I Hate IFRA and EC

This isn’t going to be a long and well-thought-out post. It’s rather a reaction to the news I read yesterday on the Chemist in the Bottle about further restrictions on the perfume ingredients.

I am not a huge fan of chypre perfumes: there are just 5 or 6 that I would really miss (Note to myself: get an extra back-up bottle of Miss Dior). But it makes me angry to read the news that means even further butchering of many perfumes others love. I sympathize with people who have sensitivities to any of the ingredients in different product or food allergies. But what I can’t understand is why while it is considered sufficient to post warnings about peanuts or even cigarettes, with perfumes we should be protected by law. Because, G-d forbid, someone doesn’t read the label warning and gets a rush. Can you imagine how much more dangerous it is than a cardiac arrest (peanuts) or cancer (smoking)?!

Cigarettes and Peanuts Warning

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38 thoughts on “I Hate IFRA and EC

  1. I agree! You know I have this verbena allergy and wouldn’t dream of stopping other people using it, especially as what they wear would not be in contact with my skin. I’ve always had this “conspiracy theory”, that the manufacturers of synthetic perfume notes have a vested interest in getting natural ingredients restricted or banned so that they can offer their creations …… As you say, just put warning labels on bottles – peanuts cause actual fatalities, but nobody has banned them yet.

  2. I had never thought of that distinction between banning certain ingredients and labelling them, but you are absolutely right.

    And while on the subject of peanut allergies, I still smile when I recall ex-Mr Bonkers’ remark on returning from a St John’s Ambulance course. “We learnt about how nuts can give you anaglypta shock.”

  3. Totally agree! Restrictions are one thing but the number of people who’ll get actual skin allergy reaction is a different thing. People who make a test group in IFRA or SCCS research don’t represent the whole humanity. Some may be more sensitive while others won’t get any reaction at all. I suppose that people who love vintage fragrances (with ingredient content that far exceeds current regulations) use those old potions ‘at their own risk’ so why not let people use perfume ‘at their own risk’ instead of just cutting off the ingredients.

    • I think I would be less upset if I saw some real data to understand whether those ingredients are that bad even for those who have sensitivity, and whether they do any long-term damage if used unknowingly by those with that reaction.

        • I think it’s a bad joke. I can only hope that when it comes to more important studies (e.g., some drugs that are supposed to treat illnesses), they do it better.
          I do not have time to carefully compare numbers (not that they’ve provided enough) but from the quick reading I’m not sure I understand the connection between their “results” and the “discussion” parts. And yes, they are talking about skin irrigation in patients who were already “sensitized” to these ingredients. It’s good they couldn’t have injected those people with radiolabelled methyl thymidine and killed – or who knows what conclusions they would have reached then. Just amazing.

          • Apparently this is enough for European Commission to take legel actions. I just hope no more ingredients will be chopped off drastically.
            From my own experience I know that they plan to broaded the list of allergens from current 26 to around 52 – more stuff will have to be labeled on the packaging

  4. It does feel a bit like a conspiracy. My son has peanut and pollen allergies and he is quite capable of avoiding things that give him a reaction. Someone who has life threatening allergies is going to be incredibly cautious as to what they expose themselves to, and those with skin problems probably aren’t heavy perfume consumers. The rest of us should be allowed to determine on our own if we should be using certain ingredients instead of wholesale banking based on a few rashes in a test group. Create a warning label. I suppose the industry is terrified of lawsuits- there are always those who aren’t willing to take on any personal responsibility.

    • If there is information available on the allergic reactions, and even a law that requires companies to put it in HUGE letters on the packaging, companies might choose whether they want to use an ingredient in their perfumes. But that would allow smaller companies, from whom there’s not much to gain in a lawsuit, to produce better perfumes than behemoths could (or would be willing to since natural ingredients are more expensive than aroma chemicals).

  5. I totally agree with you, the approach makes no sense and leads me to believe there are economic factors at work that have a vested interest in restricting natural ingredients.

  6. Fight back. IFRA has gone way too far. I will not buy any department store perfumes anymore. I stick to mostly American niche, such as DSH, Neil Morris, Kyse, Bourbon French, Olympic Orchids, Estée Lauder, and Uncle Serge. Luckily I have a few bottles of vintage ones. If all perfumers organized to protest, to let the public be aware of the situation, perhaps in the end they can stop this and go back to using real essences. Bring back the real Shalimar, the vintage Caron’s, Femme, Cabochard, Jolie Madame. It’s time to stop IFRA.

    • Perfumes are an extremely lucrative business, so I don’t think big companies will suffer too much even if ALL natural ingredients are banned. And I don’t think anyone would notice our protest. But I agree that we should support those brands that produce perfumes that we like. I have bad feelings about SL or EL though: it doesn’t matter what is the country of origin for the brand: to sell in EU they’ll have to follow that law.

  7. I’m one of the ultra sensitive ones, and even I think the restrictions are stupid.

    Does anyone know perfumers who don’t follow the guidelines? I live outside the EU, and I’d like to support them.

    • There are some that try to follow guidelines and still manage to conjure fab fragrances. Annette Neuffer in Germany has many lovely perfumes. US has Dawn Spencer’ Hurwitz, Paul Kiler, Jeffrey Dame, Neil Morris Olympic Orchids, House of Matriarch, Hove parfumerie, Neela Vermeire, En Voyage perfumes, I always have my Guerlain, Shalimar, L’Heure Bleue and Mitsouko in reserve. Not what they were but miles ahead of the stuff currently in most retail stores. There’s always Amouage and Lutens. Save your birthday cash for them.

      • I agree about smaller US brands, but SL, Amouage and the rest of the bigger players will, most likely, follow the law since they sell in Europe. Though, I’d love to see at least one of them producing two versions – one following these stupid limitations and one for non-nanny states.

  8. Completely agree! I get sick as a dog if I eat anything with gluten in it (celiac herel), but warnings and labels are good enough for me. I don’t expect someone sitting next to me on a plane to stop eating their wheat bread sandwich. Sheesh!

    • I’m sorry about your condition: it’s not fun at all. And I’m glad that companies are forced to put all the relevant information on labels, and many restaurants are getting much better with truly following dietary restrictions. But same as you (or my friend who has a similar condition) do not object to me eating what I want, I think we all should be allowed to make our choices – unless those ingredients are actually toxic or can damage bystanders.

  9. Many influential IFRA members are large perfume multinationals with a vested interest in purveying their proprietary aromachemicals and the EU has since it started shown itself to come down on the side of profit, at the expense of quality. My expectations of these entities are very low but that doesn’t stop me from deploring the destruction they collectively have wreaked on classic perfumery.

    • It is sad. I wish I could believe it’s just a misguided attempt to protect public from themselves. But, most likely, as always, it’s just greed and unscrupulous lobbying.

  10. I agree! I do think the economic interest in proprietary aromachemicals probably drives most of this; as many have noted here, these restrictions make no sense compared to the much more hazardous, even fatal, allergens that are sold with warnings. It is tragic that the French, for instance, have not only allowed their perfume heritage to be vandalized by IFRA restrictions but French companies have supported these restrictions.

    • Have you seen the document from the link Lucas provided in his comment above? I can’t believe that serious decisions are made based on something like that. And too bad that, unlike with tobacco industry, perfume industry seems to favor these decisions as cost savers instead of trying to fight or at least ridicule these “studies.”
      There was a joke (roughly translated): the postmortem has shown that the cause of patient’s death was a postmortem” – and this is what these “studies” remind me of.

    • There was one ingredient where an attempt was made to restrict it and there was a hue and cry from the industry: vanilla. In that case IFRA backed off. It seems to me that the same could be done for others, like oakmoss, jasmine and so forth. I think the industry has the clout to fight but somehow seems to lack the will.

      • That’s interesting, I wonder how they did it and what argument they made. Of course, vanilla may be in a category of its own as people EAT natural vanilla and have done so for centuries! Even IFRA must have seen how silly it would be to prevent people from spraying minute, trace amounts of it on their skin!

  11. It seems to me there was a time, maybe 10 years ago, there were rumblings of non-IFRA perfumes. Nobody even mentions it anymore. The problem is we want the perfumes we love to be restored… and not a new line of perfumes.

    • I remember! It was about 8 years ago, I think. Natural Perfumer’s Guild were running a project Outlaw Perfumes that were anti-IFRA regulations. But then there was some ugly development between the members (some of them thought that the overs were less than holy in regards to using 100% natural ingredients), and since I was on the side of the “chased away” perfumer, I never looked back at any of the “natural” perfumes in that project. But some of the American indie perfumers keep creating perfumes based on the US laws – so we should just try to support those of them whose creations we like.

  12. Hi!
    I agree that there shouldn’t be a limitation in the quantities of the ingredients that are put in perfumes.
    If it is demonstrated that an ingredient can sparkle liver damage or something else when used above a certain limit, then yes, restrict its usage or ban it. But if only generates a rush, then put a label on the packaging saying that and that is all.
    Your examples with the peanuts allergy and the smoking are very apt.

    Frederic Malle was saying that the problem (amongs other things) is that companies do not want to have a sticker on their perfumes with the warning word “allergen” because their sales would be considerably lower than before. Here is the interview with him (starting at 12:28):

    • It’s quite alright when a company decides that they do not want to use some ingredients because if they do they would have to put that warning on the label and risk loosing sales from lemmings that buy Fat Free/Sugar Free/No GMO drinking water. But it’s a different matter when those big companies who are after millions in sales using their influence put into laws that nobody can do it, whether they are OK with the labels or not.
      And, of course, I object to re-issuing perfumes under the same name and packaging but with different ingredients without warning consumers that this is the case. A regular person who buys their favorite perfume once every couple of years doesn’t expect that they will be getting the n-th formulation of it compared to what it was when they bought it the previous time. It’s a fraud.

      • You are right. The same name for different formula, this bothers me too when the change in the actual odour is perceivable. I saw that the producers slightly modify the packaging, but this is not enought for an unwitting consumer to realize what is happening.
        What would I do? If they changed the formula, I would require by law to specify the year of the formula in big, bold letters on the front of the packaging, under the perfume name. For example: “Chanel. No 5. 2018 FORMULA” or “Nina Ricci. L’Air du Temps. 2000 FORMULA” etc. This way, the consumer would have the information under his/her eyes and would make an informed choice.

  13. The people making up the IFRA laws have a vested interest in substitute aromachemicals being used. Also, many of the *companies putting out the perfumes are subsidiary companies owned by conglomerates, and the conglomerates can’t get insurance from a certain company if their ingredients don’t conform to IFRA standards… and I believe the insurance company has IFRA people in it. It’s all very circular and incestuous. I refuse to go to her blog again, but I think Kafkaesque has an in-depth post on it?
    *It’s like how Guerlain is owned now by LVMH, and LVMH will not be able to be insured if the perfumes under their umbrella don’t conform to IFRA standards. Or MFK is now owned by LVMH and Frederic Malle is owned by Estee Lauder.

    • Yeah, you’re probably right. I forgot about that part of the equation (insurance). It’s really sad that these people get to control something that they clearly do not care about. I just wish that these big companies weren’t allowed to pretend that they continue producing the same perfume while clearly the formulas have been changed – for whatever reason.

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