Safe scents – what are they, who checks, and what processes do fragrances have to go through?
It’s such a minefield, and there is much misinformation floating around the internet and social media, of late, regarding the topic of ‘safe scents’. So we welcome the ‘open door’ approach many perfume houses and perfumers are now taking, making the public more aware of what goes on behind-the-scenes in not only creating a fragrance, but ensuring its safety.
Perfumer Pia Long, from the fragrance creation house and expert consultancy, Olfiction, recently created some images, while she was working on a new creation for a client – ‘…the creation in question being a sparkly citrus eau de toilette with a very high percentage of natural materials.’ (Because yes, even if a fragrance is 100% natural, it still has to be checked. Just because an ingredient is deemed ‘natural’, it’s still a chemical and it still needs to be safety checked).
Pia has been noticing more comments on social media from consumers, who, she explains ‘…say (wrongly) that there are no safety considerations for fragrance prior to it going into a product, or that natural is always safe and synthetic is always not (also wrong).’
So, Pia took some screenshots of ‘the stuff I have to be fluent in,’ and wanted to share them with the public because she thought, ‘Maybe it’s time we perfumers start to show you a little more than nice photos of us in our swish laboratories or eccentric offices; or maybe just seeing content from brands is not enough these days.’
We all love seeing those ‘sneak peeks’ into perfumers’ labs, or the harvesting of fragrant crops, but while that content is incredibly enjoyable to see, it doesn’t address the misinformation regarding fragrance safety. So while it’s fantastic to learn more about what Pia terms ‘the artistic and olfactive side of our work,’ she reminds us that not also talking about the various stages a fragrance goes through ‘…can make our contribution minimised.’
These images are from Pia’s ‘first sketch of a formula’. It’s vital she goes through this process for any kind of fragrance she creates – whether that will be a fine fragrance or to scent another product, because, she tells us:
‘I want to make sure the formula is compliant before I do any more to it. We are sometimes requested to do more than 100 modifications to a fragrance. We have to do the safety calculations each time. When the fragrance is signed off, it’s then off to (further) stability and safety testing.’
Basically, Pia wants to get the message across that if you are buying a perfume or fragranced product that has been supplied by a professional perfumer or perfume house, ‘they will be following IFRA guidelines.’
IFRA – the International Fragrance Association – was formed in 1973, with a mission ‘to represent the collective interests of the industry and promote the safe use and enjoyment of fragrances around the world.’ And as for those guidelines, IFRA says that, ‘The IFRA Standards ban, limit or set criteria for the use of certain ingredients, based on scientific evidence and consumer insights.’
We’d love to see more of these insights from perfumers. While not as romantic as seeing them strolling through lavender fields, such conversations are a vital reminder of the huge amount of work that a fragrance entails. And clearly explained topics of safety and science go hand in (scented) glove with the questions consumers are (rightly) asking about sustainability and inclusivity – topics we cover in depth in the Beyond Fashion & Fragrance edition of The Scented Letter magazine, if you’d like to read more…
By Suzy Nightingale