Fragrances can contain one or more ingredients and when listed as "Fragrance" or "Perfum", it is done because the composition is being kept a trade secret. This does not give any indication that the composition is synthetic or naturally sourced, although in most cases, "Fragrance" consists of synthetic ingredients, such as phthalates.
In the case of Natural Fragrances, especially those in NPA or BDIH certified products, the ingredients used for the scent are listed as "Fragrance" because the composition is being kept proprietary - most often because the scent blend is purchased from a fragrance supplier who does not wish to disclose the blend composition. In order for the product to be certified natural, the certifying body would enter into an agreement with the fragrance supplier not to disclose the scent details. This then ensures that the certifiying body is able to ensure the individual scent ingredients meet the natural standards.
Synthetic Fragrances are commonly used in personal care products and are complex formulations containing as many as 200 ingredients. They are used because they are more affordable than pure natural essential oils. Most adverse reactions to cosmetics and toiletries are caused by fragrance chemicals, which are known irritants and allergens. Many of us have encountered synthetic fragrances that cause us to sneeze or give us headaches, dizziness, violent coughing or even rashes and other skin irritations.
Most hypoallergenic products are fragrance free.
On an ingredient label, fragrances, whether synthetic or natural, are simply listed as “fragrance”, “perfume” or “parfum”, preventing us from identifying the chemical makeup and whether these chemicals may be dangerous to our long-term health.
Products should be certified 100% natural and NOT CONTAIN any synthetic fragrances — only the purest, 100% natural essential oils and essences. Look for products that are certified natural by associations such as the NPA. These organizations will require that fragrance compounds are naturally sourced.
NOTE: the Environmental Working Group (EWG) does not distinguish between synthetic and natural fragrance simply gives the ingredient "FRAGRANCE" a hazard score of 8. Also, when scoring products, it does not differentiate if 5% of fragrance is used of 0.5%. In our opinion, we feel this unfairly punishes Certified Natural products that go to the trouble to source great Natural Scents from fragrance suppliers to create a better sensory experience with their products, compared to simply adding some rose or lavender oil.