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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.