The term fragrance-free soap typically refers to soaps that are not scented with artificial or natural scenting agents. In many jurisdictions, the term fragrance-free has no single legal or official definition, so while a soap may be advertised as fragrance-free, this does not necessarily mean that the soap does not have a distinctive scent. The demand for fragrance-free soap exists largely because some individuals find that fragrances irritate their skin and some people are particularly sensitive to scents of any kind.
Many companies add fragrances to soaps and other personal hygiene products for any number of reasons. In some cases, these fragrances can linger on the skin, making users smell like the product. Scents may also be used in order to enhance the experience of washing, showering, or bathing with the product. In some cases, fragrance may be added to a product because one or more of its ingredients naturally has an unpleasant odor.
The problem with adding any type of scent to soaps, particularly those intended for facial use, is that fragrances can be very irritating to skin, eyes, and mucous membranes. Another problem with scented products is that some individuals are extremely sensitive to any scents and odors and may have a strong physical reaction to the fragrances used in cosmetics and personal hygiene products. In addition, individuals who are involved in industries in which they must be able to clearly identify certain smells and tastes may also find that scented products can affect their ability to perform their job adequately. For these reasons, many companies also offer unscented versions of their products.
Some experts note that it is not always possible to identify a fragrance-free soap just by smelling it. It is possible, for example, for a manufacturer to add neutralizing fragrances to a product in order to conceal scents that may naturally occur in its ingredients. For this reason, it is important to read ingredient labels in order to determine whether a product actually contains fragrance. It is also important for consumers to realize that even so-called natural fragrances, such as essential oils, can be irritating to the skin and trigger reactions in sensitive people.
When evaluating a fragrance-free soap for use, consumers should be aware that even a truly fragrance-free product can trigger breakouts and rashes in some people. The absence of fragrance does not mean that some ingredients may still sensitize a person's skin. As such, individuals who are very concerned about sensitivities should by sample-size versions of any fragrance-free soap that interests them in order to avoid wasting their money on a product that they will not be able to use.