Fragrance Regulations Q and A: “Like an Atomic Explosion”

Edit February 13, 2014:  the EU proposal  has been significantly modified in comparison to the original SCCS document released to public in December 2012. The summary of the amended proposal can be found at ec.europa.eu.  Apart from three bans (Lyral, atranol and chloroatranol), the rest of the restrictions match the current IFRA standards. For the time being, there are no new bans or significant new restrictions on other materials, including naturals. As new information becomes available, this article will be updated.

“If this law goes ahead I am finished, as my perfumes are all filled with these ingredients [to be restricted],” said Frédéric Malle, who owns high-end perfume company Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle. The impact on luxury perfume brands as a whole would, he said, be “like an atomic explosion and we would not have the means to rebuild ourselves.”

materials

The recent Reuters article, EU threat spotlights perfume makers’ secrets, continues to explore the topic of raw material regulations and reformulations. Not again, you might think, since there was much talk about it already, but the issue of further restrictions on the usage of raw materials is sending so many waves through the industry that it’s hard to avoid. To summarize, the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS), an advisory body for the European Commission, has proposed to ban several key perfumery materials such oakmoss and Lilial and to extend the existing list of 26 allergens to more than 100. The regulations haven’t yet been adopted, and the final decision will be made next year.

I talked about the issues with escalating regulations in Is Chanel No 5 Being Banned?, and my post generated so many questions and emails that I decided to compile my answers here. The main impact from regulations is on the industry, but as fragrance consumers, we also lose out as our favorite fragrances are reformulated beyond recognition or discontinued. Also, I question the wisdom of replacing materials with a long history of usage with newly developed ingredients, the side effects of which may not become clear until decades down the road. These are good reasons to stay informed about the current situation.

Why are the fragrance companies actually paying IFRA to regulate themselves?

Fragrance is not covered by copyright protection, and in order to protect trade secrets and know how, the industry has agreed to self-regulate. The alternative is to be regulated by an outside agency, which is a worrisome proposition in an industry where no copyright protection exists.

Why worry about disclosing trade secrets, if modern technology can reveal the formula?

A gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer can only reveal a part of the formula. Rose oil contains hundreds of components, most of which occur at such trace amounts that they don’t register using modern analysis methods. It’s also easy enough to fool a machine, and many perfumers are geniuses when it comes to developing such tricks.

Why are only the naturals being banned?

This is not exactly true. Most of the ingredients on the list of banned or restricted substances are synthetics. For instance, Lilial, a green floral material that gives a dewy accord, is facing a complete ban. This aroma-molecule produced by Givaudan is a foundation note for many green floral fragrances. It’s present in many modern fragrances, and without it classics like Cacharel Anais Anais and Oscar de la Renta lose their sparkle.

At the same time, restrictions on ingredients like ylang-ylang, jasmine, eucalyptus, cedarwood or sweet orange oil catch media’s attention and for good reason. You get more oil on your skin when you peel an orange than you do from any perfume. The use of jasmine and ylang-ylang for beauty and medicinal preparations is as old as civilization itself.

Edit February 13, 2014: under the current modified proposal, natural ingredients originally considered for restrictions such as ylang ylang oil, jasmine absolute, sandalwood oil and others are not on the table. “The SCCS did not recommend anything specific for these materials and for this reason, we do not expect regulatory actions on these materials.”

The only three materials facing complete ban are Lyral (HICC), atranol and chloroatranol. Lyral, is an lily of the valley like synthetic, and in animal studies it has found to be a potential reproductive toxin. Atranol and chloroatranol are impurities present in Evernia prunastri (oakmoss) and Evernia furfuracea (treemoss) and have already been severely restricted. Oakmoss itself is not banned, as along as it’s free from the impurities.  Many companies like Biolandes are working on the atranol-free oakmoss extracts. It’s a challenge, but it’s not an impossible one.

This doesn’t mean that the regulatory measures approved in May won’t include additional restrictions, but for the time being, the decision is still pending.

Do the fragrance companies benefit from the regulations?

The argument goes that the big supplier houses like International Flavors & Fragrances, Firmenich, Givaudan and Symrise benefit from the regulations, because they produce synthetics that can be used to replace naturals. This doesn’t make much sense, because the supplier companies are also the biggest producers of natural raw materials. Also, regulations result in reformulations on a massive scale. Given the pricing structure in the fragrance industry, the client pays  solely for the finished fragrance oil. In other words, the work that the researchers put into developing replacement molecules or the hours of perfumers’ time spent reformulating are covered by the supplier itself.

If you think that it’s easy enough to factor in these costs into the price  of oil, wrong again. The intense competition in the fragrance  industry means that a brand will threaten to remove a supplier from its core list and give business to its direct competitor. Even a large supplier like Givaudan is just a small business compared to most of its clients (Givaudan’s yearly revenue is approximately €330 million, while LVMH’s is €23.65 billion), and it’s difficult to  negotiate under these conditions.

Why don’t the companies work together to counter EU pressures?

The industry is small, but it’s extremely fragmented. Giant suppliers like IFF or Firmenich have very different goals from smaller houses like Fragrance Resources or Mane. LVMH’s luxury portfolio and  its needs are very different from Coty’s “fast sell” model. Without a unified voice, any lobbying is bound to fail. Traditionally, the industry has never had to band together, so regulation might be a litmus test for its ability to overcome internal differences and come up with a workable plan.

Why are perfumers so silent on this matter?

Again, another hold over of the medieval guild like structure of the fragrance industry. Until recently, perfumers were not exposed at all, and their presence in mass media was non-existent. Even today, companies like Procter & Gamble are reluctant to disclose perfumers’ names in their press materials. Plus, given the industry’s inherent discretion, talking about its problems openly is simply not done. Perfumers also have no structure to represent them, no official job title, and not even clearly defined job description.  (Fortunately, one notable development is a recent proposal by the French Society of Perfumers (Société Française des Parfumeurs) to create a forum and an official accreditation system). In the end, like any social action, there is a collective action problem.

Why not just label the allergens on the packaging, the way the food industry does when it comes to peanuts, dairy or gluten?

There are many reasons why the fragrance brands are reluctant to label, the main one being that it’s a long list–the EU proposal will quadruple the list of allergens which might scare off consumers. Moreover, most of the allergenic substances have chemical names that mean absolutely nothing to an average fragrance buyer. For labeling to be an effective tool, it has to be coupled with an educational effort. Now, a good question would be why the industry is still reluctant to educate its consumers.

Edit February 13, 2014: under the current modified proposal,  the list of allergens to labeled as such has been increased from 26 to 89.  How the labeling will done is the subject of the discussions today. While many fragrance companies are willing to consider labels, L’Oreal is posing the biggest obstacles to doing so.

Why can’t a perfume company move its operations out of the EU and avoid having to comply with the regulations altogether?

This question came up several times in the comments, so I decided to add it: The regulations would apply (if passed) to any company wanting to sell in the EU market. It doesn’t matter where the company is operating. It may make its perfumes in the US, China or anywhere else in the world, but if it wants to sell in the EU, the fragrances would have to comply with the EU laws.

These are only some of the more popular questions, and there are many others I haven’t covered–the definition of allergens, the scientific validity of the EU research on perfume substances, among many others. Please let me know if there is something else you would like me to discuss.

Edit February 13, 2014: The proposal was revised and offered for public consultation, which will be finished in May 2014. The full extent of changes facing the industry will be revealed over the next couple of months.

If you prefer to read the article in French, Denyse of Grain de Musc kindly offered to translate it:  Réglementations sur les matières premières de parfumerie: la F.A.Q. de Bois de Jasmin, version française.

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143 Comments

  • Barbara: I find it dishonest and frustrating that the perfume companies reformulate their fragrances and don’t notify the customer. As if we won’t tell a difference! December 17, 2012 at 8:50am Reply

    • Barbara: I also wanted to add–thank you for an interesting post. Does it just seem this way to me or are these regulation rules really complicated? December 17, 2012 at 8:53am Reply

      • Victoria: No, it’s not just you! They are complicated and confusing. December 17, 2012 at 1:32pm Reply

    • Victoria: People who wear the perfumes know them even better than anyone else. They do notice, but sometimes people just think that they are tired of the perfume or that their tastes have changed. December 17, 2012 at 1:26pm Reply

    • annemariec: What is worrying is that consumers do still buy reformulated perfumes. J’Adore has been reformulated, so has Miss Dior Cherie, but people still buy them. They are among the top selling perfumes in the world. So the fragrance houses – the big brands I mean – know they can get away with it. Only a very few people actually realise and care that reformulation has gone on, so they are not worth worrying about.

      On a more positive note, the massive sales of J’Adore and Miss Dior (formerly Miss Dior Cherie) may go towards funding Dior’s exclusive line, allowing us to enjoy our Grand Bal and Ambre Nuit and so on. December 17, 2012 at 5:19pm Reply

      • Victoria: Speaking of Grand Bal, I tried it for the first time last week, and it reminded me of J’Adore Le Jasmin (but a more luxurious version, of course). I liked it. December 17, 2012 at 5:44pm Reply

        • annemariec: That’s good. I’d like to try it too, as I have heard good things about it. Some people note that not original or innovative but I’m okay with that if it is well done. December 17, 2012 at 7:56pm Reply

  • rosarita: This news, coupled with new mailing restrictions in the EU that I don’t really understand, seems to be yet another blow to an important facet of the gentle powers that make life better. I’m not sure how to put this into words, but those life enhancements that make the increasing shocks of this world a little easier to cope with – scent, good music, art, the natural environment itself – all seem to be diminished, or somehow under siege. Not explained well, sorry. Too much horrible shocking news lately. December 17, 2012 at 9:07am Reply

    • nikki: You explained that very well, Rosarita. That is exactly how I feel, too. December 17, 2012 at 9:12am Reply

    • Rachel: It’s as if you read my mind… I was just about to post that perfume for me is an escape to another world. You said it so well. December 17, 2012 at 9:16am Reply

    • mough: Yes, I feel exactly the same way as you. These small comforts can not be quantified, nor underestimated, for our psychic comfort. No matter how bad the day is, how horrific things are, I can sniff a beautiful perfume and remember that life is precious and worth living, for we are surrounded by beauty, but less so each day, it seems. I want to hang on to what I can that makes me more human, more tender and appreciative. December 17, 2012 at 2:09pm Reply

    • Victoria: You’ve explained it perfectly! Perfume is one of my favorite small joys. It lifts my mood and makes me feel happier when I feel down. December 17, 2012 at 2:26pm Reply

    • Ed: Hear, hear! I agree as well. Fragrance for me is a small pleasure, an escape. Just because someone somewhere MIGHT POSSIBLY have an alleged “allergic” reaction to a perfume ingredient doesn’t mean that products contaning that ingredient are unsafe. I don’t want to give up life’s pleasures for some vague (and illusory, dare I say) sense of safety. December 21, 2012 at 8:13am Reply

  • nikki: Frederic Malle’s perfumes are among my favorites, I love Une Fleur de Cassie. It seems that I better stock up on his perfumes before this will happen. I wonder if my other favorite perfumer, Francis Kurkdijan, will have to change his formulas, too.

    Thank you for an insightful article full of information. To restrict something as beautiful as perfume is beyond me and makes me profoundly sad. December 17, 2012 at 9:11am Reply

    • Victoria: I guess we will have to follow these news and see what happens. Hopefully it won’t come to the atomic explosion Malle fears. December 17, 2012 at 2:27pm Reply

      • Daisy: I smet Frederic Malle at a Barneys event for the first time a couple of weeks ago and mentioned that Une Fleur de Cassie was one of my favorites in the line. He then told me that there was a shortage of acacia flower . . . or something like that since I only recall inwardly freaking out! I think my big eyes radiated panic, and he graciously assured me that they found some in the end :-)

        Thank you so much, Victoria, for assembling this informative list of Q’s and A’s. I imagine that no matter the changes, houses like FM will “find some in the end,” or at least figure out a way to adapt. However, I do find this hysteria over fragrance ingredients ridiculous.

        Not to say that there are not people out there with allergies (I too have sensitive skin and I am among them), but we are already completely surrounded by natural oils and synthetic fragrances. As you pointed out, peeling an orange releases way more oil than a spritz of perfume. And what about everyday products like dish soap, laundry detergent, and more.

        But I digress. What these answers reveal to me is that the whole picture is more complicated than the media shows. Fundamentally, the way that the industry is constructed plays a role as well. December 17, 2012 at 9:25pm Reply

        • Daisy: Meaning the hysteria over fragrance ingredients causing allergies or worse things ridiculous.

          Because if you love something and find out it is going to disappear forever, hysteria is justified! December 17, 2012 at 9:32pm Reply

          • Victoria: Yes! Plus, what we are talking about are not respiratory allergies (resulting from a secondhand exposure to someone else’s perfume sillage), we are talking about contact dermatitis. This is something that can be avoided by simply not applying the product on skin. December 18, 2012 at 7:10am Reply

          • Ed: I forget where I read it–maybe Ellena’s book–but someone once said that if fragrance raw materials were as ‘toxic’ as some claim, they wouldn’t be used as fragrance ingredients; they’d be used as chemical weapons (because of the minute amounts one is exposed to in perfume).

            For me, I’m always skeptical of claims of ‘allergies’ from perfume and related things, ever since my sister, an avid smoker, would claim, when she wanted to give off a certain impression, that she was ‘allergic’ to cigarette smoke. December 21, 2012 at 8:17am Reply

  • Rachel: Victoria, I have one question that I’ve been curious about for a while… how do perfumers know what materials they can and can’t use? December 17, 2012 at 9:18am Reply

    • George: Victoria, I think it is worth perfume lovers checking out the IFRA site. All the information for perfumers and manufacturers is available on that website, and they have downloads which detail what chemicals are restricted and prohibited and at what levels they can be used in in what types of products. I have read up on a couple (eugenol and cinnamal), and have been very surprised at what the new concentrations allowed are, and how low they are, and wonder if their being imposed is what means that a couple of Fragrances that I used to to love are now less interesting.

      I think the other point that should be made is that although synthetic versions can be made of some substances, which are fractional version of a natural substance, and which might therefore not have certain molecules that can cause an allergic reaction, each molecule has its own individual smell, and synthetically created ‘near’-molecules of banned natural molecules will only ever smell similar but not the same as the natural molecule, so once a molecule is either banned or severely restricted to the point at which it cannot be included in a formula to a degree to which it would be needed in order to be an integral part of the perfume as a whole, that perfume is lost, and what is more, so is that particular note.

      I think there is a myth that you can ban a molecule and then create a synthetic molecule to replace it, when you can’t, unless it is the same molecule, in which case it would be equally prohibited or banned.

      Having noted that by 2010, perfumers were forced to reduce cinnamal levels in perfumes to 0.05 percent or less, (which at a 20% dilution, means 0.25 percent of the total formula), including on pre-existing perfumes, and as this is the dominant chemical in cinnamon (90%), to my mind it is as if cinnamon is effectively banned from perfumery, and unable to be replaced (and also eugenol to a lesser degree)

      I”m not an expert of these matters (and do not know the concentrations required for these particular molecules in order for them to have a presence (i.e. can be identified as a note in a perfume), but based on my reading of Ifra’s guidelines (to which all perfumes had to comply by 2010) and the evidence my nose has encountered, cinnamon and cloves are no longer notes within perfumes, and they won’t ever be able to replaced. December 17, 2012 at 12:44pm Reply

      • George: Oh and thanks for the great article! :-) December 17, 2012 at 12:48pm Reply

      • Victoria: George, your grasp of these matters is impressive! When working, I need to have my cheat sheet nearby, and of course, I rely on the computer for the rest. The rules are very difficult to keep track of.

        You’re also absolutely right that you can’t ban a molecule and then replace it with an identically smelling one. For one thing, R&D takes years, and the reformulations have much shorter timelines. The replacements are usually fashioned out of available ingredients. And they’re rarely satisfying. December 17, 2012 at 2:34pm Reply

        • Deborah: I am finding it hard to understand why cloves and cinnamon for instance, which are natural foods are more allergenic than a made-in-lab synthetic chemical. That doesn’t make sense to me. But clearly I am not a chemist December 18, 2012 at 12:53am Reply

          • Victoria: Nature is a big chemistry lab! Synthetic (man-made) doesn’t necessarily mean bad, just as natural doesn’t mean good. After all, there are many deadly poisons of natural origin (such as arsenic). Many foods we consume contain some elements that may be damaging in large quantities (such as solanine in potatoes or oxalic acid in rhubarb or spinach). But everything is in the dosage. December 18, 2012 at 7:08am Reply

          • Nukapai: What Victoria said – but also to add that if you start really thinking about why plants produce chemicals anyway, it’s often to kill diseases or parasites, which means many plant-based chemicals (especially those found in woods and spices) are anti-fungal, anti-bacterial but also irritating when applied to the skin. Eugenol in clove is used as an anasthetic in dentistry, and when applied neat it burns very badly.

            On the other hand, a chemist can look at properties of a molecule known to be irritating and design the molecule not to be.

            Finally, a natural complete oil (so not just an isolate like eugenol) is a complex mixture of several (sometimes dozens, sometimes hundreds) individual chemicals, which means that it is just more likely to contain something that someone is allergic to. That’s why the bans and restrictions don’t just necessarily cover isolates; they sometimes go on to restrict or ban an entire material.

            There are exceptions – some synthetics have been released and used for decades and people are only now starting to look at what long-term dermal exposure is really doing. Lyral, mentioned as one of the most irritating perfume chemicals in the world is a good example.

            Not to mention that when we look at natural oils versus totally artificial scents created in the lab, it can often be that our noses and heads prefer the former and get a headache from the latter.

            The best perfumes are created from a combination of both naturals and synthetics (although I’d say it is possible to create a very beautiful perfume that’s entirely one or the other, but much harder). If we lose a significant amount of natural materials from our palette, it will be a tragic loss. December 18, 2012 at 7:19am Reply

            • Victoria: You’ve explained it much better than I did. Thank you very much for such a thorough and thoughtful comment. December 18, 2012 at 10:56am Reply

          • George: The difference between natural and synthetic for chemists is arbitrary, because in the end of the day, a substance is defined by what molecules it contains, not it’s origin. Also, the allergenic properties of a substance are dependant on the molecules a substance contains, and not its origin. Vitamin C exists naturally but can also be produced synthetically. If you were to extract enough Vitamin C from oranges to fill a bottle, or to produce enough synthetically to fill a bottle, as long as the extraction method and method of synthesis resulted in a hypothetically pure Vitamin C, there would be no difference between the two bottles from a chemical or allergenic viewpoint. December 18, 2012 at 10:12am Reply

            • Victoria: Thank you, George! Provided that there are no impurities, the final products would be identical. December 18, 2012 at 10:59am Reply

    • Victoria: All formulas are created via a computer first, and as you enter the materials, you can see which ones are restricted. Then, you run the formula through a toxicology check, and if you have too much of a restricted ingredient, it will flag it. December 17, 2012 at 2:28pm Reply

  • Kristina: This is bad news on a rainy Monday! Not only, that some terrific scents are going to be ruined (if they haven’t been so far), this adds to the hypocracy which rules the perfume mass market (as in “When did they reformulate Chanel 19″? Answer: “Oh, but they never changed it, it’s always been the same.”) December 17, 2012 at 9:21am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, that’s a common story. “We’ve never reformulated Opium!” said a sales associate to me when I mentioned something about it. “Your old bottle must have aged.” December 17, 2012 at 2:35pm Reply

  • Ilia: This is so discouraging. Is there anything that consumers can do about it? Lobby the decision-makers, write letters? To whom? Is there going to be a public consultation where opinions of the industry/public can be noted? I’m finding it hard to understand in whose interests the new regulations are being done, it seems like a very expensive exercise with no obvious benefit to come at the end.
    And, on a practical level, is it time to buy an extra fridge and save as much Malle as you can for future generations? December 17, 2012 at 11:01am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s up to the industry to provide information to the EU and to work together. I feel that it’s a hard issue to lobby though, because perfume is seen as a frivolous, luxury item, the risk associated with which should be exactly 0 (according to the lawmakers). December 17, 2012 at 2:40pm Reply

  • Dominic: You know, I’m starting to think it’s really gonna happen. Couple days ago i went to another town where there’s Guerlain counter to get l’Heure Bleue and the lady said that she hardly had anything, people were calling her and asking for Vol de Nuit, Shalimar, Mitsouko and and more classics and she had nothing in stock. I manager to get Perfume in extract, but thatwas the last one from ages ago. Apocalypse is coming December 17, 2012 at 11:16am Reply

    • Cornelia Blimber: Here in Amsterdam the situation is quite different. I found two bottles pure perfume, 30 ml. in the sale: 50% off! L’Heure Bleue and Nahéma. Don’t despair, Dominic! Come to Amsterdam. December 17, 2012 at 11:27am Reply

      • Dominic: OMG, are you serious?! Maybe it’s not the end of the world get. Get Antoni rządom to seriously trik of moving out from UK. Btw, when i was in Holland in March, that’s a different story, i was in the club in Rotterdam at the concert, and I was having that fabulous jasmine green tea, never drank anthing like that in my entire life, the real scent of jasmine. Don’t know what it was called, but I couldn’t believe this. Is your green tea that great everywhere in Netherlands? December 17, 2012 at 11:35am Reply

        • Cornelia Blimber: Glad that you enjoyed Rotterdam! I don’t know about the tea, am a coffeedrinker. But what I see around: teabags (Lipton) and minttea with lots of leaves, very trendy. December 17, 2012 at 11:55am Reply

    • Kristina: Hhhm, maybe this is just the usual frenzy before Christmas? Because I doubt that the regular perfume lover would know about this. December 17, 2012 at 11:29am Reply

    • L.: Not to be too reductive, but it’s holiday time! so counters are depleted! also, anecdotally a lot of more mainstream Guerlain counters at least in the US aren’t as focused on the old classics which are harder to introduce to a new audience as they are on the new stuff that non-perfumistas like (eg, Shalimar Initial, Idyll, well, Shalimar too). December 17, 2012 at 12:29pm Reply

      • Dominic: I agree, it’s Christmas time, but last years it was around Christmas when you could get better selection of that stuff, different concentrations, body lotions, soaps, different packaging etc.. It’s this year when there are problems here and the same is said by people who sell there and who I know for some time. The lady told me e.g. she haven’t had certain things for ages and didn’t know why, whether that’s the problem with the local distributors or nothing just comes from Guerlain for a while. However I hope it was just a bit of jinx. December 17, 2012 at 12:46pm Reply

    • Victoria: Dominic, don’t worry! It’s just the holiday season rush. For instance, here in Brussels many stores don’t keep big stocks, and they sell out very quickly around this time. December 17, 2012 at 2:41pm Reply

  • JulienFromDijon: That, is a “end of the -perfume- world” prophecy that scares me.
    It’s more likely to happen than the Maya’s one.

    Isn’t Malle a bit excessive? Fear is not a good counselor. Can I trust him when he says most actual formulas will be beheaded?
    Wasn’t it part of a paper to shock public opinion, who’s skin is tough, while we, perfumelovers, are already sensible to the issue?

    To add to the fear factor, I fear most perfumer won’t “smell” it coming.
    They’re already working thanks a software that weight, calculate, and limit allergens, when they type each ingredient.
    This software is like the reach of their sights. The new restriction will only be an update of this software. It’s like a blind spot, and perfumers have already learned to be resigned and obedient.
    (I mean the unknow perfumer, not the niche authors we know)

    Strange how we’re the less likely to suffer from the restriction, and still the most sensible ones to the issue.
    We have bought bottles for more than a lifetime, as good perfumistas, including vintage.
    However we know the loss of beauty and artistry if such hardening of the law happen. December 17, 2012 at 11:25am Reply

    • Victoria: Software may help perfumers make an IFRA friendly formula, but they are painfully aware every single day how much their palette is shrinking. December 17, 2012 at 2:42pm Reply

    • Ed: I’m inclined to think that Malle is not being excessive, actually. If you think about it, his fragrances have to be compliant with existing regulations (I assume). If those regulations are made that much more stringent, it could very likely diminish the perfumes in his line enough that he wouldn’t consider marketing them anymore. After all, the idea with the Editions du Parfum (sp?) line, if I’m correct, was a line of uber-luxe fragrances where perfumers were given complete leeway to create works of art. To significantly reformulate those almost defeats the purpose.

      Also, we all are aware how restrictions on lily-of-the-valley notes affected Diorissimo and how other perfumes seem to have been drastically changed by what I assume are restrictions on oakmoss. I could imagine that very many scents on the market could be similarly damaged by the passage of increasingly stringent regulations on fragrance materials.

      That’s just my 2 cents. December 21, 2012 at 8:27am Reply

  • Jillie: Just wanted to say thank you for this, Victoria. You know, I think you should be called upon to discuss this with all involved, and to oversee negotiations – they could do with your mind and common sense! December 17, 2012 at 11:26am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Jillie! I don’t know if I have much to add, but at least, I could clarify some issues that keep being brought up. December 17, 2012 at 2:43pm Reply

      • Sarah: You are right Jillie! Victoria, you have our names and comments! Can they ignore what the consumers have to say on the matter?

        Shall we boycot and stop buying? I mean, once the current stocks will be bought and stocked in our fridges ;)

        Are they aware that this will create an illegal and black market if it goes on like this?

        Sorry guys, I might over react, but this is so upsetting. Imagine: you just bought a new bottle of a loved fragrance and when you spray it for the time… it doesn’t smell the way it should. What would you do with it? Would do you still wear it? December 18, 2012 at 4:35am Reply

        • Victoria: Sarah, just to clarify, as a publisher, I have no right whatsoever to do anything with your names or comments. That’s in my privacy policy. So, if anyone wants to act, they have to act on their own behalf.

          I think that a boycott may not achieve much, but an organized consumer response to the EU Commission might be a good idea. After all, as Nukapai mentioned in her comments, the initial push for the EU to research the perfume allergens came from the consumer groups. IFRA might be a swear word to most perfume lovers, but they are really not the enemy here, and maybe even trying to engage them in some ways might be a good idea. How exactly it all can be don, I’m not sure right now, to be honest. But it’s all worth thinking about. December 18, 2012 at 6:51am Reply

          • Sarah: Thanks for commenting Victoria. I understand your rights and ours. I am really hopeful that something can be developed by consumers though. Many thanks for this thorough research. December 18, 2012 at 7:11am Reply

            • Victoria: Thank you and everyone else, Sarah! You’ve given me even more to think about. December 18, 2012 at 10:53am Reply

  • Elizabeth: My mind says let’s consider this situation rationally and monitor what happens. My heart says stock up on your favorites before they are destroyed forever! I was admiring the current Shalimar gift set at Saks for a while, but the recent news spurred me on to buy it this morning. Now I have a supply of Shalimar, at least. December 17, 2012 at 11:53am Reply

    • Victoria: Same here! At the same time, I just had to throw away a bottle of Hermes Jardin sur le Nil and a half finished bottle of L’Eau d’Hiver that have turned despite being kept in a cool spot, so I’m not tempted to stock up on anything non-vintage. My 20 year old Shalimar is in a surprisingly impeccable condition. December 17, 2012 at 2:45pm Reply

  • Marc: What a strange way to price perfumers’ work! It’s as if fashion designers were paid only for the cost of fabric. How about rewarding creativity? December 17, 2012 at 12:01pm Reply

    • Victoria: I know, it makes no sense. It’s just a legacy from the early days of this industry, when the suppliers and the brands worked even closer together. December 17, 2012 at 2:46pm Reply

  • Paul Kiler: The whole answer to these idiotic restrictions, bannings, because of allergic reactions is labeling. A peanut will kill someone, and all they need to do is put “Peanut” on the label, and it can be sold. A Perfume is ***MUCH*** less likely to kill someone…

    Beyond that, the scientific basis for some of these restrictions is about 1 in 100,000 people can get a reaction to this element… This is hardly a basis for these restrictions…

    Jasmine, Hyacinth, Lillies, Tulips and Daffodils all give me a headache when I am in their presence, Am I going to seek legislation to ban the growing of all of these flowers, because I am allergic to them? Certainly not. I have a brain in my head, I simply move out of range from these flowers to save my head.

    I’m not so sure that these EU SCCS and IFRA folks *Have* a brain in their head… December 17, 2012 at 12:02pm Reply

    • Ysbrand: So true, Paul. This mix of stupidity and greed is going to destroy perfumery as we know it… December 17, 2012 at 12:08pm Reply

    • Stella: Totally agree with you. I got an allergic reaction from a perfume (specifically, a rash) but I just opted to spray it on my clothes. Problem solved… December 17, 2012 at 12:24pm Reply

    • L.: I always wonder if EU would be so eager to ban the trees in Paris b/c in the springtime people who are allergic don’t have the choice to not breathe in the pollen. Don’t European regulators have something better to regulate? Maybe they should ban themselves. December 17, 2012 at 12:31pm Reply

    • Victoria: I just replied to someone via FB, but I’ve spent a good deal of time reading through the EU reports. I just don’t see that the research or the science behind their findings is all that solid. For many materials, they list that they don’t have enough “human data,” and yet they propose to restrict the material.

      In other cases, they rely on the evidence from patients, which is likewise circumspect. Even the doctors can’t identify an exact cause for conditions like eczema, much less the patient himself. December 17, 2012 at 2:48pm Reply

      • Paul Kiler: Sound Science Principles: “Not Enough human data,” So We’ll restrict it or ban it…

        I think Not… December 17, 2012 at 2:59pm Reply

        • Nukapai: This is exactly the approach of the SCCS on any cosmetic product, though, not just perfume. The only reason parabens are banned in some baby products in some countries is because the SCCS didn’t have enough human data and they considered the tests required to get it too complicated and a waste of resources. People who advocate the so-called precautionary principle don’t understand risk assessment and unfortunately the notion of cosmetics as something unnecessary, ergo, an unnecessary risk just doesn’t sit well with people who get a massive improvement to the quality of their lives from them. December 17, 2012 at 3:10pm Reply

          • Victoria: Yes, “the unnecessary risk” is the phrase I hear repeated often whenever I raise this topic with either IFRA or some other regulatory agencies. December 17, 2012 at 3:24pm Reply

            • Nukapai: I think the majority of consumers, when given ALL the facts, proportionately and correctly presented, would prefer to judge themselves whether to take the risk when perfumes are concerned.

              But the demand for “totally safe cosmetics” is growing. Seems like a reasonable demand, right? Except when you realise that risk is not a binary condition and that everything represents a risk, especially if mis-used.

              The reality is that the consequences of the worst case scenario of a perfume allergy are far less worrying than the consequences of alcohol consumption or tobacco, or driving your car. But it’s the consumer groups who have been led to believe they can have totally safe cosmetics (which is actually impossible) who now lead us down this road. December 17, 2012 at 3:30pm Reply

  • Ysbrand: Hello Victoria,
    Why don´t you open at change.org (or any other petition site) an online petition to tell the European Union that we do not want more restrictions, but in any case alternatives as labeling, etc? you and other perfume bloggers, and the other sites as fragantica and parfumo, could feature this petition (maybe a common petiotition??) so the voices of us, the consumers, the passionate fragance lovers of the whole world, can make our voice be heard? I would write myself the letter, but i think you would do it much better! Think about it! December 17, 2012 at 12:02pm Reply

    • Ysbrand: I mean, we can also be a lobby, if we organize ourselves… December 17, 2012 at 12:03pm Reply

  • solanace: Very interesting article, V. I like your argument on the greater safety of substances that have been used for millenia over new compounds, which might have side effects not yet discovered. Honestly, how awful, being obliged to breathe carbon monoxide but having sweet orange oil regulated… December 17, 2012 at 12:05pm Reply

    • Victoria: The part about the sweet orange oil being restricted is really one of the indications how out of control this whole thing has gotten. December 17, 2012 at 3:16pm Reply

  • Judy: Many thanks, Victoria. I’m grateful for your very clear and concise explanation of the relationship between the big perfume companies and their suppliers. Sometimes those of us who love the scents forget to “follow the money”, so we lose half the story. Well done!

    Employees in the scent industry are exposed every day to the ingredients that are being banned, and at higher levels than we consumers, but I am unaware of any research that says they are at risk. It seems different from the rules restricting visual artists’ access to harmful chemicals in pigments and other supplies.

    Sounds in part like a commercial decision to open up a market for companies to profit by supplying “permitted” substitutes to the detriment of the scents themselves. Sad. December 17, 2012 at 12:22pm Reply

    • nikki: That is a very smart comment about the sales representatives. I do not think a petition or anything like that will change anything. So many food articles and others have been tweaked and no longer recognizable. One wonders if the EU standards are worthwhile… December 17, 2012 at 12:42pm Reply

    • Victoria: But nobody profits in the end. The search for oakmoss replacements has been going on for years, and there is still no good alternative. In the end, the materials are removed from the perfumer’s palettes and consumers get used to something else. December 17, 2012 at 3:21pm Reply

  • Stella: “Part of the problem is the secrecy surrounding perfumes. Most perfume brands are reluctant to label their products. Unlike artists and writers, perfume creators have no intellectual property rights to the fragrances they compose for big brands, and so perfume brands fight hard to keep their formulas hidden.” Well, or go bankrupt. I’m just posting random comments, but this is so disheartening. December 17, 2012 at 12:33pm Reply

    • Victoria: I agree. I definitely think that one of the reasons the fragrance industry is suffering right now is its inability to communicate with the consumers. December 17, 2012 at 3:12pm Reply

  • Kay: Hi
    Have any of the companies considered moving their operations to countries that are not affected by the new rules? Please give me/us your thoughts on this. So many companies move their operations for reasons such as taxes and pay/benefits, I would think that moving to preserve the integrity of the industry would be equally, if not more, important! December 17, 2012 at 12:38pm Reply

    • Victoria: But if they want to sell to the EU, they have to make their formulas compliant with the regulations. And EU is one of the biggest markets for perfume. December 17, 2012 at 3:10pm Reply

  • Fatima: This is so sad. I have NEVER had any kind of bad reaction to any perfume until the new regulations. A sample of Guerlain Idylle that my daughter tried caused us both to get horrible headaches within a half hour. Synthetics? The solution is simple – we won’t buy it. That’s what people have always done. I am not a conspiracy theorist, but I have wondered whether the big corporations who own perfume companies have been secretly encouraging these regulations to cut costs and drive smaller companies out of business. December 17, 2012 at 1:00pm Reply

    • Victoria: The regulations don’t cut costs at all for the fragrance suppliers. In fact, quite the opposite. Which is why they are protesting the new regulations. Plus, IFRA includes both big and small companies. December 17, 2012 at 3:08pm Reply

      • Fatima: I checked it out and you’re right, but then all this makes even less sense! December 18, 2012 at 1:30am Reply

  • Alyssa Harad: I find it funny, in a very sad way, that everyone keeps making up conspiracy theories (re: naturals/synthetics, for example) because we can’t bring ourselves to believe that this is happening as a result of stupidity, disorganization and industry traditions of paranoia/secrecy. I myself could not believe it when my father told me, several years ago, in a conversation on this topic that he understood IFRA perfectly because he had seen several other industries try to self-regulate out of similar motives and that it ended badly every time. Sigh. Guess it’s time to buy some Carnal Flower and Parfum de Therese. December 17, 2012 at 1:06pm Reply

    • Alyssa Harad: But thanks very much for the article all the same, V. It will be a very handy reference when others ask me the same questions. December 17, 2012 at 1:07pm Reply

    • Victoria: “we can’t bring ourselves to believe that this is happening as a result of stupidity, disorganization and industry traditions of paranoia/secrecy.”

      A great way of putting it!

      Do you remember by any chance which industries your father referred to? December 17, 2012 at 3:05pm Reply

      • Alyssa: I don’t remember, V, but I will ask. I just recall how ordinary it seemed to him. December 17, 2012 at 4:02pm Reply

  • Persolaise: Thanks very much indeed for this. As you say, the potential developments are very worrying. I guess 2013 is going to be a year in which to pay exceptionally close attention to what’s going on in the industry! December 17, 2012 at 1:47pm Reply

    • Victoria: Well, hope that the EU and IFRA come up with some workable plan. December 17, 2012 at 3:02pm Reply

  • Leah: Ludicrous that while my vintage Guerlains are essentially controlled substances, I can walk downstairs right now and buy a pack of cigarettes. I will confess to some perfume hoarding over the past year – and just when I feared I may have put away too much it appears that this may be a pattern that continues out of necessity. The irony is that most of the perfumes that are migraine triggers for me are new issue or reformulations! Thanks as always Victoria December 17, 2012 at 2:18pm Reply

    • Victoria: I think that whenever people say that perfume gives them a headache, they are probably referring to the popular sillage bombs like Angel or Coco Mademoiselle! December 17, 2012 at 3:01pm Reply

      • Leonie: Mmm… Just a random thought – a mix of champagne and cognac gives me a headache, do you think it’s a legitimate cause? December 17, 2012 at 3:58pm Reply

        • Victoria: :) If you follow the EU logic, then yes! December 17, 2012 at 5:28pm Reply

      • Daisy: Maybe we should band together and put up a petition to only ban certain perfumes.

        I’ll start the list:

        Justin Bieber Someday
        Jimmy Choo
        Axe Body Spray
        Anything sold at Victoria’s Secret . . . December 17, 2012 at 9:38pm Reply

  • Nukapai: The interesting thing with this is that it’s consumer lobby groups who have pressurised the EU to investigate perfume allergens further.

    At present the SCCS has merely made recommendations (on a purely scientific, factual basis rather than considering whether it would be logical or right to act on them. That’s the EU regulators’ job and IFRA is trying to negotiate with them as we speak).

    So, unfortunately, the industry’s eager encouragement of chemophobia and some would say “totophobia” and the trading on negative, fear-based marketing has actually encouraged and validated consumer fear over “allergens” in perfume. The word and concept is so mis-used now that people are demanding allergen-free perfumes.

    The threat of this type of demand was why IFRA was set up in the first place, to protect the industry from over-zealous regulators.

    The mistake has probably been not to engage with the general public more and at an earlier stage.

    Is it too late now? Do perfumistas need to organise themselves into a consumer group themselves and to put another kind of petition to the EU bods? December 17, 2012 at 2:52pm Reply

    • Victoria: You know, the working title for this post while it sat in my draft folder was “How We Got Into This Mess?” But since I really did mostly a Q and A, I changed it in the end.

      Yes, you’ve hit the nail on the head with your observations. The industry is reluctant to disclose how perfumes are made and what they are made of, and as a result, people are suspicious. December 17, 2012 at 2:58pm Reply

      • Nukapai: I would also say that the marketing departments of perfume brands are partially responsible for the mess we currently find ourselves in. If they had described accords with a little more open appreciation of some of the chemicals used, people would perhaps have gotten used to the idea that everything is made up of chemicals and that plants are chemical factories. Now, we actually have a situation where people think natural is an antonym to chemical and it’s going to take a massive effort and multiple approaches to correct that way of thinking.

        I’m not suggesting returning to some kind of pre Silent Spring chemical industry worship, far from it, but just a more balanced and informed appreciation about the topic at hand. December 17, 2012 at 3:15pm Reply

        • Victoria: You’ve put it really well. There needs to be a balanced, informed approach. You’re also right that it would take a huge effort to carry out an educational initiative, and it’s not clear who is going to do it. I certainly don’t think that such an effort can come from within the industry. December 17, 2012 at 5:27pm Reply

          • Nukapai: Bloggers such as yourself are important. I do think that the industry needs to get involved but they may need help with how to do it without alienating people further. December 17, 2012 at 5:31pm Reply

  • Austenfan: Thanks for this. It is so unfortunate that yet again decisions are being made by people who are not real experts in the field. Probably because the truth ( if such a thing exists) is a lot more complex than simple regulations tend to make us believe. December 17, 2012 at 5:08pm Reply

    • Victoria: This is like many similar collective action problems, in which the group that manages to work together gets its message across more clearly. December 17, 2012 at 5:47pm Reply

      • Austenfan: I remember watching a documentary, years ago, about the BSE epidemic in the UK. It showed very clearly that science, especially medical science, often hasn’t very clear cut answers. Politicians and administrators tend to want those. A lot of miscommunication ensued, before the right measures were taken.
        It seems as if the EU wants to create a risk-free world. That is not going to happen.

        Also I sometimes wonder whether they concentrate on these, in my opinion not very relevant, issues healthwise, so as not to have to deal with real problems that are out of their control. December 18, 2012 at 10:40am Reply

        • Victoria: Maybe, because they are low cost political issues. You are not liable to alienate too many people, but a political platform designed around the “safe world” motto sounds very appealing. December 18, 2012 at 10:43am Reply

  • Lynn Morgan: For Christ’s sake, it’s simple people: if ypu have alergies (real or imagined) don’t wear the stuff. There are plenty of fragrance free cosmetics, cleaning products, bath and shower products, etc. Eggs make me gag, so I don’t eat them. End of story. If I am dumb enough to order a cheese souffle, it’s all on me when I toss my cookies.

    As far as re-formulating a classic scent without notice- I thought I was hallucinating when I re-visited Oscar de la Renta and Rive Gauche after long absences. Dopn’t they realize that smell is the scent most closely linked to memory biologicaly? We remember and we grieve the loss. And don’t get me started on the weak, watery, anemic swill they now call “Chloe”! December 17, 2012 at 5:26pm Reply

    • Victoria: From what I observe, people seem to conflate the volume of a perfume–“she wears so much X, it gives me a headache”–with the allergy–“I put on X on my skin and leaves a red patch.” So, whenever this topic is raised, there is always someone who starts comparing perfume and cigarette smoke and praising the EU for defending the consumers. December 17, 2012 at 5:49pm Reply

  • Ariadne: V-Thank you for continuing to write about this change in the perfume industry. I really want to understand it and greatly benefit from your posts.
    Certainly available perfume products will be evolving in huge leaps but it looks like for the worse.
    If anyone ever doubted how important scent & aroma is in today’s world just check out the perfume blogs. Once you are “into” perfume you become more and more discriminating in your taste & purchases.
    I am certain that people will not buy “crap” for very long. If the mass market is flooded with inferior goods due to regulations, well then there will always be “alternative” markets. December 17, 2012 at 6:46pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’m glad that you found it helpful. It’s such a complicated and confusing topic that one can definitely untangle it to no end. December 18, 2012 at 10:44am Reply

  • L: Isn’t exposure to these allergens the primary concern? So doesn’t that mean that the main culprits are *functional products* (like detergents and body washes) rather than fine fragrance?

    After all, dermal exposure in terms of fine fragrance is minimal (small patch on the skin) compared with those other products, which affect pretty much your entire body. Also, it’s much easier to isolate the cause of an allergy from a spritz rather than if it was caused by a detergent or body wash.

    Why wouldn’t they just regulate fragrance in functional products?

    Fine fragrance only need to be labelled as potentially sensitizing, since consumers wearing them do so from personal choice anyway (as opposed to incidental exposure to the fragrance in detergents). Isn’t this the more common sense solution? December 17, 2012 at 7:00pm Reply

    • Victoria: Exposure and increased sensitization as a result. Yes, the functional products are a part of it too. The IFRA regulations apply to fine and functional products, and there are different levels of materials specified, depending on how the product is used. Even candles have to follow IFRA recommendations. December 18, 2012 at 10:46am Reply

  • Bryan Ross: More incentive for perfumers to move shop to the U.S.A. Problem solved. December 17, 2012 at 10:44pm Reply

    • Victoria: But they still want to sell to the EU, so moving doesn’t really make a difference. December 18, 2012 at 10:47am Reply

  • Ada: Thank you for this elucidating article. I agree with Lynn Morgan in that peope that are aware of their own allergies should read the label to know if they can wear the fragrance. I think the fragrance industry and the EU should spend their efforts educating consumers instead of simply banning unnecesarily things that could make many people happier and with better life quality. Maybe the EU should start treating consumers as smart and capable human beings instead of overprotected children. December 17, 2012 at 10:49pm Reply

    • Victoria: I completely agree with everything you said, Ada! December 18, 2012 at 10:48am Reply

    • Ed: People here are smart and capable consumers of fragrances. I’m not so sure about the general public.

      I moved from the US to a certain EU country, and it’s a bit shocking to me that some extremely common OTC medicines approved in the US are not available at all here. Example: Benadryl. Requires a prescription, I believe. But non-sedating antihistamines don’t. Is this for the public interest, I wonder? So that someone doesn’t take a sedating antihistamine and fall asleep at the wheel? Or something? Can people not be trusted to use something like that responsibly? Perhaps a better example: Baby aspirin. Requires a prescription. Presumably to protect the public?

      Those are minor things, but I don’t think they ever cross peoples’ minds. I sometimes wonder if people here, who have seemingly been so overprotected for so long, could even make critical evaluations of certain products. And I wonder that all the more when I hear someone go on and on about ‘natural’ this and that (back to perfumes) and how “you Americans love your chemicals.” December 21, 2012 at 8:47am Reply

  • Claire: Victoria, I have no idea that this is so eminent! I read about it a while ago and I thought such thing would *never* happen, if so, it would be the end of the perfume world as I know it. While in general I admire the EU regulation in terms of drug and cosmetics, if this law were to be passed, it would be devastating. “An atomic explosion” is quite spot on. I personally think that allergies are something that we personally responsible for, i.e. if I am allergic to avocado (as I am), then I would stay away from it and if I happen to come across a food item with avocado in it and have a reaction, I just don’t eat it again in the future. So long as the reaction is not deadly, I suppose a little bit of personal responsibility is reasonable, rather than a blanket-law that covers all. December 17, 2012 at 11:56pm Reply

    • Victoria: “a little bit of personal responsibility is reasonable, rather than a blanket-law that covers all.”

      Well-said! December 18, 2012 at 10:51am Reply

    • Ed: I, for one, have always said that if a favorite fragrance causes a minor allergy for me, I’ll just take antihistamines! :P December 21, 2012 at 8:48am Reply

  • Annamaria: Just wanted to let everyone know there is this petitions against the regulations.

    http://www.cropwatch.org/40thpetition.htm December 18, 2012 at 12:29am Reply

    • Victoria: Ah, thank you for a link! December 18, 2012 at 10:48am Reply

  • Astrid: Sounds like another industry poised to move jobs and profits to China.

    It’d be nice if American firms like Lauder would stand fast – I could foresee a big growth in European ‘perfume tourism’ to the US. December 18, 2012 at 6:02am Reply

    • Victoria: I mentioned it above in one of the comments, but these regulations would apply (if passed) to any company wanting to sell in the EU market. It doesn’t matter where the company is operating. It may make its perfumes in the US, China or elsewhere, but if it wants to sell in the EU, the fragrances would have to comply with the EU laws. Many big American firms are, in fact, quite pro-active in adopting the measures, even before IFRA officially recommends them. They are even more frightened of the consumer law suits than the European companies. December 18, 2012 at 6:11am Reply

      • Astrid: I get you, but if firms like Lauder (or Chinese upstarts) only sold the good stuff in the US, I’m saying Europeans and other consumers would travel here to buy it. Perfume tourism. Like traveling to Czech for crystal. Just have to smuggle it back inside a water bottle on the flight.

        Already I believe you can still buy an original formulation of Youth Dew in the opaque blue bottle in the US. It’s far better than the glass bottle version which is probably the export formulation as well. Both are marked as EdP, but one is far better than the other. December 19, 2012 at 7:29am Reply

        • Ed: Not that I have the money to do so, but frankly, if I knew I could get a good original version of a perfume (nitro musks and all) by traveling outside the EU, maybe to India, I would consider doing so. Or at least asking someone in this hypothetical land to mail me a bottle. December 21, 2012 at 8:51am Reply

  • Poodle: It’s ridiculous. If you are allergic to something then I think it’s your responsibility to avoid the substance, not to expect that it be banned from use by anyone else. It’s going to be like prohibition where perfumers go underground and have secret shops like speakeasy’s for perfume. December 18, 2012 at 6:59am Reply

    • Victoria: The counterargument that I hear often is that when presented with a list of 100 substances, people wouldn’t know what they are allergic to. So, they would want someone to make a decision apriori and present them with a completely safe product. “One shouldn’t suffer from wearing a perfume.” December 18, 2012 at 11:01am Reply

    • Ed: If ever I start a line of perfumes, I’m going to name it Perfume Speakeasy. :P December 21, 2012 at 8:52am Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: Big Brother is watching you. Big Brother is protecting you. You don’t like that? Just swallow. You don’t know what is good for you. Big Brother does.
    Bah. December 18, 2012 at 7:13am Reply

    • Victoria: And I just walked past the EU Commission on my way back home. :) December 18, 2012 at 11:02am Reply

  • Absolute Scentualist: I’m rather liberal in my views and hate very much to toss out the term ‘nanny state’, but if the impending regulations from IFRA don’t embody it, I don’t know what does. I’m responsible for medicating, feeding, and caring for myself and my family and have discovered allergies along the way. I learn from them and move on with the help of research or more often, reading labels and asking about an ingredient if I have questions. This seems like a much less costly approach and I highly doubt people who love their specific scent or us hardcore perfumistas would be driven away by an ingredient list, even one that isn’t all natural. L’Occitane goes on about how inspired by nature their products are, as do many other of my beloved bath and body product brands, but their products contain chemicals and agents that make them perform well, even if they do fill up a label. That doesn’t stop me from using them as it is my choice what I wish to put on my skin. December 18, 2012 at 11:26am Reply

    • Victoria: As Austenfan pointed out very well above, there are bigger and more important issues to regulate than this one. December 19, 2012 at 4:36am Reply

  • Esperanza: Referring to the father of Alyssa Harad, one of the industries could be the insurance industry which tried to avoid all kinds of legislation through internal regulation but failed regarding openess about costs. The only remedy has been transparancy. So maybe one remedy would be to include a list with all the ingredients of the perfumes, either with the product or online. As you said companies will not be willing but maybe this is the best chance they have and to educate the public as well as you so rightfully said. This knowledge that they have to be open will probably come to late though as it is so contrary to the whole guild mentality.

    I can’t imagine that LVMH or Wertheimer is not doing some lobbying in Brussels already, by the way.

    What I worry about much more though is how the artisan perfumers are going to deal with this, the Mandy’s and Andy’s of this world ? December 18, 2012 at 11:34am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for this interesting comparison. The fragrance companies are anything but transparent, for the most part. December 19, 2012 at 4:38am Reply

  • Bryan Ross: I’m not so sure that they’d want to sell to the EU, or that they’d have to, given the regulations that are imposed on these companies – the option to move shop and market fragrances to the Americas, Canada, Asia, Australia, Africa, the Middle East, is very viable. It’s possible that Europe is looking at a new dark ages for perfume, while the rest of the world sees little change, even perhaps increased availability of luxury fragrances. The bottom line has a way of swaying the staunchest homebodies into looking at different horizons. At least one could suppose you’ll start seeing “versions” of perfumes – the EU version and the version available to the rest of the world. Imagine Mitsouko in two different forms, marketed to many different locations, with one entirely devoted to Europe . . . scary thought? Maybe, but I don’t see a reason why it couldn’t happen. December 18, 2012 at 10:10pm Reply

    • Victoria: EU is still the biggest market for fine fragrances, so no, the American companies will not stop selling there anytime soon. Yes, the regulations are tough, but the business of reformulation and composition is done by the suppliers, not by the brands. If the law passes, the brands won’t be happy, but the suppliers are ones who will have the biggest headache. And they would have no choice but to simply deal with it.

      Plus, the US has its own fair share of regulations. If the EU law passes, who is to say that a body like FDA may not decide to regulate this industry as well. December 19, 2012 at 4:12am Reply

      • Bryan Ross: I’m inclined to agree with you, although I’d just settle on saying that the likely outcome, if these sanctions progress, is a type of “versioned perfume marketing” that systematically distributes different formulas to different locations. Special Editions, re-releases, whatever companies have to do to salvage brands that can no longer utilize banned materials – if they can still make money with the old formulas, they will, whether Europe allows it or not. Think of it as geographic market testing with new formulas, scattered across the globe. December 19, 2012 at 7:30pm Reply

  • aromirotici: I would really like to know who the people are that suffer from these “allergens” and why we have to be “saved” from ourselves?

    I stay out of the industry side of fragrance and am completely content to sample and review various releases. I am not a happy camper when some conglomerate is “looking out for my welfare” while they rake in the dough because of it.

    Bigger than my pet peeves are the perfumers being hurt by this corporate greed. From where I stand, that’s all it is. I have never met ( or heard ) of anyone during my lifetime who has suffered ( in any fashion ) from either wearing classic ingredients or being near them.

    It’s all a scam as far as I’m concerned and they will laugh all the way to the bank. December 18, 2012 at 11:35pm Reply

    • Ed: I’ve come across a number of people allegedly ‘allergic’ to fragrances. Oddly enough, they don’t carry around epiniphrine, like someone with, say, a peanut allergy might. They don’t seem to react much at all, in fact, apart from very loud and demonstrative coughing. In fact, somoene in my family is apparently VERY allergic to perfumes–but it also apparently comes and goes, since she must not be allergic to the ones she WEARS. And she didn’t die when she stayed over at my apartment, despite the fact that it’s practically drenched in some aromachemical or other. December 21, 2012 at 9:04am Reply

  • kathleen: Dear Frederic Malle, tell them to bugger off, and continue to make the superior scents you always have. May 28, 2013 at 11:53am Reply

  • nelly: I’ve just come across this recent article related to these theme:

    http://akafkaesquelife.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/the-eu-proposes-to-act-on-perfume/

    Apparently, it’s finally going to happen.
    What do you think about this? February 18, 2014 at 2:31pm Reply

    • Victoria: Nelly, I haven’t read that article in particular, but I’ve read some others that were rather alarmist. One thing is certain, the new proposal has been significantly modified from its earlier version. But another important part is that the proposal is currently open for public consultation till May, and the fragrance brands and various groups are doing what they can to both fight some aspects of the proposal and refine the methodology for assessing the allergens. It’s too early to make foregone conclusions. February 18, 2014 at 2:49pm Reply

  • Merve: A good explanation overall, but I have read somewhere else that it was Lyral (HICC) that might be banned, not Lilial as the post suggests. February 20, 2014 at 2:59am Reply

    • Victoria: Merve, you’re exactly right. When the post was written a year ago, Lilial was also discussed as a potential ingredient to be banned/severely restricted. But the current proposal–which has changed since a year ago–is considering the bans on Lyral and two chemicals that occur as impurities in oakmoss (but oakmoss itself is not banned). Lilial is restricted, but let’s see what shall be adopted when the proposal goes through its consultation period in May this year. February 20, 2014 at 4:22am Reply

  • KJK: Victoria, very helpful, thanks. I’ve been following the discussions on this and was very concerned to see a letter from the CEO of The Different Company saying that the regulations will destroy perfume. Why are big companies silent on this? February 20, 2014 at 3:46am Reply

    • Victoria: I’ve read the letter from TDC, and while I agree that regulations are a concern, I don’t agree with the reasoning. We have to be concerned and we have to act, but acting based on the wrong information does more harm than good. First of all, the naturals aren’t banned and even if the current proposal goes into effect as is (the worst case scenario), it won’t be the end of perfumery as we know it because of the restrictions themselves. Second, apart from the bans I mentioned in my reply to Merve and some restrictions (which already coincide with IFRA Standards), the EU is mostly interested in labeling the allergens as such.

      A better approach for us as consumers is to ask the EU Commission and fragrance brands to introduce better labeling of allergens rather than asking them to “stop the regulations.” The fears of consumer lobbies that drive the EU to regulate have some legitimate concerns. Over the past few decades we’ve been exposed to more fragrance, including new generation synthetics with little known long term effects. It’s not just fine fragrance that we wear in small doses; it’s also the laundry detergents and fabric softeners that are used on a large scale. After all, one worrying precedent was a discovery that certain types of musks accumulate in tissues.

      The big companies are lobbying actively right now, but since nothing is yet decided, it’s probably not the best time for them to talk to media. February 20, 2014 at 5:43am Reply

  • columbine: I used to be allergic to Mitsouko, it would give me a terrible skin rash. It was my only skin allergy ever. It must have been re-formulated because I am not allergic to it anymore. There should be some sort of compromise: removing highly allergenic componants but leaving the not so allergenic ones. Otherwise nothing will be left! It’s really ironic to go towards “synthetic” at times when everything organic is so much in fashion…consummers should be given a choice, as for any other cosmetic… February 20, 2014 at 9:41am Reply

    • Victoria: “There should be some sort of compromise: removing highly allergenic componants but leaving the not so allergenic ones.” Yes, that’s exactly what the EU would like to have. Otherwise, it’s exactly as you say, there will be nothing left!

      But from what I’ve been reading in the independent EU studies, there is no push to go “synthetic” per se, because the three bans to be implemented are Lyral (a synthetic, suspected in the EU studies to be an allergen as well as a reproductive toxin) and two impurities found in oakmoss. Oakmoss itself will still available and even before the ban was discussed, some companies began working on purer oakmoss extracts. As for the rest, the proposal is still under the discussion, and we will hear more over the coming months. February 20, 2014 at 10:14am Reply

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