The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) represents the fragrance industry and puts out guidelines for safe usage of fragrant chemicals and essential oils in perfumes and skincare. Recently, they released their 43rd amendment, which has caused an uproar in the perfume blogging community. This amendment puts restrictions on the use of several natural ingredients like oakmoss, ylang ylang and jasmine because of their potential to be allergens. For many, this means deep concern that beloved classics like Chanel’s No 5 and Patou’s Joy will either be reformulated or die. Both are unacceptable results for the die-hard perfumista. This is terribly disheartening for me to consider, but makes me nowhere near as concerned as I am for the small independently owned perfumeries’ and apothecaries’ well being. My concern is not purely altruistic of course. The notion of not being able to access what has become my favorite purveyor of jasmine based scents, In Fiore, and many other fabulously talented natural perfumers’ creations, is a fate I simply do not want to consider.
As to be expected, there is much discussion about whether or not the IFRA really has the consumer’s best interest at heart, or if there are possibly legal issues, turf issues, or (ahem) monetary issues behind these restrictions. My skeptical nature says of course that’s the case! In terms of the legal aspect, it seems that a warning label that states: May cause skin irritation, discontinue use if this occurs. In rare event of severe allergic reaction please seek medical care would be enough to cover the perfume companies’ behinds. Has anyone read the label of a hairspray canister lately? I have one that reads: INHALING CONTENTS MAY BE HARMFUL OR FATAL. How’s that for a warning? My skeptical nature also wonders who funded the studies that deemed these natural essences such a public hazard (jasmine in particular) and how rigorously they were undertaken. But knowing that I am not going to overturn the IFRA’s amendment, or somehow get Chanel up in arms to protect their jasmine legacy, I took to corresponding with some natural perfumers that I admire greatly.
Let’s begin with Julie Elliott of In Fiore who quelled my fears about her signature essence, jasmine, having to disappear. She reviewed the 43rd amendment, and believes that for her products, the restriction percentages are workable and within a healthy range for skincare and should be fine for her perfumery as well. Ms. Elliott is a classically trained aromatherapist and intentionally avoids potentially toxic and reactive essential oils, or oils with too many contraindications, so efficacy and safety are paramount at In Fiore. Ms. Elliott also does not foresee any problems with her jasmine suppliers and said, “jasmine is the soul of In Fiore so we will do our best to keep them in business.”
Ayala Sender of Ayala Moriel Parfums addressed this issue on her blog, Smellyblog. She also does not seem overly concerned about these restrictions, and plans to keep using oakmoss as she always has. And like Ms. Elliott, she is dedicated to keeping her suppliers in business. As she states on her blog, “This is the least I can do to support the oakmoss distillers and to ensure that they can keep producing oakmoss absolutes and that entire families of fragrances will not be erased from the face of the earth.”
Roxana Villa of Illuminated Perfumes provided me with a concise and eloquent statement about the restrictions. Being an artist in several mediums, she feels that if someone were to limit her palette, she would simply adjust to those limitations or rebel. For example, Ms. Villa has created an oakmoss accord constructed from botanical and natural essences, without the use of actual oakmoss or synthetic oakmoss. Because of her dedication to ingredients that are pure, and have a vital life force, Ms. Villa would not compromise her art due to these IFRA restrictions. In the case of the oakmoss, she was able to adjust. But if rebellion is called for, so be it! Creativity and rebellion, now isn’t that the spirit of great art?
posted by ~Trish
Jasmine (original painting) by alisonhinks on etsy.com