We all want to smell great, but many chemical perfumes contain compounds that can irritate skin and increase our exposure to endocrine disruptors. Luckily, there are many easy, sweet ways to still smell good while also staying healthy.

Problems with Chemical Perfumes

The ingredients in chemical perfumes are largely unregulated, and loopholes in the regulations that do exist make it possible for perfume manufacturers to hide undisclosed ingredients in their products. These ingredients can cause allergic reactions and a few are thought to be endocrine disruptors, which can increase the risk of health conditions like cancer long-term. 

There are a number of organizations that are actively working to get firmer regulations for products containing fragrances at the government level in countries across the globe. Until this happens, however, it’s best if you can take a defensive strategy on your own and learn to choose products that—by nature of containing only naturally occurring ingredients—don’t contain harmful chemicals.

Removing toxic and allergy-inducing chemicals from your daily routine is a helpful part of any health plan because it reduces the input of chemicals that the skin, liver, and lymphatic system will eventually have to detox. It’s a lifelong skill to learn to use non-toxic, non-chemical scents and fragrances so that you can stay healthy and still smell great. So, here are my favorite ways to get you there. These approaches take the guesswork out of choosing your signature scent and reduce your exposure to potentially harmful ingredients.

How to Smell Sweet Naturally

Shampoo and Conditioners with Plant-Based Fragrances

Often when we lean in to give someone a hug in greeting, we smell what we think is perfume. In fact, it’s often their conditioner that has left a pleasant scent in their hair. You can choose shampoos and conditioners specifically to leave you with a lasting natural aroma that you can use as perfume all throughout the day. To accomplish this effect, shower in the morning and/or put some conditioner in your hair as a leave-in conditioner before you leave the house. Try to choose hair products that don’t contain ingredients that are listed as “perfume” or “fragrance” and instead contain naturally aromatic plants like coconut or mango, flowers like hibiscus and lavender, or herbs like neem.

Essential Oils as Natural Perfume

Before I studied botanical medicine, I didn’t understand that essential oils were essentially just concentrated forms of herbal tea. Yes, you read that right! Essential oils are made by distillation or cold press extraction, both of which look a lot like boiling a cup of tea, and then capturing the tiny amount of oil that escapes in the vapor as the plant continues to stay immersed in boiling water. This is partly why essential oils are so low in chemical components; they’re basically just a cup of tea that’s been concentrated down without all of the extra water. 

Essential oils can be gentle and can make a wonderful addition to the normal oil or body lotion that you use to hydrate your skin. To make an essential oil-infused body oil, simply place about a quarter-sized dollop of lotion or oil in your palm. Add a drop of essential oil. Mix together well, then apply to your skin.

You should always patch-test essential oil-infused lotions or oils before using them over your entire body, because your individual skin may be sensitive to certain types of essential oils. To perform a patch test, simply apply a small patch of an oil or lotion blended with the essential oil onto about a dime-sized area of your skin. Wait 24 hours. If you don’t develop redness, burning, or a rash, then this is probably safe to use over larger parts of your body. You know your body best, so if you’re starting to suspect a certain type of essential oil is irritating to your skin, take a break and try the other methods for smelling good mentioned in this article or switch to a different essential oil.

Types of essential oils that make a great addition to body oils and lotions include:

  • Rose petal essential oil
  • Peppermint leaf essential oil
  • Orange essential oil
  • Lavender flower essential oil
  • Cedarwood essential oil
  • Vanilla essential oil

Body Lotions Can Be Used as Perfume

Many natural body lotions are naturally scented with essential oils. Choosing an essential oil body lotion saves you the trouble of having to mix them together yourself! 

Hydrosols as Natural Body Spray

If essential oils are the evaporated oils from herbal tea, then hydrosols are the steam. Hydrosols are made from the water vapor that evaporates off of herbal teas, then attaches to the lid of a container, and condenses and drips down into a collection container. What we wind up after this process is floral-scented water that can be used as a spray. Many people use rose water for their beauty routine because it’s astringent and can act as a toner, as can many other types of natural face mists. 

Deodorants Can Be Used as Natural Perfume

Many natural deodorants contain strong-smelling flowers and herbs that not only cover up the scent of body odor but emit a pleasant fragrance of their own. Search for a deodorant that contains herbs or flowers to add an extra scent on top of its powerful smell protection. 

Dryer Sheets

Have you ever smelled a certain brand of detergent and it reminded you of someone you knew? That’s because our laundry detergents and dryer sheets scents stay on our clothes even after we wash and dry them. The iHerb blog has many articles on how to choose non-toxic products for cleaning at home, including the laundry products you use. For our purposes, pick a natural laundry detergent and compostable dryer sheet that contains a scent you truly love so you can skip the chemical perfumes and still smell sweet.  

Avoid Scents You Need to Cover Up

Many people use perfume to cover up scents like cigarette smoke, vape scents, pet smells, musty closet or basement smells, and more. It’s far better to eliminate odors than to cover them up. If you smoke, quit. If you can’t quit completely yet, at least wear a jacket while smoking so you can remove it and wash your hands and face with a natural soap before going into social situations. Clean with a pet-dander friendly, HEPA-filtered vacuum cleaner to reduce pet hair and dander on the surfaces in your home and car that can get onto your clothes. Be sure to clean your pets regularly—as often as your veterinarian advises—using a natural pet wash. Use a dehumidifier in spaces that tend to smell musty, keep air moving and spray natural room deodorizers in rooms that store clothing or jackets that have a tendency to smell musty.

If you follow these tips, you should notice that you smell amazing without having to wear any perfume or chemical fragrances at all. 


  1. Uter, Wolfgang, et al. “Contact Allergy—Emerging Allergens and Public Health Impact.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 17, no. 7, 1 Apr. 2020, p. 2404, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7177224/, 10.3390/ijerph17072404. Accessed 30 Aug. 2021.
  2. “Not so Sexy.” Environmental Working Group, 12 May 2010, www.ewg.org/research/not-so-sexy. Accessed 30 Aug. 2021.