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Niche perfumes of the finest materials inspired by melodic themes

16 Aug ’21

IFRA Compliance

Posted by James Elliott in IFRA, the more you know, transparency
Photograph of a plastic pipette in a glass beaker filled with water, with empty glass beakers and a glass funnel in the background
Photo by Hans Reniers on Unsplash

The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) works hand in hand with the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM) to test materials and deem appropriate safety levels in 12 categories of consumer goods. Lip products are category 1; candles are category 12; and fragrances are category 4. IFRA standards change as needed, so all things fragrant must stay ever vigilant with material safety levels.

In the U.S., IFRA draws different reactions from myriad perfumers: conspiracy theories about corporations and chemicals; dramatic eye rolls; stern looks over eyewear to remind you the standards are not mandatory; and prepared monologues condemning other perfumers who choose not to follow the standards.

U.S. cosmetics safety laws presume you, the business owner, know what you are doing when it comes to making and selling all things fragrant. This is in stark contrast to other nations that set and enforce regulations to protect the safety of their citizens. The de facto state of the U.S. market is litigation when products harm consumers.

I use Bergamot FCF which is bergapten-free (not photosensitizing). I have the Certificate of Analysis and Safety Data Sheet to verify this. Bergamot FCF shares the same Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) number as regular Bergamot (8007-75-8), and IFRA standards restrict the use of Bergamot oil to 0.40% of a finished fragrance. Despite one of my natural fragrances containing 0.67% of Bergamot FCF – bergapten-free – according to IFRA I’m still using too much Bergamot. I could petition my supplier to register a different CAS for their Bergamot FCF, but “citrus bergamia peel oil bergaptene reduced” (CAS number 68648-33-9) still falls under the same restrictions.

To ensure everything in my collection in IFRA compliant, I’ve reformulated 12 of my original natural fragrances using a mixture of natural and synthetic materials.

My goal with these reformulations is that you don’t notice any loss of the original fragrance. I have a Bergamot replacer from a flavor and fragrance manufacturer that, frankly, doesn't smell at all like Bergamot to me. The choice was clear: I made my own Bergamot accord that is bergapten-free. In AEON, I’m using the maximum amount of Bergamot FCF (0.40%) plus my accord, resulting in the finished water perfume containing 1.04% Limonene and 0.38% that are far below IFRA standards for each material.

31 Jul ’21

What it means for a perfume to be eco-friendly

Posted by James Elliott in the more you know, transparency

What it means for a perfume to be eco-friendly

I received a direct message (DM) on Instagram asking if my fragrances are eco-friendly. I want to tell you why my answer is “No.”

Disclaimer: My answer is steeped entirely in experience as a U.S. perfumer based in Seattle. So everyone outside the U.S. reading this can lower their pitchforks. Also, obligatory “not all perfumers” if it makes people happy. Now then.

My boxes & inserts are manufactured and printed by a family-owned company in China. I have a great relationship with them and they are incredibly easy to work with. U.S. manufacturers either ignored me or told me to accept their subpar output capabilities.

My glass bottles are made in France (though the company is in London). I don’t have the capital to produce custom glass bottles, so I zhuzh up my stock glass bottles with custom labels and a box.

I use a synthetic surfactant blend that enables distilled water to be used as a substitute for alcohol in perfume. It is produced from a company with global production facilities.

I use a combination of synthetic materials as well as natural materials that are extracted from botanical sources. (I don’t manufacture my own tinctures or distillations.) I label which fragrances are natural or natural and synthetic on my site.

When I create my perfumes, I wear disposable latex gloves to protect my skin and I use plastic pipettes to measure materials. I use paper towels to absorb any accidental spills.

I have only met one company that manufactures all its fragrances using materials they themselves harvested from invasive species. Cebastien and Robin of dryland wilds are just the loveliest people, truly. (This is an important distinction from other perfumers that “harvest” materials from “public lands” without compensation—which sounds an awful lot like colonizing, but that’s a subject for another day.)

I’d never presume to tout my fragrances as eco-friendly because clearly I cannot. But: I make sure my bottles & packaging can be recycled; I never use any animal products; I donate products where I can as well as a percentage of my annual sales to Seattle Animal Shelter; and I am working toward paying rent to the Duwamish People as I occupy their traditional land.

I’m not eco-friendly. I simply try to be good.

10 Mar ’20

Love in the Time of COVID-19

Posted by James Elliott
CDC Illustration of ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses
CDC Illustration of ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses

This post is going to focus on one topic which – pardon the pun – plagues our global news: the novel coronavirus COVID-19. The information in this post is taken directly from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website and I will note those citations for your reference. Knowledge is power and the best defense against infection is a clean offense.

There are two numbers you should remember when practicing preventative hygiene during the COVID-19 epidemic.[1]

  • For disinfection, diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, and most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective.
  • If soap and water are not readily available and hands are not visibly dirty, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol may be used.

Let’s talk hand sanitizer for a moment. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of microbes on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs.[2] You can always wash your hands when you arrive at your destination, but hand sanitizer is especially useful when you’re on the go.

You can make your own hand sanitizer using alcohol and pure aloe vera gel, but you also have to do the math. (I know. Sorry.)

  • If you have 91% Isopropyl Alcohol, the recipe is 4 parts alcohol and 2 parts aloe vera gel. The math: (4/6)*0.91 = 0.60 or 60% alcohol.
  • If you have 70% Isopropyl Alcohol, the recipe is 11 parts alcohol and 1 part aloe vera gel. (11/12)*0.7 = 0.64 or 64% alcohol. Using 70% alcohol will yield a watery sanitizer, but it meets the CDC recommendation.

You may have seen other DIY recipes online using vodka. Unless you are using 190 Proof Everclear or Polmos Spirytus Rektyfikowany 192 Proof vodka, brands like Tito’s, Absolut, Grey Goose, Ketel One, and Smirnoff vodka lack sufficient alcohol content. If you have Everclear or Spirytus, you can follow the 91% isopropyl alcohol recipe.

Essential oils are not antiviral. You can add a drop or two of essential oil to your hand sanitizer but you honestly don’t need to add anything. If you do choose to add essential oil, remember that citrus oils such as lemon and bergamot are phototoxic, and you should never use lemon verbena as it’s both phototoxic and skin sensitizing. Try 1 drop each of lavender, mint, and rosemary for their calming aromatherapeutic properties.

Remember these preventative actions[3]

  1. Frequently wash your hands with soap and water.
  2. Avoid touching your face.
  3. Stay home when you are sick.
  4. Cover coughs and sneezes.
  5. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.

Lastly, I would encourage you to practice compassion with yourself and others. Check in with your friends and neighbors to make sure everyone is safe and healthy. If you are self isolating, be sure to take periodic work breaks with stretches or gentle exercises.

It will take some time for life to resume its everyday normalcy, but for now just do your best to keep calm and wash your hands.

15 Dec ’19

Year Four

Posted by James Elliott in store news
Photo by Alex Chernenko on Unsplash
Photo: Alex Chernenko

I no longer had a sense of home living in New York City after September 11, 2001. A friend in Long Beach convinced me to grab my dog and move to California to become a yoga teacher. Who wouldn’t see the choice as anything but obvious? It wasn’t until I gave away everything I owned (except my dog) (obvi), moved to Long Beach, and shared a house with eleven other yogis as my bank account drained itself of funds that I realized this may not have been the best choice.

Lucky for me, I thought I joined a yoga school but it was actually a sex cult. If I’m being precise here, an escort agency purchased the yoga school and used it as a vehicle for indoctrinating young people into the fold to become “Tantric healers.” Highlights include one of the “school’s” “teachers” telling me, with full sincerity, “When I go down on a client, I am channeling the energy of past and present gurus into him. He may not know it, but he’ll feel it.” I grabbed my dog, got into my car, and hightailed it out of Southern California.

I used to think that was the most fantastic experience of my life. Turns out it’s celebrating my fourth year as a perfumer. Who would have seen that coming?

Thank you everyone for being on this journey with me. I will never not be grateful for you and your support. This next year is going to be better than any yoga sex cult.

25 Aug ’19

Know Your Natural Perfume

Posted by James Elliott in store news

Know Your Natural Perfume

Maybe you’ve always been a little curious about the ingredients listed in your favorite perfume. The term “ingredients” is slightly misleading as you are reading the contents in order from most to least, as opposed to reading a recipe. Let’s take a look at the contents and shed some light on perfume.

The first ingredient is alcohol. Conventional perfumes will use a blended perfumer’s alcohol that contains ethanol and two bitterants (t-Butyl Alcohol and Bitrex) to deter consumption. Some perfumes may also contain isopropyl myristate (an ester to hold everything together), and monopropylene gylcol (a humectant), but generally perfumers stick to the tried-and-true formulation of alcohol and parfum (our next ingredient).

Parfum is the fragrance in its original concentrated form. A conventional parfum may contain a mixture of natural and synthetic materials, whereas a natural perfume will contain essential oils, absolutes, extracts, and sometimes isolates. The parfum to alcohol ratio can dictate the type of perfume you purchase: eau de cologne (5% parfum), eau de toilette (10%), eau de parfum (15%), or parfum extrait (20%).

Water is the third ingredient, however its presence in perfume is generally a result of the alcohol distillation process. For example, 190 proof ethanol is 95% alcohol and 5% water.

Everything that follows water are the fragrance allergens present in the fragrance. It’s a bit like Inception: the fragrance linalool is present in the fragrance lavender. European regulations require perfumes to list any of the 26 common fragrances that can cause allergic reactions.

California goes a step further and requires notifying consumers when a fragrance contains beta-Myrcene due to Prop 65. This compound occurs naturally in cannabis, hops, and thyme. Compliance is mandatory despite California not differentiating between naturally occurring amounts and industrial concentrations. Still, knowledge is power.

Perfume formulas will remain a tightly guarded secret, but everything else is there for you to read. And now you know how to read the ingredients.

Bringing it all together: one of our most popular fragrances, ETHERIEL is inspired by Lush and contains bergamot, jasmine, mandarin, neroli, olive, petitgrain, sandalwood, tuberose, vanilla, and ylang-ylang in organic cane alcohol.

Now here are the perfume ingredients in accordance with European regulations: alcohol, parfum (fragrance), water (aqua), farnesol, benzyl benzoate, anisyl alcohol, geraniol, cinnamyl alcohol, benzyl cinnamate, eugenol, cinnamal, benzyl alcohol, coumarin.

Knowledge is power, so let’s bring transparency to natural perfume. We’ll be publishing the allergens as ingredients for each fragrance on our website so you can make the best informed decisions about what you choose to wear.


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