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Toxic Fragrance Ingredients Uncovered in a Clearya and CSCP Collaboration

Toxic Fragrance Ingredients Uncovered in a Clearya and CSCP Collaboration

Clearya and California Department of Public Health Team Up for Safer Cosmetics

You get your favorite hand cream, you check the ingredient (using Clearya of course), everything seems safe except for one generic ingredient: “Fragrance”. This word - “Fragrance” or “Parfum” might seem innocent but it’s basically the brand’s hideaway for some of the most alarming chemicals in cosmetics. A regulation loophole has permitted brands to consider fragrance formulas as “trade secret”, which means nobody - not even the FDA - could have the slightest idea what substances are concealed in the “Fragrance” pandora box. Is ignorance bliss? Not in this case. Lab testing of 140 products by nonprofit organization Breast Cancer Prevention Partners revealed that 75% of the hazardous chemicals identified were fragrance chemicals [1].

Yes - you got it right! Chemicals that are scientifically linked to cancer, reproductive or developmental harm, neurotoxicity, hormone disruption, allergies, and asthma can be used to formulate fragrance without being listed in the ingredients list! The good news is that as of January 2022 “the California Cosmetic Fragrance and Flavor Ingredient Right to Know Act” [2] requires the disclosure of potentially toxic fragrance and flavor ingredients to the government. Under the bill, companies selling cosmetics in California must report any fragrance or flavor ingredients which appear on 23 different chemical hazard lists to the California Safe Cosmetics Program (CSCP) of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). The CSCP makes this information available through their online database. Yet, the law doesn’t require companies to inform consumers or update their product labels. Here is where Clearya and CSCP can now help!

A new collaboration between Clearya and the California Dept. of Public Health’s Safe Cosmetics Program takes transparency to the next level, and aims to make online shoppers and professional salon workers more easily aware of toxic fragrance substances in their products, even if these ingredients are excluded from product labels.

The Clearya free mobile app and Chrome extension automatically screen ingredient lists for you while shopping online at popular retail websites including Amazon, Target, Walmart, Sephora and iHerb. Clearya alerts shoppers of potentially toxic ingredients in the products they browse, based on science and regulatory agencies worldwide, and suggests safe alternatives in makeup, personal care, baby care, cleaning, and other product types.

Now, potentially toxic fragrance ingredients and fragrance allergens that are reported by companies directly to the CSCP alone, can be automatically displayed by Clearya to online shoppers in addition to the normal ingredient list, including an explanation about their potential hazard, so that consumers are better informed when choosing products.

The Clearya app informs shoppers of toxic fragrance ingredients reported by companies to the CSCP


What kind of warnings might be now presented by the Clearya app and browser extension to consumers thanks to this collaboration?

Some fragrance substances are known or suspected cancer causing chemicals could be reported, like: pyridine, benzyl chloride, benzophenone and methyleugenol [3], and unfortunately there are many more. Other widely used reported fragrance chemicals are phthalates, such as diethyl phthalate. Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors, which means they can mimic natural hormones or take them out of balance, and can potentially disrupt important processes in our body [4], including our fertility. Moreover, pregnant women who were exposed to multiple phthalates during pregnancy had an increased risk of preterm birth, according to new research by the National Institutes of Health, based on data from more than 6,000 pregnant women in the United States [5]. 

Lilial is another common fragrance ingredient that was recently banned in Europe due to its reproductive toxicity, but is still legal in the U.S. Other ingredients are allergens with the potential to cause mild or severe skin irritation. The list goes on and on. 

We wish that the use of these ingredients would have been prohibited, but as long as the use of toxic fragrance chemicals is permitted, our Clearya - CSCP collaboration is intended to help inform you of their existence in products while you shop online, so that you can more easily choose safe products for you and your family.

What to do next?

  • When you use the Clearya mobile app or chrome extension, look for an additional list of "CDPH reported ingredients" which could appear for some products in the Clearya "Ingredients" tab, just below the shop's normal ingredient list. CDPH reported ingredients in the Clearya "Ingredients" tab will also be flagged in the "Alerts" tab with more information about the potential health hazard.
  • When the "CDPH reported ingredients" in the "Ingredients" tab include just a few potential allergens (e.g. limonene, linalool and other yellow colored ingredients) this could indicate that the brand hasn't reported more toxic fragrance ingredients to the CDPH.
  • When no "CDPH reported ingredients" are displayed by Clearya this does not necessarily mean that the product has no reportable fragrance ingredients in it (not all products are reported to CDPH, or "matched" by Clearya. For example, matching is not yet supported on Sephora). If you see the words “Fragrance” or "Perfume" without the actual fragrance ingredients being reported, consider opting for an alternative product that is labeled "fragrance-free", or at least: phthalate-free.

Get the free Clearya app for iPhone/iPad and Android phone, or as a Chrome browser extension on your computer.

Learn more in the CDPH announcement.

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Disclaimer: the content in this blog post is provided for general information, and does not substitute any medical advice by your own doctor or another health care professional. Contact for questions or comments.


  1. Right to Know - Exposing toxic fragrance chemicals in beauty, personal care and cleaning products. Breast Cancer Prevention Partners 2018
  2. California Senate Bill No. 312, "Cosmetic Fragrance and Flavor Ingredient Right to Know Act of 2020"
  3. California proposition 65 legislation; U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP)
  4. Zohar Barnett-Itzhaki et. al. Association between follicular fluid phthalate concentrations and extracellular vesicle microRNAs expression. Human Reproduction 2021
  5. Welch BM et. al. Associations Between Prenatal Urinary Biomarkers of Phthalate Exposure and Preterm Birth A Pooled Study of 16 US Cohorts. JAMA Pediatrics