Stella doesn’t sit next to elderly ladies on the bus anymore.
“I like older people. Don’t get me wrong,” she says. “But it’s the perfume. I can’t risk it.”
For those who are sensitive to fragrances, sitting next to someone wearing perfume can be unbearable.
As Stella explains, “My nasal passageways close up, I start wheezing, and I have to scramble up and find another seat. I hate it.”
Aaliyah could relate. For her, it was going out.
“Some guy wants to dance, and I should be happy, right? Then he gets close and, bam! The cologne gets up my nose. Can’t stand it. I know it’s supposed to be sexy, but what about normal guy smell? Isn’t that sexy?”
We live in an artificially scented world.
Everything’s got an odor, from air fresheners and laundry detergent to lip balm and bubble gum.
And when those scents collide in a confined space, headaches start brewing.
A 2016 survey found that 1 in 3 people “reported health problems, such as migraine headaches and respiratory difficulties, when exposed to fragranced products.” 
And when those fragranced products are used at work—whether due to cleaning products or perfumed colleagues—sensitive employees end up taking more sick days or even having to quit.
For those who aren’t sensitive to scents, the world of scented products is a delight.
Most of us think nothing of buying a shampoo in one scent, deodorant in another scent, and moisturizer in another. We layer on scented products with the aim of “smelling good,” never realizing that scents that smell great don’t always smell great together.
But that’s not the issue for fragrance sensitives.
It’s not how good something smells … but rather the chemicals in the fragrance.
Most fragrances today are synthetic, made in a laboratory. They can contain harmful chemicals such as acetone, benzene, phenol, toluene, benzyl acetate, and limonene. 
As a result, some consider fragrances a form of air pollution.
The Invisible Disabilities Association launched the Cleaner Indoor Air Campaign in 2006. Their aim is to educate businesses, medical facilities, and churches about the impact of perfumes, colognes, chemicals, and synthetic fragrances on the millions of Americans with chemical sensitivities.
Fragrance is just as much of a trigger for asthma attacks as secondhand smoke, yet finding a fragrance-free environment to live, work and shop in is much more difficult than finding a smoke-free one.
But wait a second…
Isn’t it important to smell good?
Surely the whole point of fragrance is to cover up unpleasant odors!
That’s just the marketing talking.
The best smell of all may be your natural scent.
Artificial fragrances obscure your natural odor. A man who thinks the “unscented you” smells good is getting Nature’s green light to get it on. Find out more about why sweat is superior to perfume.
So switching to unscented beauty products (and don’t forget the unscented laundry detergent, too) can do you a world of good.
But where do you find them?
As someone who’s sensitive to artificial fragrances myself, I find it tough to hunt down unscented beauty products.
It’s not just the smell. I’ve got sensitive skin, and fragrance sets my skin off. In fact, at least 100 of the 2,800 ingredients used in commercial fragrances are known allergens.
Buying “unscented” beauty products doesn’t always help. Many brands claim to be unscented while using low levels of fragrance to mask any unpleasant odors.
The best source of information on whether products are fragranced comes from EWG’s Skin Deep database. But it’s not always easy to remember to check.
Recently I purchased a Rimmel lipstick from their Kate Moss line, having heard rave reviews, and had to throw it out when I discovered the lipstick was scented.
The brand I’ve ended up returning to again and again is Clinique. Not only is their product line amazing, but they’re 100% fragrance free. I appreciate not having to sort through each individual product to find out which ones have fragrances and which ones don’t.
Cetaphil is another solid drugstore brand for scent sensitives, and I’ve heard good things about Paula’s Choice and Jason. Yes To has a fragrance-free line, but make sure not to pick up a fragranced version by accident.
What’s your favorite fragrance-free brand? Let us know in the comments.