Monday, March 1, 2010Professional bodies

What is in the "Fragrance" of our cosmetics?

© L'Observatoire des Cosmétiques

The IFRA (International Fragrance Association), official represention of the worldwide actors within the perfume industry, published at this beginning of 2010 a list of 3163 ingredients which can find under the denomination "Fragrance". A gesture of transparency towards consumers increasingly more concerned with their health and that of their planet. Interesting but… is this sufficient?

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March 1st, 2010

The first gesture we make upon opening a new jar of cream is often to smell it … Then what are we breathing in? Which compounds hide under the denomination ‘Perfume’ or ‘Aroma’ in the list of the ingredients on the cosmetic product which you have just bought? Are they numerous, irritants, allergenics, seen as toxic for you, your family, your children, your baby? If you have a known allergy, how do you choose a cosmetic pleasant to use without being reduced to the often dismal "without fragrance"?

The Rule of Secrecy

Small reminder: the scenting complex is an exception to the rule of the exhaustive declaration of cosmetic ingredients which compose a product. In effect, manufacturers have the general obligation to declare the raw materials which enter their formula, in an exhaustive way and under their INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) denomination, in decreasing order of their ponderal importance at the time of their incorporation, and preceded by the word "INGREDIENTS". Except in particular for the dyes present in the products of make-up and … the scenting complex.

So, behind the terms "Fragrance" or "Aroma" we find a multiplicity of substances. And practically, that means that these molecules, sometimes quite numerous (they can amount to tens, even hundreds, from different origins, synthetic or natural), which compose a fragrance and do not have to be declared otherwise than under these generic terms. This does not escape without posing some problems: aromatic molecules and the substances (solvents and others) which accompany them make up a part of cosmetic compounds among the most frequently suspected of being implied in risks of undesirable reactions, explicitly of the allergic type.

The IFRA List

Therefore in order to address this exception, without stealing a glance into the sacrosanct secret of the manufacture of a perfume, the IFRA made the decision to collect and then publish a list of 3163 ingredients of perfumery used during 2008, by its business members for the formulation of their perfumes. This list may be currently consulted on the IFRA website .

Among the most censured ingredients:

• Ethoxylated Alcohols
• Benzene and benzoic acid
• Benzophenone
• Camphor camphor
• Cyclohexanone
• Dimethyl phthalate
• Dioctyl phthalate
• 2 - tert-Butylhydroquinone
• Musk xylol
• p, α-Dimethylstyrene
• Terpenes
… to quote only some of them.

All manufacturers inevitably do not use the most undesirable ingredients of this list. But it is quite difficult at the present time for the consumer to differentiate the ‘good’ perfume from the "suspect" fragrance …

Can we hope that one day the responsibility for transparence and information will impose the obligation to declare all molecules composing a perfume?

We know too well that it’ll be a long journey to arrive there, the place missing on the labels to list all the components can serve as an alibi for even longer to justify the exception for secrecy …

Certain manufacturers already have taken the initiative and declare all the scented molecules in their products, but they are often actors within the bio cosmetology filed, whose scenting complexes contain only some essential oils …

As for the others, we await further gestures…exhaustive.

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