Unscented Deodorants May Still Have Fragrance; Unilever, Proctor & Gamble, The Dial Corporation, Revlon Cons Prod Corp called out

Many products are listed as “Unscented” but if you take a closer look they may still be scented with a “masking fragrance”.  This makes absolutely no sense to me….. why list it as unscented when they have put a scent in it? Are the companies too lazy to name the scent? Did the marketing departments run out of silly naming ideas like cool breeze, fresh rain, and powdery shower?

The “unscented (but not really)” label is very noticeable in the deodorant aisle…. read the ingredients on the back of all the anti-perspirants listed as “unscented”. You may be surprised to see how many brands do this.

It is labelled "unscented" but it is not Fragrance-Free. Check the back for the ingredients.

The ingredients list a "*masking fragrance".... why call this "unscented?"

Why am I complaining about this? Because I am sensitive to fragrances and I have purchased products expecting them to be fragrance free and they were not. I am wiser now and always check the ingredients on the back.

Proctor & Gamble‘s Invisible Solid PH Balanced Secret isn’t the only brand that does this, there are many more. Here’s a list of a few I’ve found labelled as unscented but contains a fragrance….

  • Unilever‘s Dove Sensitive Skin Invisible Solid Unscented (They changed the product since I wrote this in March- See Update at bottom of post)
  • The Dial Corporation‘s Dry Idea Clinical Complete Invisible Solid Unscented
  • The Dial Corporation‘s Dry Idea Clear Gel Unscented
  • The Dial Corporation‘s Dry Idea Clinical Complete Roll-on Unscented
  • Proctor & Gamble‘s Secret Crystal Clear Gel Flawless Clear Unscented
  • Proctor & Gamble‘s Secret Invisible Solid Flawless Renewel Unscented (these two are different from the other one pictured)
  • Revlon Cons Prod Corp‘s Mitchum Smart Solid Unscented

I do give Revlon Cons Prod Corp some credit, the Mitchum line does offer an unscented clear gel deodorant for men that does not include fragrance. Mitchum Clear Gel Unscented is the only men’s deodorant that I can find in major stores that is truly without scent. I would think men would want less perfume.  I find it strange that more options are not easily available.

Unilever tends to market themselves as healthy with the Dove campaign. I do love Dove’s Sensitive Skin bar soap. I’m sad that they allow one of their deodorant’s to be marketed in a misleading way.

I would love to know why companies market a product as unscented when it clearly isn’t…. perhaps there is compelling argument to be made. I welcome company responses to smell INC.

UPDATE  July 25, 2010: I’m pleased to say that Unilever‘s Dove deodorant has taken a change for the better. They lost the fragrance! It is now marketed as Dove Ultimate Sensitive Care Fragrance Free. Thank you Unilever/Dove!

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27 responses to “Unscented Deodorants May Still Have Fragrance; Unilever, Proctor & Gamble, The Dial Corporation, Revlon Cons Prod Corp called out

  1. First of all there is some legal definitions. Unscented means there must be less than .2% of fragrance (whether you agree with that terminology or not). Fragrance-Free means there cannot be any fragrance but there still can be a masking agent.

    A masking agent is not even really a fragrance at all but rather a chemical make-up used to cover the base odor of the raw materials – without it most things would stink so much you would never use them.

    Hope that helps.

    Ps. Most men shop on fragrance so im surprised you think most men want less fragrance. All Axe, Old Spice, Dial and Gillette talk about are their fragrances.

  2. Thanks for bringing this confusing practice to our attention. I no longer attempt to buy any of the standard products and opt for Crystal Deodorant, baking soda for brushing teeth, and sunflower seed oil for lotion. I found I really don’t need much more than this. I use the “free and clear” type detergents available at the health food store like 7th Generation.

    So glad you are blogging!

  3. Adam,

    Thank you for your post. This is great information! It is interesting to hear the definitions of unscented. It is also helpful to learn about masking agents.

    I used to buy Secret’s unscented deodorant and years ago they added a masking fragrance. Unknowingly, when I applied it the first time it started to bother me immediately. I was so sad that they changed it. I guess I’m so sensitive I can’t wear even .2% of fragrance. OR I can’t wear whatever chemicals are in that fragrance.

    I still think the marketing departments should name a lightly scented product something else besides “unscented”.

  4. Worse, these companies can change this at any time. Gillette Dry Idea gel unscented now has a scent – like a flowery old lady. Disgusting to wear as a man and really bad if you are perfume sensitive like me.

    Men shop on fragrance? Maybe by choice some do, but not as a surprise in their unscented deodorant.

    I have written to the company expressing my dissatisfaction. I hope more people do this.

  5. I’m glad I’m not the only one noticing this! Arrid XX “unscented” also now has a masking fragrance in it. It is not listed on the label, but I can smell it. I am enraged by the fact that we are all being subjected to the “second-hand” chemically-laden, toxic scents in almost everything on the market. Even plastic water bottles have scent in them! (one of Trader Joe’s new larger bottles of spring water smells like artificial rose scent! I’m sure to cover up the other nasty chemicals in the plastic that probably comes from China where they are making all kinds of horrific materials that have no environmental regulations.)

  6. P.S. Adam;
    maybe the masking “agent” isn’t really a fragrance but a chemical make-up. However, most fragrances are made out of chemicals anyhow, so it’s all the same in the end. It isn’t so much the scent itself that is the problem with most people – it’s the chemicals that are used to make the artificial scents.

  7. you can use mum unperfumes roll on it’s really an scented

  8. Glad to hear I’m not alone. Every morning I hope the secret I carried back from NY to NZ will be unscented, and by the end of every day I stink of perfume. I’m aware that the mild scent masks the chemical scent, but the perfume scent stinks. This is the best I can do, as in NZ there are only heavily scented deodarants. Have you found one that genuinely doesn’t have scent?

    • For men, I like Mitchum Power Gel Unscented. I buy it at CVS and I have seen at supermarkets as well. Make sure it’s the gel version, I think some of their others may have a masking fragrance.

      For woman, I liked Sure Max Strong Solid Unscented. Unfortunately this was discontinued. I did find two other products without fragrance, Dove Ultimate Sensitive Care Fragrance Free and Arrid XX Dry Unscented.

      The best advice I can give is to look at the back of the deodorant and make sure that “masking fragrance” is not listed under inactive ingredients.

  9. There are several studies that show the causal relationship between specific skin conditions, such as rosacea and eczema (and other health hazards) and the chemicals that create and mask scents: http://dermatologydr.blogspot.com/2009/11/is-buying-unscented-enough-to-protect.html

  10. I just found this site after spending almost $5 on Secret “unscented”, only to find out it’s not, and the smell is sweetsy awful. I wrote Proctor Gamble, will see if they bother to respond. I previously tried Arm & Hammer “Ultra Max” Invisible Solid, there is absolutely no odor. Problem is it’s hard to find. To bad there can’t just be truth in advertising, but then I guess they’d lose a lot of money that way, huh?

  11. Arrid XX Dry solid now has some scent, but does not have fragrance, masking or otherwise, listed in either ingredient list. I”ve used it for years and now have to throw out the three that I bought most recently. I’ll check out the Mitchum’s gel mentioned by several at this site.

  12. Alan B. Ferguson

    I just wrote to Sure deodorant .

    I opened a new container of Sure unscented solid deodorant and almost died from the perfumy fragrance. Looked and sure (no pun iontended) enough found fragrance listed as an ingredient.

  13. Almay has fragrance free deodorant now. I tried the gel version and it’s not bad. They also make a roll on. I found this at my local grocery store and CVS.

  14. Just opened a new Dry Idea Unscented and it STINKS!! This is AWFUL!! I just sent the manufacturer my two cents. I’ll be switching to something that is truly unscented. Glad I found this web site so I can see what others are recommending.

  15. I bought some mitchum power gel. and a top will not stay on 0997-8634-00. 3

  16. Can you do anything for me Because of jail cat will not stay on

  17. Arrid XX “unscented” which was actually “scented” when they changed the product a while ago, is now really unscented! The last container I bought did not have any scent in it, unlike their scented unscented!
    By the way, I thought this thread was about unscented deodorants so we could help each other find products that we would not react to. The thing about the cap seems unrelated, Although I like the tip on how to keep the cap on (it’s a good idea) perhaps this could be taken up directly with the company?

  18. I am also affected by the so-called unscented / fragrance free poducts out there especially the Bounce dryer sheets which though they claim unscented do affect me & usually air them out in the garage for 3 – 6 months before using them in my dryer. The labels for products should mean what they say & say what they mean !!

    • Wow, that’s a lot of airing out! Why not find an environmentally-friendly version of a dryer sheet (or better yet, a liquid fabric softener) at your local health food store? There are also some laundry soaps that contain fabric softener in them (Ecos, for instance) and this eliminates the second step of having to pour fabric softener in. Also, did you know that the dryer sheets can clog up your dryer screen and create a fire hazard? Good luck!

  19. For people who are allergic to fragrances stay away from dryer sheets, the non-ionic and ionic ingredient is the skin sensitizer. Wear cotton, it will not hold a charge and you don’t need a softener. As far as I am concerned if people are looking for an unscented product they should leave out the “masking” fragrance. Does it really smell that bad on it’s own.

  20. WARNING DOVE “UNSCENTED” DEODORENT is worse than BO.VERY STRONG fumes.Smells like detergent lane in grocery store.

  21. Many detergents, surfactants, and other chemicals in these products have their own odors which aren’t all that pleasant. So while the products don’t contain vanity fragrances, they have something added to neutralize the chemical smell.
    I find the fragrance in deodorants to be obnoxious, and they cling to my clothing in the waxes that the deodorant deposits. I appreciate the unscented variety of Dove Men’s Care because I don’t want to smell like the fragrance cakes at the bottom of public urinals, yet I can understand why it would still frustrate someone who is sensitive to fragrant compounds.

  22. Janet Gallmeyer

    I’m so glad to come across these posts. I bought the Secret unscented not noticing the “masked fragrance” notice on the back. I ended up with a terrible itchy rash under my arms and had to spend 85 dollars to the dr. to get a prescription for steroid cream to get rid of it. Well, I still have not gotten rid of the rash completely. I used to always buy the Secret unscented “deodorant” and never had a problem with it, so suffice to say I am very unhappy about this. This ended up costing me over $100 because some body at the Secret factory decided to try and fool the customer. And it worked!! But, no more, I will go without rather than suffer through this again. I think it is so wrong of these companies to try and fool us like this, it is actually immoral, letting us know that they don’t care if we even get a medical condition from it !!

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