Saturday Question: Skincare – Scented, Fragrance-free or Unscented?

With the current trends for “clean,” “organic,” “vegan,” “eco-friendly,” “cruelty-free,” etc. beauty products, the question of scent in skincare products is constantly being mentioned. With it comes some confusion: people associate scents with being harmful, while the absence of scents seems like a safer choice. In reality, it is not necessarily true. “Unscented” products might contain ingredients that neutralize or mask scents but are themselves irritants, while naturally occurring pleasant aromas might be completely harmless. Of course, having a fragrance added to the product (either to make it smell better or not to smell at all) will not necessarily irritate your skin, same as all-natural ingredients are not guaranteed to be safe, as we know from IFRA’s regulations for even those minuscule amounts that get onto your skin as perfume application. So, the safest combination for sensitive skin would be products that contain only safe ingredients (with or without their natural scent) and no added fragrance to either enhance or hinder our scent perception of the product. This is theoretically. But what in reality? Do you care for the scent in your skincare products?

Saturday Question on Undina's Looking Glass

Saturday Question #77:

Skincare – Scented, Fragrance-free or Unscented?

Do you care whether your skincare products have a scent (natural occurring or added)? Do you prefer it one way or the other? Do you make an extra effort to ensure that the product you’re getting smells the way you like (or doesn’t smell at all, if this is your preference)?

What are your favorite products smell-wise?

My Answer

I can’t say with certainty whether my skin is sensitive. I do have some skin allergies, but those seem to be triggered mostly by environmental factors: I started having any issues (other than mild acne, from which I suffered my whole life) only 3 or 4 years ago when we had the first huge fire in our area with air quality being classified as “dangerous” for a couple of weeks. At that point, my skin started reacting to everything, and that was when I switched to the simplest routine with a couple of products that I tolerated well. Back then the question of ascent or fragrance in products didn’t even occur to me.

A year of working from home miraculously healed my skin super-sensitivity, and I started dabbling in an enhanced skincare routine, as I described in one of my Sunday Self-care Series post. And that was when I realized that I do not enjoy skincare products that do not have any smell. The scentless Ilia Lip Wrap Treatment Mask was one of my least favorite lip products. I tolerate The Ordinary products, but mostly because those are super-simple “one-track” remedies. With everything else… I want a pleasant scent. My skincare doesn’t feel luxurious enough if I cannot smell anything at all. Among products that I enjoy, I’d name Emma Hardie Moringa Cleansing Gel, Guerlein Youth Watery Oil and Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask in Berry.

Lip Masks

So, if I absolutely have to (if my skin starts “misbehaving” again), of course, I will pay even more attention to what I react to, and I might decide to eliminate some of the products that do not swear not to make the situation worse (being “free-everything”). But until then I try to stick to products that provide enjoyment to all of my senses.

Speaking about satisfying all the senses… Check out this post (and a giveaway) on Jessica’s blog (Perfume Professor) for the review of the latest products from Boxwalla’s subscription.


How about you?

Skincare – Scented, Fragrance-free or Unscented?


Sunday Self-care, Episode 5: Not that Ordinary Skincare

For many years my skincare routine was quite simple. In the morning, it was a face cleanser and a tinted moisturizer with some sunscreen properties. And in the evening, the same face cleanser was used again (a single cleanse since I didn’t use too much makeup) and a simple moisturizer. Sometimes I would use a random serum sample from a GWP (though, it was just a handful of otherwise trusted brands, such as Shiseido, Dior or Estee Lauder). The most exotic item in my day-to-day skincare was a softener from Shiseido (I’m not sure why; I think I just liked the scent and the feeling on my skin).

I kept telling myself that I would start doing more once I get older… But I kept postponing it, mostly because without a good understanding of what was supposed to be used with what, in what sequence and, what was the most important, for what purpose, it felt like a big fraud and attempt to get me to pay money for something I didn’t need.

Many skincare brands’ websites have some type of a step-by-step wizard that after asking you about your skin type and age group moves onto your skin concerns. Until very recently, reading those questions, I couldn’t figure out what to choose since nothing offered as an option seemed like a serious enough concern for me to do a targeted intervention.

Today, looking back, I suspect that the may reason for my attitude was that, despite my lifelong struggle with mild acne, my skin was in relatively good shape. My skin was never dry, and it isn’t that oily either any more. Signs of aging? Sure, but who of age 25+ doesn’t have those? Uneven skin tone? Of course! All my life I had freckles that I didn’t really like but kept under control with the year-round SPF and a tinted moisturizer. Acne is a different story, but I’ll do a separate post on it later in this series. All-in-all, I was reasonably happy with what I saw in the mirror.

And then I didn’t. First, I started noticing some dryness under my eyes. Then I suddenly realized that some areas of my face have visible pores. Then, as I described in the Fun out of the Sun episode of this series, I discovered that my skin tone got much more uneven than I ever remembered it to be. All that didn’t happen in one day (or even month), but at some point I started thinking about trying to counteract at least some of these effects.

My “gateway drug” into the new skincare reality was a Glass Skin Discovery Kit from Peach & Lily. I can’t remember how I discovered it, or why suddenly it spoke to me. But the idea of having a full set – a four-step skincare routine – suddenly felt very attractive. I bought the set and then even before I finished it, I got full-size products.

Has my skin gotten even a step closer to the mythical “glass skin”? I don’t know, probably not. But I like using this brand, so I keep it in the rotation.

Peach and Lily Skincare

And then I discovered The Ordinary. Of course, I heard about it at least several years earlier, it has been raved about even in perfume blogs and was considered as some type of a skincare revolution. Since back then I didn’t have any concerns they promised to help with, I wasn’t interested. But once I became interested, I wanted to try EVERYTHING.

I read through pages and pages of blog posts and articles, viewed numerous videos and went through the Regimen Builder of the brand’s site. I couldn’t figure out what I needed. I combined multiple recommendations and bought my first batch of The Ordinary products 8-9 months ago.

The Ordinary Skincare

After it arrived, I started panicking: I had no idea what could be combined with what either inside the set that I bought or between The Ordinary and all other products that I had. For the first time in my life, I had products that among the recommendation for use had instructions “do not use with other XXX.” It was scary because I wasn’t sure whether what I shouldn’t have combined with these new ones was in the products I already had: it’s not even enough to read labels since those tell you the specific ingredients’ names but not their generic/group name. So, I didn’t use any of them for a couple of months waiting until I would figure that out. Slowly I built some understanding of how products of the set that I got could be combined, but I still wasn’t sure what other products could be used together with them.

After approximately 6 months of using The Ordinary products, I can tell with a conviction that their Caffeine Solution works: it does reduce an under-eye puffiness within minutes. Everything else? I can’t say one way or the other: I don’t see any drastic improvements, but I’m not sure what I could expect after a half-year use. What I do know is that I do not enjoy that DIY lab-style skincare where I need to work hard on figuring out the allowed combinations.

I’m not sure that I or my wallet are ready to switch to Sisley or La Mer (while I still have doubts in my mind as to how much the topical solutions can do), but I think that my next stop will be brands that do at least some work of combining ingredients into something that resembles a finished product. I have many higher-end skincare samples from my recent epic GWP haul, so I plan to go through them figuring out if I want to give any of those brands a try. What I mean is, I know that it’s impossible to get any real results from a trial version of the active product. But since I have my doubts as to the effectiveness of any products, at least I can try to choose those that I enjoy using.


How do you build your skincare regimen? Do you have a good understanding of the ingredients that the products you use have? Or do you rely upon someone’s recommendations? Or do you not care?


Images: my own