Musk is a fragrance note in almost all perfumes. It helps to bring together the various scent notes and create a cohesive fragrance. Musk in nature has origins from animals, many of which have been banned due to animal hunting. Also, in its natural form, musk cannot be included in vegan formulations.
Modern musk scents are produced synthetically. The most common types of musk used in consumer products are nitro-musks (e.g., musk ketone and musk xylene) and polycyclic musks (e.g., galaxolide and tonalide). It will most likely come under the general banner of 'fragrance' or you may see it listed as musk ketone, Galaxolide, Tonalide or HHCB. More simply though, a perfume will often list 'musk' in its scent profile.
While some people may experience skin irritation from synthetic musk, it is its accumulation in the body that is of concern. It tends to be stored in fat tissue within the body. Synthetic musks mimic oestrogen in the body, potentially leading to disruption of the endocrine system and to premmature puberty, irregular menstrual cycles, endometriosis, difficulty conceiving, birth defects, breast and ovarian cancers, as well as obesity, type II diabetes, bone growth and blood clotting problems, depression and loss of muscle mass in men (Fucic et al, 2012).
WOW! That is quite a list. If you love the scent of Musk but would rather pass on the potential side effects listed above, look for a natural fragrance that uses botanical inspired musks such as ambrette seed or angelica root or with a musk character such as ylang ylang or rose.
Source: © Fucic et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2012