A Case for Unscented or Fragrance-Free Products

scent free products
Photo courtesy of The Canadian Lung Association. www.lung.ca

“If you enjoy the fragrance of a rose, you must accept the thorns which it bears.” -Isaac Hayes

Scents are powerful and primitive. They can evoke memories and emotions, good and bad. People like to add scents to themselves and to the spaces around them. That much is obvious and is evidenced by the huge demand for scented products in our world, from skin care to laundry detergent to scented candles. What is rarely discussed, however, is the growing number of people who either don’t care for or have allergic reactions to such scents; and prefer unscented, or fragrance-free, products.

For some people the slightest whiff of perfume, cleaning products, air fresheners, or that ‘new car smell’ cause irritation and lingering physical symptoms. This should not be surprising as most of these types of products are a stew of manmade chemicals (the same VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, found in paints, glues, etc.) that not everyone can tolerate. Both the American Medical Association and the Americans With Disabilities Act recognize that low exposure to common chemicals, including certain scented products, can disable an otherwise healthy person. Halifax Nova Scotia became the first ‘Fragrance Free’ city in North America back in 1991. Since then numerous public buildings, schools, churches, and hospitals across the globe have incorporated scent-free policies to protect those who are affected by scents.

The only scents we ever use in our products at Badger come from organic plant extracts and essential oils. These are totally safe and we add them for a few specific reasons, such as to provide aromatherapeutic benefits (Sleep Balm, Cheerful Mind Balm), to heal or protect (Aromatic Chest Rub, Anti-Bug, Sore Muscle Rub) or simply to make the products smell nice (Beauty Balm, Shave Soap). Over the years we’ve heard a growing demand from our customers to make more products without any fragrance. We now have fourteen unscented products, including sunscreens, lip balms, and skin moisturizers. Most of these have become best-sellers in their categories.

unscented lip balm
A few of the unscented products Badger offers

What is your opinion on scented products? What types of products do you like to have a scent and what types of products do you prefer to be unscented. Do you prefer natural and organic essential oil fragrances to synthetic ones?

Chris Hamilton has been an E-Commerce, Sales & Marketing consultant with Badger since 2007. With a background in science and education he has helped with product and ingredient research and sourcing and has written educational pieces for the Badger website and other marketing materials. Chris does most of Badger's product photography and has shot and edited all of Badger's videos. Chris also maintains Badger's website and e-commerce strategies. Chris is an avid surfer, a traveler, and a deep house music DJ, and he also owns a video production company In the Wild Productions. Chris's favorite Badger products: Sleep Balm, All Cocoa Butter Lip Balms, & SPF35 Sport Sunscreen Stick.

36 comments on “A Case for Unscented or Fragrance-Free Products

  • Maybe not in terms of inhalation but in terms of topical application, natural fragrance has been proven to be just as irritating to the skin as synthetic ones. Even if you aren’t irritated by essential oils and other forms of natural fragrance, you can later become irritated by it after repeated exposure.

    • Thank you, Maya. Yes, people can have a wide range of sensitivities, including sensitivity to all-natural ingredients. We formulate using the safety guidelines established by IFRA (the International Fragrance Association) and no single essential oil makes up more than 3% of any of our products. We do not add any essential oils to our Unscented products for the purpose of fragrance. Many of our customers use Badger because of our ingredient transparency and full disclosure labels or have concerns and/or sensitivities to conventional products that contain long lists of synthetic ingredients. We keep it simple and hope you are able to find something that works well for you!

  • Thanks for making products without essential oils! Using natural products with essential oils for many years made me dreadfully allergic to linalool (it now makes my skin turn red, scaly, and itchy before flaking off) so now I can’t use most natural products.

  • Heartbroken you have discontinued unscented beauty balm and body oil. Hope you’ll bring them back soon! Please, please do NOT discontinue the unscented cleansing oil and facial oil!

    • Hi Erica – we share your sadness! We will indeed continue to produce our Unscented Cleansing and Face oils and do have plans to release the formula for our Unscented Beauty Balm. If you haven’t tried it, you might find our original Unscented Balm to be a useful alternative. It has been well loved by people with sensitive skin for many years. Kindly, Emily

  • I was so disappointed to learn that you discontinued the Unscented Beauty Balm, which worked well for the area under my eyes. Is there any possibility of bringing that product back? Would it be safe to use the Unscented Face Oil under the eyes?

    • We share your grief on this item! Although we do not have the ability to make small batches at this time, it’s possible we may acquire machinery that could allow for small releases in the future. We understand that discontinuing Unscented products can be a greater hardship to our customers who are unable to use fragranced alternatives. Because our products are lightly fragranced, you may find that you can still use them (we recommend conducting an overnight skin patch test when in doubt). Keep an eye to the blog, though. We will be releasing the recipe with directions for at-home production in a DIY post.

      In the meantime, yes, the Unscented Face Oil is used regularly by our customers under the eye area. You might also consider the Unscented Badger Balm, which is a little bit firmer in texture at first, but melts right in if you swipe it between your hands a few times quickly to bring up the temperature before applying. Good luck!

  • Why? Why would you get rid of the unscented beauty balm??? I love that stuff. Luckily I got two jars for Xmas. Bummer 🙁

    • Thank you for sharing your sincere care for this item and we, too, are sorry that we are unable to continue to produce the Unscented Beauty Balm in small quantities. We will still continue to produce the lightly fragranced Rose Beauty Balm if that’s helpful to you and we will be releasing a DIY recipe for anyone interested in making this at home. If you’re not familiar with the Unscented Balm, it may also be a good substitute. It’s one of our favorite all-purpose products.


    I also have had multiple chemical sensitivities for over 30 years. I cannot stand even natural fragrances like flowers. Gardenias and certain lilies and wisteria, etc. give me headaches and trigger my asthma and cause nausea as badly as synthetic scents do. Certain detergents, “room fresheners”, dryer sheets, etc. cause the same. So many people do not realize that these synthetic scents contain dangerous chemicals and act as hormone disruptors having numerous health effects. However, I have no problem at all with any of the cocoa butter Badgers lip balms. I am so grateful for Badger products…Thank you!! I am going to try some of your other products.

    • Emily Mason says:

      Thank you, Chantal! We’re so glad that our lip balms have been helpful to you and hope that you have continued success with future selections. Let us know how it goes!
      All the best,

  • Natural scents are a problem for a LOT of people (and they aren’t necessarily safe for others). Lavender gives me a headache. My partner is sensitive to almost all scents, synthetic or natural, and can go into anaphylaxis or have seizures. I know MANY other people who can’t be around natural scents. How well have essential oils been tested? I don’t think well at all — assumptions are being made, because they are natural. And they aren’t like sniffing a flower. These are purified and concentrated chemicals extracted from plants, and any harm that might me minor in the natural state is multiplied exponentially. I love your company, but what you’ve said here is unfounded BS.

    • Hello Mr. Badger,

      Thanks for writing! Essential oils have been used safely and successfully for hundreds of years. We feel that this is pretty substantial testing 🙂 Also we are able to make rational assumptions on risk and hazard based on our current scientific understanding of their biological actions. If you’re curious, search online for Robert Tisserand’s Essential Oil Safety book and peek inside. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn that actually, we know quite a bit!

      We always dilute essential oils into carrier oils at safe concentrations and have products tested hypoallergenic. We are confident in our safe use of essential oils.

      That being said, I totally agree that they’re just not for everyone. And for the scent-sensitive, I believe that EOs are no better than perfumes. But we maintain that essential oils are better for people, in general, than synthetic perfumes.

      Let me know if this helps!


  • Carol Ann says:

    I seem to be allergic, sometimes violently, to scents in things. My airways just shut down and I cannot breath. Therefore, I have a scent free house and car! I buy scent-free products. So I am delighted you are making scent free items for use for people like me. Yay!

  • I agree with a commenter above. After years and years of trying everything we finally figured out what was bothering our son—masking fragrances. He can now use soap, shampoo, sunscreen and the like without his skin becoming irritated. I’m going to try your lip balm on him. If it is truly free of masking fragrances you might want to include that on your packaging. Very few items have that labeling so unless it says it on the label I am always leary of it. Thanks!

  • I love Badger’s unscented products (I use the unscented face care starter set), but I also love the aromatherapy products, particularly the citrus-scented varieties, and am eager to try to the Damascus Rose I just purchased. I have a very low tolerance for synthetic fragrances and only use naturally scented (from plant oils and extracts) and unscented products. Badger’s is top of my list for both 🙂

  • I really like your products that is certified organic with sealed.
    But one thing that bothers me is the titanium dioxide in the lip shimmers and other lip balms.
    I wish it is not included and I hope you consider it to remove next year because some people react to it.

    • Hi Ruby!

      Titanium dioxide only appears in our Lip Tint & Shimmers at this time. Our sunscreens only use non-nano uncoated zinc oxide, including our sunscreen lip balm, and the pigments in our tinted sunscreens are iron oxide. Titanium dioxide does not appear in our Classic Lip Balms or Cocoa Butter Lip Balms.

      I believe we are reformulating the Lip Tints – I will pass your note on to our Product Development team for their consideration.

      Please let me know if you have any more questions. 🙂


  • I have MCS pretty badly. A lot of things will trigger my flare ups (skin and/or asthma). It’s awful to be this way, but it has served as a valuable lesson in the importance of what goes in & on our bodies! Lesson learned many times over in trying so many products in the past, only to suffer the consequences. Badger products are a godsend for us sufferers. Couldn’t be more grateful as I am that Badger came out with a terrific unscented line! Absolutely the best family owned & operated business who are truly thoughtful in the environment, the employees & the consumers. Thank you so very, very much!

  • I have Multiple Chemical Sensitives, meaning I am reactive to many scents. This includes many essential oils, which are not always as pure as they claim. I’ve never had any reactions to any Badger Products. I was very hesitant to try the Sleep Balm because it’s aromatherapy, but now I’m in love with it.

    Despite this, I am very very appreciative of your unscented line! Even if I can tolerate a scent, I don’t necessarily want the scent. Smelling something that is scented causes me alarm – it’s my warning to get away before I get sick. Even scents that don’t cause me to react automatically make me worry. I’ve grown to trust the Sleep Balm and Arnica Sore Muscle Rub, and so I’ve trained myself not to “sound the alarm” with these products, but I would rather not have to do that with products that do not require a scent.

    Badger, my only suggestion would be to change the label from “Unscented” to “Fragrance Free.” A fellow person with MCS refused to try your Unscented line because they are conditioned to “Unscented” meaning masking scents or chemicals are used, which cause reactions. “Fragrance Free” is supposed to mean no masking scents or chemicals. You already know this, since you wrote about this in this blog post, but customers may not take the time to research your Unscented line.

    Thanks for being so caring and considering of our sensitives and needs! You’re easily one of my favorite companies!

    • Hi Sarah,

      Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment. You bring up a really interesting point, and it’s opened up a dialog here at Badger! We’re going to look into your suggestion, and likely amend the wording on our website. Our packaging might take a little longer, as we order in bulk – but it’s great to hear what you look for. We want people to feel at ease using our products, and we want to present information to our customers in a way that makes sense. Your feedback is invaluable. 🙂

      In gratitude,
      Jentri & the Badgers

    • hi sarah:

      i too deal with MCS and have done so for 15 years. i could absolutely relate to your comments about fragrance and the “alarm bells” going off.

      i am extremely grately for products like Badger who not only have unscented/fragrance free products, but when they do use fragrance it is essential oils that have been steam distilled.

      thank you Badger, you have no idea what a difference your products make to a person who has to deal with MCS.

  • I prefer scents be left out of facial products as well as in facial/body sunscreens as a lot of people have allergies to fragrances in facial/body products. I would also like to see fragrances left out of body products for those of us who cannot tolerate fragrances in body products. It’s fine to offer fragrances in body products, but we should be given a choice, not just say, “here, this is what’s available” with no fragrance/non-fragrance choices.

    Last, if fragranced-body products will be offered, the fragrances should come from natural sources such as mint, some flowers, etc., and should be organic, they should not come from artificial sources. If using fragrances in body products, the scents also should not be overwhelming.

    Last, I agree with the customer (above) who wanted fragrance- free lip balm – that is also a very good idea (with added SPF would be good).


    • Hi Amie,

      Thanks for reading and commenting! We do not provide samples, but if you order from badgerbalm.com we have a 100% satisfaction guarantee. So if, for any reason, you are dissatisfied just give us a call and we’ll give you a refund or credit. Whichever you prefer!

      -Jentri & the Badgers

  • Carlos Alvarez says:

    Unscented or Fragrance-Free products are usually a higher percentage organic compared to others (more natural and healthier for you). Really love this.

    Thanks for posting it!


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