Is Chanel No 5 Being Banned?

“Iconic 90-year-old perfume Chanel No.5 is one of a host of well-known perfumes that could be banned following research into the allergy-inducing ingredients they contain,” says the Telegraph article “Chanel No.5 perfume faces ban.”  So, should you start stocking up on Chanel No 5?


The mainstream press seems to have woken up to the idea of reformulations and ingredient bans, which is why the Telegraph and other newspapers are running these alarmist headlines. In short, no, Chanel No 5 is not going to be banned in the near future. On the other hand, the pace of ingredient regulation is so fast and so stringent that it’s becoming a real issue for creative perfumery.

The industry has been self-regulating its fragrance production since 1973, when it created IFRA, the International Fragrance Association. Its members include fragrance ingredient and compound manufacturers and suppliers, together with the multinational fragrance companies Firmenich, Givaudan, IFF, Robertet, Symrise and Takasago International. IFRA is usually a bad word for perfume lovers, which means reformulations of their beloved fragrances, but the issue is really much more complex. Fragrance has no legal copyright protection, which means that in order not to be regulated by others, who might endanger fragrance know-how and open up the formulas to the public domain, the industry has to regulate itself.

The problem is that external pressures for regulations are so intense that the industry might as well forget about trying to self-regulate. It can’t get away from the EU regulatory bodies that want to operate with a no risk policy. When the two EU agencies, the Directorate General for Consumer Protection (DG Sanco) and the Scientific Committee for Consumer Safety (SCCS), discovered that 2% of the EU population is allergic to fragrances*, they found this number to be too high. The list of potential allergens now includes around 100 perfumery ingredients, natural and synthetic. It doesn’t mean that all of these ingredients are to be banned outright; most of them are to be restricted to low levels.

Some might say that the industry has already reformulated and changed its fragrances for years due to the pressures of regulations, and there are ways even around the proposed regulations. Rose oil can be produced without eugenol, a clove scented compound that is on the list of regulated substances. The effect of the oakmoss can be replicated by a clever use of patchouli and other woody-mossy aromatics. Perfumers have more ingredients in their palettes today than they did 50 years ago, and even the limitations themselves can spur greater creativity.

But from my own experience, I can tell you that the regulations are frustrating, especially when combined with other issues in the perfumery today–the faster pace of launches,  dwindling budgets, and no reward for creativity. The regulations are a slippery slope, especially in case of the EU regulatory bodies, which always find something new to regulate.  Even if a perfumer is creative at solving the problem, a few months later she faces even more constraints.

The fragrance industry is not the only one facing this issue. The EU regulations are the reason why some traditional cheeses are no longer made, why the production of olive oil can’t follow the classical methods and so on. Perfume is just the latest newcomer to the to-be-regulated list.

After the latest round of proposed regulations, the fragrance industry decided that it finally needs to take a more active role in communicating with the EU. The EU’s drive to regulate has even moved the conglomerates like LVMH into action. Better late than never, I suppose. January 2014 is the proposed timeline for the new regulations within the fragrance industry, so it remains to be seen what the outcome will be.

While the Telegraph article is undoubtedly alarmist and not exactly correct in its conclusions, I’m glad that this topic is discussed by the press. Perfume is the most simple pleasure and the most indispensable indulgence. Today we need this more than ever.

*By allergic, the EU Scientific Committee means “allergic contact dermatitis, irritant contact dermatitis, photosensitivity, immediate contact, reactions (contact urticaria), and pigmented contact dermatitis” (SCCS Report/1459/11).



  • rosarita: Thank you for a cool discussion of this hot button topic. November 7, 2012 at 8:36am Reply

    • Victoria: You’re welcome! 🙂 November 7, 2012 at 10:05am Reply

  • Marc: But I just don’t get why can’t the perfume manufacturers list the allergenic ingredients on the packaging? Like the food groups do with wheat, peanuts, etc. November 7, 2012 at 9:16am Reply

    • Anne: Ditto! November 7, 2012 at 9:37am Reply

    • Victoria: I wish that they could have come up with some solution like this, but I think that Michael (his comment is just below) is correct in his guess why they don’t. Plus, the perfume brands are the ones that oppose a fragrance label filled with unfamiliar chemical names on their products. November 7, 2012 at 9:52am Reply

  • yomi: Dear V, wonderful article. For me its sad though. I heard about this new brouhaha from a colleague who happens to work for IFF. They are interested in selling raw materials to us.
    Anyway life goes on – it just calls for more creativity from both chemists and perfumers alike!
    Well done. Nice article. November 7, 2012 at 9:21am Reply

    • Victoria: Glad that you liked it! It’s a topic about which one can write endlessly. There are so many facets to it.
      Our society is not risk averse, but our politicians want to project some zero risk model of life and assure us that it’s possible, and then they try to do everything to that end. Couple it with the fact that it took ages for the perfume industry to realize what consequences these constant regulations might have… November 7, 2012 at 9:57am Reply

  • Anne: Fascinating! And sad. I never realized how much the perfumes are reformulated until I started reading blogs.

    On a related topic, Victoria and other perfumistas, which perfume version of No 5 do you prefer? It’s been on my list for a long time and now seems as good time as any to get that bottle. November 7, 2012 at 9:37am Reply

    • Victoria: My favorite is the parfum, because it’s so lush and nuanced. The EDT is sparkling and bright, so it’s perfect as a light veil of scent. The EDP is fruitier and thicker. I like it the least out of the three versions, but it’s still quite stunning. November 7, 2012 at 9:50am Reply

      • Anne: I assumed that the edt might be the least interesting, and I’m curious to try it now. I only wore the other two. I might just go for the parfum. Thanks, V! November 7, 2012 at 10:04am Reply

        • Victoria: They are different enough that if you love No 5, you could enjoy all 3 and not find them identical. Such a beautiful fragrance! November 7, 2012 at 10:36am Reply

    • Sue: My favorite is the extrait de parfum. I get lots of compliments when I wear it. November 7, 2012 at 10:54am Reply

      • Anne: I’m leaning towards No 5 parfum. November 8, 2012 at 10:23am Reply

    • Rachel: I don’t want to confuse you, but since you’ve asked, my fave is the eau de toilette. V is correct in calling it a veil of scent. But I think that you can’t go wrong with the parfum. November 7, 2012 at 11:30am Reply

      • Anne: You aren’t confusing me. I really need to smell the edt again. November 8, 2012 at 10:23am Reply

    • Rowanhill: The EdT or Parfum. the EdP is a totally different beast, harsher. November 8, 2012 at 10:23am Reply

  • Michael: I cant’ understand why they can’t follow the same route as the warnings on tobacco products? Why not state on the perfume box the prime ingredients containing allergens, then have a statement that you stand some risk of allergic reaction if you buy the product. Then give the consumer the choice to buy or not to buy? I realise it is more complex than this, because then the EU would need to spend billions on advertising campaigns educating the public as to what the risks are, etc. Blah, blah blah – its all red tape bureaucracy Victoria! November 7, 2012 at 9:39am Reply

    • Victoria: I agree with you. Also, the problem is that we are talking about 100 allergens, most of which sound completely foreign and scary to the general public. Nevermind that you get more aldehydes and citral on your skin when you peel citrus fruit than you get from any perfume. So, I can sort of see why the labeling may not solve the entire issue. Right now, 26 allergens have to be included on the label. November 7, 2012 at 9:49am Reply

  • Nikki: Very interesting topic! I have been a fan of Clarissa, the second half of the FAT LADIES COOKING SERIES, for a long time now and she is the one who really opened my eyes to Brussels’ influence on our food as well as perfume culture. These restrictions permeate the whole chain of foods, perfumes, more or less everything surrounding us and it is quite amazing how traditions are being sacrificed on the Altar of restrictions…very sad indeed. November 7, 2012 at 10:05am Reply

    • Victoria: My grandmother plants her own garden, and most of the fruits and vegetables she eats come from it. Recently, she mentioned that she cannot find any of the heirloom seeds in the market, and the seeds that she can find don’t produce vegetables that you can regrow. Every year you have to buy seeds anew.

      I will check out Clarissa. Thank you for recommending it. November 7, 2012 at 10:43am Reply

      • Nikki: Clarissa Dickson Wright – I bought all her books, she is very lucid about what is happening to our food supply. There is also a short video about that subject and her comments on youtube. November 7, 2012 at 11:07am Reply

        • Victoria: Ah, I didn’t make the connection right away. I was watching one of the series from the Great British Food Revival, and I noticed in the credits that she is one of the contributors. I’m only familiar with her writing through a beautiful introduction she wrote to Elizabeth David’s Summer Cooking. November 7, 2012 at 11:11am Reply

  • Nikki: Then again, if Coumarin will be banned, I better buy all Shalimar extrait I can get my hands on! November 7, 2012 at 10:08am Reply

    • Victoria: If coumarin is banned outright, I will be grating the tonka beans into my Shalimar. I keep a big jar of these brown, wrinkly beans for cooking. 🙂 November 7, 2012 at 10:37am Reply

      • Andrea: Hi V! I would love to have you write about how you use these/recipes with them sometime when you do a “recipe day”. Perhaps a section on how to use the ingredient with a list of perfumes that use it? Just a thought… November 7, 2012 at 2:10pm Reply

        • Victoria: I have a couple of nice recipes I’ve experimented with recently, but I need to write them up and take photos. It would be such an enjoyable topic too! November 7, 2012 at 3:12pm Reply

      • Masha: I keep my own tonka beans for making a beautiful tincture, and for grinding into homemade incense for the holidays. It’s just gorgeous, and once you know how to use it safely, no worry at all. November 7, 2012 at 5:18pm Reply

        • Victoria: A couple of pinches of tonka bean in hot chocolate make for something magical.

          I can just imagine how wonderful your homemade incense smells! November 7, 2012 at 5:24pm Reply

      • Daisy: I would love a photo of you grating tonka beans into your reformulated Shalimar! November 9, 2012 at 9:20pm Reply

        • Victoria: 🙂 What’s a girl to do if they mess up with her favorites! November 10, 2012 at 2:34am Reply

  • Mitsouko Lover: So, there is a chance that the regulations may not be passed? *hopes against hope* November 7, 2012 at 10:17am Reply

    • Victoria: I guess, there is always a chance. IFRA appealed to the EU to consider the consequences for the perfume industry, and they are currently discussing the next steps. November 7, 2012 at 10:44am Reply

  • Chris Funt: I think this type of regulation is ridiculous. How about putting efforts together to get rid of pollution first? That’s much more of a problem than anything in fragrances. And, then, of course, there are the compounding pharmacies in the U.S. that have caused so much misery to many. We’ve got regulation but no one bothered to check on them.

    On the other side, we also have to stop the crazy litigation where people win tons of money for things that should never have gone to court anyway. I’m curious where all these regulations started — did someone have an allergic reaction to a perfume and then blame the producer for their reaction and start complaining? Just wondering. November 7, 2012 at 10:26am Reply

    • Victoria: Absolutely! It doesn’t make sense, especially since the science behind the studies is highly questionable.

      And what’s more, sometimes the regulations don’t make any sense at all. For instance, L’Oreal hair colors are scented, and L’Oreal insists that the scents follow the IFRA regulations. The irony is that there are many components in a typical hair dye (ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, etc.) that would do much more damage to a person with allergies than a modicum of coumarin or eugenol. November 7, 2012 at 10:48am Reply

      • Masha: The few times I have had my hair colored over the last decade, my scalp pretty much fell off. But there’s no regulation about the chemicals that do that! But jasmine, oh my, save me, Brussels! I don’t get it either. November 7, 2012 at 5:20pm Reply

        • Victoria: I know, it just doesn’t make sense! November 8, 2012 at 8:50am Reply

  • Rachel: I really wanted to say that I appreciate when you write about these topics. I like your insider perspective. November 7, 2012 at 11:28am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Rachel! I mostly was prompted by the hysterical headlines in the newspapers. But then again, it’s good that they are discussing this topic. Maybe, more awareness is exactly what’s needed. November 7, 2012 at 11:42am Reply

  • Jillie: This makes me so sad and I feel as though the world is going mad …. but you summed up the matter so well, Victoria.

    I find it hard to believe that “they” want to stop you wearing vanilla on your skin, but are happy (at the moment) to let you eat it!

    Surely we are entitled to take a risk with what we eat or wear, so long as we don’t turn to litigation if things don’t turn out so well? Maybe that’s the problem today – people are always looking to sue. But we should not live in a “Nanny State”. We should be adult, and we should be able to eat smelly cheese and wear oakmoss if we want! November 7, 2012 at 11:36am Reply

    • Victoria: I read your comment and nodded my head vigorously. 🙂 Yes, I think that the consumers should have the choice, but the specter of law suits (what the tobacco companies faced, for instance) scares the perfume brands so much that they are willing to do everything to avoid it. And the EU is putting pressures to regulate. You get the circumstances that makes it ideal to regulate something.

      But I shouldn’t blame the EU only, because there are other bodies in the US as well that are interested to dip their regulatory fingers into the perfume.

      The only thing that will make a difference is any action on behalf of the perfume clients (LVMH, P&G, etc.) and better science. November 7, 2012 at 12:19pm Reply

  • Rina: Great perspective, as always, V. Thank you. I would NOT like to see my Mom if Shalimar was banned….. November 7, 2012 at 11:53am Reply

    • Victoria: I saw that email from you, Rina, and I started to respond. I wrote and wrote, and I finally realized that I had written a post. So, thank you for giving me a push. 🙂 November 7, 2012 at 12:19pm Reply

      • Rina: My pleasure! I’ve seen a few posts about it here on different websites since, so I figured it was hitting everywhere. And I’m not kidding, Mom (minus) Shalimar = 0~0 ! November 7, 2012 at 12:55pm Reply

        • Victoria: Oy, I hope that it will not come to that. 🙂 November 7, 2012 at 3:11pm Reply

  • Anna Minis: Hysterical is the right word, thank you for this and for the article, Victoria. These regulations are not only damaging our pleasure in food and perfume, but they create also an unpleasant atmosphere of fear and anxiousness, a sense of danger : look out! Citral! etc. We don’t want to be overprotected. It is mental pollution. November 7, 2012 at 11:59am Reply

    • Anna Minis: I remember the wise words of Guy Robert, quoted by Victoria:”We all used these dangerous things. Nothing happened”. November 7, 2012 at 12:08pm Reply

      • Victoria: He was such a great person to talk to about these topics. He never minced words. November 7, 2012 at 12:40pm Reply

    • Victoria: I cannot agree with you more, Anna! I fully sympathize with the sufferers of allergies, but perfume is not the same thing as the second hand smoke. November 7, 2012 at 12:26pm Reply

  • George: I think the problem is partly caused by the overall conservative nature of the regulatory bodies, but also the perfume companies, who have mainly never considered customers able to make intelligent and informed choices about the perfumes that they choose to wear and what the ingredients can be, instead producing lists of mythical ingredients wrapped in appalling prose. An allergy grading system is needed, along with supportive literature and e-literature, and the perfumery companies acknowledging that their product needs to lose a little of its ‘mystique’ in order for them to be able to engage with this problem. They also need to accumulate their resources and powers so that they can challenge these ever-encroaching restrictions. If the food industry can function in way that allows people to make the correct choices over what they ingest, why not the fragrance industry where often similar and exactly the same ingredients are used externally. Even more annoyingly, i always use perfume on fabric, so the whole contact allergy aspect of it all is irrelevant to my use. November 7, 2012 at 12:26pm Reply

    • Victoria: That’s really an excellent point, George. Once again we come back to the same thing from which many problems of this industry stem–the lack of intelligent communication with the consumer and the lack of educating the perfume users. I keep bringing up the example of the wine industry and the way it educated its consumers enough that they can make informed choices.

      By contrast, the perfume companies are still talking the same trite fantasies from fifty years ago and nobody seems to want to change anything. November 7, 2012 at 12:35pm Reply

  • Jack Sullivan: Excellent post, Victoria. I like the fact that you try to offer a more balanced view of these regulatory issues – I am so tired of these alarmist headlines! November 7, 2012 at 12:33pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you! Things are never black or white, and while IFRA is the bogeyman of the perfume industry, the problems are really even more complex. November 7, 2012 at 3:03pm Reply

  • Andy: Thank you for adressing this important issue. I am generally in support of any regulation that will truly make me or others around me safer. However, in terms of bans in the fragrance industry, I would be more inclined to support a ban on ingredients like phthalates which do not affect the artistic palette of the perfumer and are, in my opinion, far more hazardous to one’s health than any possible allergen is (I think the EU has banned phthalates, so this argument really is only relevant outside of the EU). Other greater worries to me are some musks, which have been shown to be bioaccumulative and have seeped into aquatic ecosystems. While I appreciate the IFRA and EU’s precautionary approach, which to me do demonstrate a genuine interest in public safety, I believe that they are simply focusing on the wrong things. November 7, 2012 at 12:39pm Reply

    • Victoria: I agree with you. My main problem is that the science the findings are based on is murky. For instance, the report says, “it was not possible to provide a safe threshold for natural extracts of concern, as no specific investigations exist.” November 7, 2012 at 3:08pm Reply

  • Nancy A.: Hi V,

    Well, here we go again…politicizing another industry. Granted, if the formulation of a perfume such as the iconic Chanel 5 is under investigation but oddly I think of the controversial associations that Gabrielle Coco Chanel engaged in that may tie in here somehow and coming back to haunt her past somehow. Ironically, many of the propositions under voter consideration (yesterday’s Election Day) was in the state of Colorado where marijuana was legalized for recreational use and not medicinal, go figure!
    And the recent medical research coming out of the UK regarding felines and the link to depression and the onset of dementia. The state of California decided against labeling the use of GMO’s on packaging. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for research and protecting the consumer against the ills of the world but do I have to resort to life in a bubble. November 7, 2012 at 1:06pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, that’s contradictory at best. I like George’s (a comment just up the thread) example of the food industry. November 7, 2012 at 3:09pm Reply

  • Lena: It seems really wrong that 6% of the population decide if the rest of the world can have a little treat of perfume. I have allergies to dust and grass. Can government ban those substances? I also have a friend who is allergic to Chanel #5 and other perfumes. I spent years dealing with my allergies; my friend – refuses to take antihistamine to prevent them. However, everybody around her is asked not to wear perfume. I think there should be a balance of personal responsibility and commonsense.
    Also, the world of air fresheners, cleaners, “Bath and Body” lotions and other chemical scents is so overpowering compared to the natural oils and scents! That is why I personally consider these products far more dangerous for those with allergies or asthma! November 7, 2012 at 1:09pm Reply

    • Victoria: “I think there should be a balance of personal responsibility and commonsense.”

      This is so well-put, Lena! November 7, 2012 at 3:10pm Reply

  • bluegardenia: Oh these people need to go away! Beauty is dangerous and always has been. If the EU can’t face it, they can go ahead and not wear perfume themselves. But leave the rest out of it! We couldn’t care less about the risks, just as painting lovers don’t fret about the paint fumes they might inhale when they have a new Lucien Freud in their home. Beauty and pleasure should be a risk! It only makes them more beautiful. November 7, 2012 at 4:20pm Reply

    • Victoria: And in case of perfume, the risk has always been fairly negligible anyway, but some transparency about the materials used wouldn’t hurt. November 7, 2012 at 5:09pm Reply

  • Austenfan: Wonderful post!
    Allergies are difficult to prove anyway. Skin testing is more reliable than blood testing but even so a negative skin test does not exclude an allergy. I also think describing oneself as allergic is often used as an excuse to not have to be around something, or eat something.
    And a zero risk society is certainly impossible.

    On another note; I am actually more upset about the cheese than about the perfume. Can you imagine Roquefort made from pasteurised milk? November 7, 2012 at 4:21pm Reply

    • Victoria: The topic of limiting the production of raw milk cheese upsets me very much. One of the pleasures of being in Belgium is the access to all of the amazing raw milk cheese.

      Allergies are difficult to prove, and the definition of what constitutes an allergen will have a crucial outcome on the proposed regulations. That’s the topic currently under review. November 7, 2012 at 5:07pm Reply

      • Austenfan: Anything can be an allergen. Which is what makes it so stupid. November 7, 2012 at 5:17pm Reply

        • Jack Sullivan: You are quite right, Austenfan: an allergy is just misfire from your immune system, directed to something that should not trigger any reaction. Medical studies have concluded to a sharp increase in their incidence during the last century. It has been hypothesized that our organisms have difficulties to cope with an environment which is increasingly urban, artificial, complex, polluted and hence, makes it difficult for the immune system to “assimilate” its thousands or millions of components (on top of those that always have been there). It’s as if our immune system was designed to recognize a certain number of substances and we are reaching this built-in limit.
          I’m not an expert in allergies (I’m a scientist but this is not my field of research) but I can say that, all in all, perfume-triggered allergies are far from being the most dangerous, both in incidence and in severity. In fact I think perfume is a very convenient scapegoat: it’s dispensable, so there will be no massive uprising because of restrictions; focusing the eye of the public on the unlikely ban of Chanel N°5 takes the attention away from the more pregnant problem of strengthening the regulation of the chemical and phytosanitary industries (responsible for a much greater amount of allergies, and cancers).
          Sorry for this long post but I felt that understanding better what an allergy is might help. November 8, 2012 at 1:11am Reply

          • Austenfan: It is a much abused word, especially by people with no basic understanding of human biology. And I agree, allergies to nuts, insect stings are potentially far more dangerous than the contact allergies that I guess constitute the major part of the real perfume allergies.
            I once watched a documentary that offered various hypotheses for the increase in allergies in the past century. Apart from the usual suspect, pollution, an excess of hygiene was also mentioned. Apparently exposure to certain bacteria keeps our immune system on the right track. I wouldn’t know. My knowledge of allergies is limited to what I was taught at Medical School 20 odd years ago. November 8, 2012 at 8:12am Reply

            • Victoria: Thank you both! This was such an interesting discussion, and yes, we are talking about something fairly low risk, such as contact dermatitis. I was at the conference recently devoted to the regulation matters, and nobody could give a straight answer about what constitutes an allergen and how the studies are even conducted or should conducted. November 8, 2012 at 8:54am Reply

      • Austenfan: Oh and I would be willing to get my raw milk cheese illegally! It just tastes that much better. November 7, 2012 at 5:23pm Reply

        • Victoria: It really does! By the way, my mom’s cat would never eat pasteurized milk cheese, but he goes nuts over anything made with raw milk. November 8, 2012 at 8:51am Reply

          • Austenfan: He is like my dog then. She won’t eat canned haricots but will eat freshly cooked ones. Normally she isn’t fussy about food. Dogs are like pigs really. But canned food is not done in her book. November 8, 2012 at 10:53am Reply

  • Alyssa: *sigh*

    I started to write a big long reply about all the issues I never see addressed on this topic, including how allergy is defined, the difference between industry perception and consumer perception, the impact limiting natural ingredients might have on the countries where they are grown and a few other things. Then I gave up and just sighed again.

    I really hope the industry finally gets it together to present a united front. And hope even more that they can get over their contempt of the consumer, because education is, to me, at the root of all this. It’s a magical, pleasurable art form and hardly anyone knows the first thing about it. Those who do, however, want very much to defend it. There just need to be more of us! November 7, 2012 at 4:44pm Reply

    • Victoria: I wish you would write though. There are definitely so many issues that one can bring up. I’m personally curious about your point about industry perception vs consumer perception.

      As for the allergy and how the EU defines it, here is a quote from their report: “Adverse reactions to fragrances in perfumes and in fragranced cosmetic products include
      allergic contact dermatitis, irritant contact dermatitis, photosensitivity, immediate contact
      reactions (contact urticaria), and pigmented contact dermatitis. Airborne and connubial
      contact dermatitis occur.”

      But just a note, the regulations include both naturals and synthetics. For some reason, whenever the press discusses the restrictions, they only mention the natural materials, but there are even more synthetics that are under fire (nobody is restricting vanilla absolute, but there is a talk on limiting the use of its component vanillin, which is produced synthetically). November 7, 2012 at 5:02pm Reply

  • glasspetalsmoke: Many in perfumery believe that a culture of fear is clouding the studies, but no one has made an inquiry into the scientists conducting the studies, esp. Ian White. Note how his declaration of interests hasn’t been updated. November 7, 2012 at 5:54pm Reply

  • Heather: Anyone can be allergic to anything. Trying to remove potential allergens from our environment is futile. I truly hope that not only the fragrance industry but all effected industries will revolt and fight back! If the EU is so worried about allergies they should invest more money into researching why some people develop allergies to begin with, since they are not actually well understood or treatable (perhaps I mean curable). Using Chanel No 5 as an example, my mother wears it because it is one of the very few fragrances that *does not* set off her allergies. November 7, 2012 at 6:03pm Reply

    • Victoria: “they should invest more money into researching why some people develop allergies to begin with.”

      Such a great point, Heather! November 8, 2012 at 8:55am Reply

  • Ariadne: Are “boutique”, “niche”, or independent perfume studios subject to regulations regarding the compound content of their creations? November 7, 2012 at 6:18pm Reply

    • Victoria: If the product is to be sold in Europe, it has to comply with the norms. So, yes, the regulations apply to everyone. IFRA recommendations are not law by themselves, but once adopted into the EU body of regulations, they become binding. And of course, they are binding for the companies that are members of IFRA (IFF, Givaudan, Symrise, etc.) November 8, 2012 at 8:56am Reply

  • Moi: And yet the Europeans smoke like chimneys. Madness. Utter madness. November 7, 2012 at 6:45pm Reply

  • Sasha: My doctor tells me that I’m probably allergic to sunlight, and apparently it’s a surprisingly common problem. I’d like to see the government try to ban that! November 7, 2012 at 7:12pm Reply

    • Jillie: Sasha – hello fellow sunlight allergy sufferer! My husband calls me his little vampire as I burn and develop hives within moments of being in the sun (I love to see the sunshine, I just can’t be in it).

      Because of this reaction, I cover up or don’t spend time in the sun. I can’t wear certain verbena fragrances, which give me a rash. So I don’t wear them. Simple. November 8, 2012 at 2:48am Reply

      • Victoria: 🙂 My husband calls me that too, because I burn in the sun within minutes. Even at home I wear sunscreen. November 8, 2012 at 8:58am Reply

        • Undina: Hello from a fellow-vimpre! 🙂 (and I chose to live in California 😉 ) November 8, 2012 at 9:12pm Reply

          • Undina: vAmpIre (I have no idea what my auto-correct meant) November 8, 2012 at 9:13pm Reply

          • Victoria: 🙂 Sunscreen is my most used skin care product, what can I say! November 9, 2012 at 7:31am Reply

  • silverdust: Gah! I don’t think I can take these control freaks anymore!

    It’s going to come down to “follow the money.” Considering the massive profits the major perfumers make, why can’t they just pay off the “regulators” like all the lobbyists do in D.C.? They’ll still make a killing.

    What a sad commentary on our fellow humanoids. November 7, 2012 at 7:55pm Reply

    • Victoria: I doubt that the industry is organized enough to pull something like this through. Consider that it can’t even gather itself together and make its clients pay for more than just the finished product (R&D, market testing, perfumers work, etc. are done to the client for free). November 8, 2012 at 9:03am Reply

  • renee: We are going to live in a lab in the near future!My country has just a few years in the EU,but we discovered already some things that come together with this:the fruits and vegetables taste no longer the same,because the seeds must be the “approved”ones,that make fruits look so beautiful and big and…tasteless;you can not buy milk or cheese from a farm where the cows are milked by hand and so on.
    So the issue with the perfume regulations is no surprise.We can not live like our grandparents anymore.I wonder how they’ve survived with so many dangerous things around them?! November 8, 2012 at 6:27am Reply

    • Victoria: And I bet you’ve noticed how much the prices have jumped too! I saw this in Hungary when it became a part of the EU. November 8, 2012 at 9:05am Reply

  • Margo: Thank you for such a great article.
    I do hope that IFRA and the EU can agree on something that doesn’t plunge us all into a world of the completely bland. They are regulating for regulating sake. The list of problems caused by ‘allergens’ could be caused by simply breathing every day. I have a friend who cannot be in the same room as onions, another who suffers from touching a single cat hair. They adjust accordingly and don’t ruin their own or anyone else’s life. What are we going to be left with at this rate?
    I sometimes think that these people have lives where they just wish to find anything that makes us feel good and take it away.
    *Sprays Chanel No 5 in defiance* November 8, 2012 at 11:04am Reply

    • Victoria: Regulating for regulating sake is right. While I recognize that some regulation is essential–the point Andy raised about the types of materials that aren’t biodegradable and that accumulate in tissues is well taken, I see some of the current regulations tendencies as going too far. November 8, 2012 at 5:06pm Reply

  • Lynn Morgan: For Christ’s (and Buddha’s ) sakes, people, if Chanel % hasn’t killed anyone in 90 years, it’s not going to so give it a rest. If you are so sensitive to fragrances, don’t wear perfume and buy one of those Shparer Image air fileters for your house and quit kvetching, I get so tired of people who wear their “allergies” like some kind of status symbol. It’s all a cry for attention and a pathetic assertion of their alleged ‘specialness’ when all it really mean is that they are evlutionary failures and unfit to breed. If you are such a wimpy specimen tha you can be taken out by s delicate whiff of someone else’s perfume, you should recuse yourself from the human gene pool. Insisting that the rest of us give up perfume because it “bothers” you is like a deaf person insisting music shouldf be banned. November 8, 2012 at 6:14pm Reply

    • Victoria: I don’t know if the EU is being pressured by anyone in particular, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some consumer rights groups do try to push for more regulations. I haven’t looked into that aspect though. November 9, 2012 at 7:44am Reply

  • L.: A lot of people are allergic to pollen, maybe Paris should remove all trees and flowers.


    Was wondering, on the subject of banned ingredients, Chanel use to (until early 80s maybe?) have musk ketone and musk ambrette. Do you know what they use now and how it smells relative to this musk cocktail?

    Also, were nitro musks really that bad; or was “sensitization” only a problem for the very few, with the photo-stability of the musks more at issue? Any info appreciated! November 8, 2012 at 7:26pm Reply

    • Victoria: The issue with nitro musks was the photo-sensitivity, but as far as I recall, also the concerns about their potential carcinogenic properties. Plus, the production of nitro musks was a dangerous endeavor, with accidents at the factories occurring on regular basis. These days there are so many different types of musks, and Chanel, like all other perfume houses, uses a cocktail of different ones. November 9, 2012 at 7:37am Reply

  • Dominic: Dear Victoria, i read your article wichury all are greatful for, I tried to go through most of posts sent by readers. But I would like to ask, do you really think the perspective of these future bans or massive reformulations should make me run to the counter and make some proper reserve for the future? Does it really look so likely to happen. How much time do you think it may take before we go to shops and the only available form of fragrance will be the one that’s already changed? I’m a Guerlain girl(l’heure bleue, Chamade, samsara, nahema, insolence), I also love these old Chanels, so I wonder how much time I have to really enjoy them. Do you have some prognosis? November 9, 2012 at 8:53am Reply

    • Victoria: If these regulations become law, then the changes will only be made in 2014 or so. So, either way there is still time.
      Now, should you stock up? If you have means to invest in your favorites, it is a good idea. But should you stoke pile vast quantities? That is probably not necessary. So far I’ve been impressed with the way Chanel handled their reformulations. November 9, 2012 at 9:38am Reply

      • Dominic: Thank you Victoria, I’m just having some nightmares ever since these articles bombard us for a few days;-) i like many different fragrances so I wouldn’t want to get too many of them in advance. E.g if I’d known Dior would mess up so much with their classics, I mean especially Dioressence which I love, I would’ve bought some earlier. Hmmm, you never know. Anyway let’s hope that apocalypse won’t happen. November 9, 2012 at 9:46am Reply

        • Victoria: Oh, don’t worry! Plus, perfume doesn’t stay fresh forever. These days you learn the information in advance and can anticipate the changes a bit. For instance, it has been several years since Opium got reformulated, but you can still find the old version on eBay or via online discounters. November 9, 2012 at 9:59am Reply

  • Steve Baham: I am more conservative in my thinking than most. And this situation reminds me of Climate Change and many other governmental overreaches without substantial evidence. If you give government an inch it will take a mile. Power leads to money and money to power. The governments will gladly sacrifice great perfumes on the altar of their power. We need to return to traditional sources and traditional formulations. It ain’t broke, so don’t fix it. November 9, 2012 at 11:27am Reply

  • Daisy: Fascinating post, Victoria! Definitely a lot to think about. Thank you for filling out the picture more! November 9, 2012 at 9:23pm Reply

    • Victoria: You’re welcome! I’m glad that it was interesting. The topic is frustrating in how complicated these things can get. November 10, 2012 at 2:32am Reply

  • eminere: The stupid Brad Pitt commercial should be banned. November 11, 2012 at 5:42am Reply

  • Katie Puckrik: Victoria: such a succinct and informative article. Everyone else: such great points and counterarguments in your comments.

    Loved this post. I’m now planning to scoop up a bottle of Chanel No. 5 parfum on my next duty free excursion. And hysteria gets the credit, not Brad Pitt! November 11, 2012 at 2:11pm Reply

  • concerned in perfume land: OK! so it is really time to get this conversation started. The changes that are being propsed by The EU reglators are huge almost every top selling fragrance in the world will be impacted. It is time to let the EU know that we say no! I must stay anonomys since i work in the fragrnace industry. This issue of regulations has gone far beyond being able to be creative, when all that happens next are more regulations. And guess what! Nautal materials are considered more dangerous by these regulating bodys than synthetic ones. Perfume lovers WAKE UP or all of the great classic perfumes will be lost!!!!!! December 5, 2012 at 1:06pm Reply

  • Bleecker Street: Right now we are in March 2014. Are there any updates as whether these fears and concerns have transformed into reality? It has all been very quiet as of late… March 17, 2014 at 10:51am Reply

  • Jeny: Interesting opinions on The topic…. I love the smell of Chanel No. 5 and put some on in a shop when out and came up with a very itchy rash where I had sprayed the fragrance.. I don’t see why perfume makers are not required to label ingredients especially since it is applied directly to skin.. Other products such as skin lotion etc have ingredients listed…. Food for thought….. Jeny September 5, 2016 at 5:54am Reply

    • Victoria: But they do label ingredients that have been found to cause allergies. As for revealing the full formula, no, they won’t, because fragrance doesn’t enjoy copyright protection (unlike many other industries). A requirement to reveal the full formula would destroy the industry. Why would someone invest and innovate if their efforts can be instantly copied by a competitor? September 5, 2016 at 6:59am Reply

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