how to read a product’s label.

If the label has any of these words – fragrance, perfume, parfum, or some other form – you should skip it.

Also, the way a label works is the higher it’s up on the list, the bigger the concentration of that ingredient in the formula is. If fragrance or perfume is within the top three of the list, immediately look elsewhere.

Is it Bad to Put Perfume in Your Hair?

We’ve all dealt with smelly hair. It can be embarrassing to go out with your hair smelling funny but if you’re in a hurry and don’t have the time to take a shower, what else can you do, right?

In a desperate move, many get their favorite perfume bottle out and simply spritz some of that stuff directly into their hair.

This may seem like a good idea in theory but is it really a wise choice?

Before you spray some perfume on your hair to mask the odor, you better think twice first. While they may get rid of some of that smell, it may not be the best course of action for the health of your hair.

Perfumes are mostly formulated with alcohol, some even have more than 50% of alcohol concentration in their formulas. Alcohol is very drying, even on your locks.

Directly spraying perfume on your hair can dry them out, leading to straw-like and brittle hair. Brittle hair leads to breakage and eventually to hair loss.

Alcohol can also lead to other hair damage like split ends and frizziness.

Moreover, the formula of the perfume can mix with your body’s natural odor. Instead of completely masking the odor completely, it can result in an odd scent instead.

Alternatives to Perfume on Hair

Instead of spraying perfume on your hair, try these alternatives instead:

  • Hair mists: These are much safer alternatives to perfumes. They refresh the smell and appearance of hair in a lightweight consistency. They’re also meant for hair so these will not damage your locks.
  • Dry shampoo: This convenient hair product not only masks the odor but also temporarily cleans your hair. It can help get rid of excess oil and shine without stripping off your hair’s natural oils.
  • Hair serums: Even a few drops of hair serum detangles hair and imparts a glorious shine to your locks. And as a huge plus, these smell amazing too, which helps you mask some of the odd smell on your hair. These are nourishing as well, especially for dry hair.


What’s the good in spending money on perfumes, lotions, and body mists if our hair aka our crowning glory smells awful? To make sure consumers smell good from head to toe, companies are coming out with countless hair care products with fragrances. But is fragrance bad or good for hair?

Synthetic fragrances are bad for hair because behind their scent are hundreds to thousands of undisclosed chemicals. These chemicals can trigger allergic reactions and skin irritations, while some are major potential health risks. Natural fragrances from plants or product ingredients are much safer and healthier, with far fewer health risks.

And that has been my deep dive into the question “is fragrance bad for hair?” Don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have more questions you’d like me to answer!

Michelle Jackson
Michelle Jackson