Hello, tribe! I am so excited to welcome back my husband, Dr. Eddy, a board-certified dermatologist, to talk all about fragrances and dry skincare.
When I was a teenager, I used to love shopping at Bath & Body Works. It was one of the few stores that, growing up in Ohio, my sister and I loved to visit. It’s truly every teenage girl’s dream! Their products smelled so good at the time, and I loved using anything that had fragrance in it. But, over the last ten years, my taste has definitely changed. It may sound boring, but I’m very happy to have switched to non-fragrant products — and so is my skin!
During the winter months, when the air is already very dry, using scented products can really do a number on your skin. That’s why in today’s episode, Dr. Eddy and I are discussing the difference between fragrance-free and unscented, what to look for in avoiding fragrances, and how to take care of dry skin by avoiding irritants. We’ll also share with you some of our favorite products for maintaining hydrated skin! Trust me — these products will revolutionize your skincare routine and results!
If you have any questions about any of the topics we discuss, you can leave a comment below or reach out to me on Instagram, @drnikoleta. Now, without any further ado, let’s get started!
Reading and Understanding the Labels
First, if you have sensitive skin or if your skin gets dry during the winter, it’s important to understand the difference between products that are marketed as “fragrance-free” and those advertised as “unscented.” These two terms are not the same! “Fragrance-free” actually means that fragrance materials or masking scents are actually not used in the product. However, “unscented” generally means that the product may contain other chemicals that neutralize or mask the odors of the other ingredients. So if it says “unscented,” that doesn’t mean there is no fragrance present — it just means there are certain chemicals that allow that odor to be hidden.
As Dr. Eddy pointed out, there are actually about 4,000 fragrances that can be used in products. Companies are not required to list every fragrance on the label because some of these fragrances are considered “trade secrets.” The person or company that makes the product doesn’t want to disclose what the fragrance is in case somebody copies their recipe. As a result, you’ll often see on the label an ingredient titled “fragrance” or “fragrance mix.”
It’s especially important to watch for fragrances in baby products. A baby’s skin is SO sensitive and delicate — so watch for skincare products that have harsh, added fragrances that could be very drying. Whenever I look at a baby skincare item, I always look at the active ingredients listed on the back label. I’m on the watch for fragrance or other plant-based extracts that I’ve learned through my dermatology practice can aggravate sensitive skin.
Dr. Eddy also pointed out that added fragrances aren’t limited to skincare products — you also want to read the label of your laundry detergent. In our household, we really like Tide Free and Gentle. It’s a great option for people who have very sensitive skin or eczema since it’s hypoallergenic. We’re also not advocates for fabric softener.
“I advise my patients to not even use fabric softener because, as we know, the fabric softeners stay on the clothes to make it soft. Some of them are formulated [so] that they have no fragrance, but they can still have some irritants to the skin.” – Dr. Eddy Prodanovic
This brings us to our next couple of questions: What’s the difference between an irritant and an allergen? And which of these things contributes to dry skin?
Protect Your Skin From Irritating Fragrances
A lot of the medical terminology can be confusing around the terms “allergen” and “irritant.” Let’s clear that up! An allergen is what we think of, for example, if someone reacts to a peanut allergy by developing hives. When an allergen manifests as a skin condition, it tends to be more exuberant — think raised, red, and itchy skin.
An irritant is typically more subtle. A reaction to an irritant maybe a little patch of dry, red skin that slowly develops into eczema — itchy skin. An allergy often will present more aggressively if you’re exposed to something year after year. Irritants work more slowly.
Why do we bring this up? Some people can use any product under the sun, and their skin is just fine. For others, trying a new product can lead to serious issues. During the winter, your skin can be a little bit more sensitive. So often, Dr. Eddy and I see patients who have started experimenting with fragrance products. Maybe you got something new as a gift, or maybe you just want to change up your routine a little. We get it — there are so many lotions out there that smell so good!
But, just because something smells good doesn’t mean your skin should suffer for it. Even scented candles and air fresheners can do some damage. Avoid irritants as much as you can during the winter, and your skin will thank you!
One last tip: Some products will use synonyms for fragrance on their label. Watch out for terms like “perfume,” “parfum,” “aroma,” “flavor,” or, as we’ve already mentioned, “unscented.”
Our Favorite Fragrance-Free Products
Ok, so now you know what to look for and what ingredients to avoid — what products do Dr. Eddy and I use?
For our son, Vanicream makes a really nice shower cleanser that I use on his soft, delicate skin. It’s gentle and hypoallergenic. I personally use Dove’s products for sensitive skin. You can buy their Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar at Costco, which also sells the bottle version of their sensitive skin line. As for creams, I am currently obsessed with the La Roche Posay Lipikar intensive repair cream — I keep that on my nightstand and use it all over my body after I shower!
Dr. Eddy uses Vanicream too — he likes that it has no dyes, no perfumes, and no preservatives that can strip your skin. Cetaphil and CeraVe are also great brands with cleansers, creams, and ointments that are a bit thicker, which help sensitive skin. Even Aveeno makes some really good products — especially if you have more sensitive, eczema-prone skin. Their products include colloidal oatmeal to help relieve irritated skin.
Remember, your skincare needs change with the season! As the weather warms up, you won’t need as many heavy creams or ointments as you may need when it’s dry in the winter.
The seasons aren’t the only thing you need to pay attention to in caring for your skin. I’ll let Dr. Eddy explain: “One thing that we should all realize is that as we get older, our skin gets drier. That’s going to happen! You can tell — when [we] were teenager[s], we all had oily faces, but you know, you got into your 30s, things that subsided. …You [will] get to the point, if you’re 90 years old, [when] your skin [will] be very dry. Some of those oil glands that we used to have [won’t be] so prominent anymore. They’re not functioning to provide the moisturization that our skin needs. Even the products you use right now may change in a decade.” – Dr. Eddy Prodanovic
How Will You Care for Your Dry Skin?
Tribe, I want to say — both Eddy and I LOVE sharing our skincare knowledge with you all! This podcast has brought me so much joy, and I’m confident that it’s giving you all the tools to upgrade your skincare routine and achieve the skin of your dreams. Having soft, dreamy skin can be difficult during the winter, but if you follow our advice and avoid fragrant products, you’re well on your way to achieving healthy skin!
This season, help out your skin as much as you can and avoid perfumes — even from scented candles and air fresheners. If you have any questions you’d like to ask, please reach out! Leave a comment below or tag me on Instagram, @drnikoleta, with a screenshot of the episode and your questions or comments — I’d love to hear from you!
Additionally, I would appreciate it very much if you would subscribe and give me a five-star rating and review on Apple Podcasts. Your reviews truly help this podcast find new listeners, and we’re always working to bring new people into this incredible community! And speaking of, take a moment to check out the Millennial Doc community on Facebook. This is a wonderful place for like-minded professionals to meet and support each other. We’d love to have you join us.
Until next time — I love you all! For now, love your skin and Step Out with Confidence® this winter season!
Disclaimer: The Millennial Doc® Podcast is advertising/marketing material. It is not medical advice. Please consult with your doctor on these topics. Copyright Dr. Nikoleta 2021.