In the commercial market of the United States, unscented products don't actually have to be unscented. What unscented means is that there is no obvious flowery fragrance to most people's noses. However, to those who are sensitive, there is fragrance, and if you look at the label, there is fragrance in the ingredients. What unscented can mean is that the company has created a product that has an odor to it, so it has added a masking fragrance to make the product smell more neutral. This masking fragrance is how they define unscented, though it's certainly not what most of us would consider unscented.
So how does one get a truly unscented soap (or detergent or other body product)? The label needs to read "fragrance free." This will almost always guarantee that there is no synthetic fragrance added to the product. There may be natural essential oils added to create scents, though, which can be a problem for those with strong chemical sensitivities. Be sure to read the label carefully to see what is in the product. It's amazing how many products, including medicines like hydrocortisone creams, contain synthetic fragrance despite the fact that 15+% of the population is sensitive to fragrances.
If a company does not fully disclose a product's ingredients, including what is in the fragrances themselves, consider whether or not you really want to use products from a company that is not honest enough to tell you what you are putting in or on your body. We absorb a great deal through our skin, and many fragrances contain carcinogens and other toxins. However, labeling laws don't force companies to list the contents of "fragrance" which means we don't know what we are putting on our skin.
For my family's part, we do not buy or use any product that contains synthetic fragrances. Because I react strongly to synthetic fragrances due to multiple chemical sensitivities, this was a choice we were forced to make for health reasons. However, as one person told me many years ago, we're all chemically sensitive in some way. It just depends on whether we get migraines or fibromyalgia flares now or cancer in 20 or 30 years from the toxins.
© 2015 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., Green Heart Guidance, LLC