What Is It?
Fragrances are complex combinations of natural and/or man-made substances that are added to many consumer products to give them a distinctive smell. Fragrances are used in a wide variety of products to impart a pleasant odor, mask the inherent smell of some ingredients, and enhance the experience of using the product.
Fragrances create important benefits that are ubiquitous, tangible, and valued. They solve important functional problems and they satisfy valued emotional needs. Fragrances can communicate complex ideas – creating mood, signalling cleanliness, freshness, or softness, alleviating stress, creating well-being, and triggering allure and attraction.
Why is it used in cosmetics and personal care products?
Fragrances have been enjoyed for thousands of years and contribute to people’s individuality, self-esteem and personal hygiene. Consumer research indicates that fragrance is one of the key factors that affect people’s preference for cosmetic and personal care products. There are hundreds of fragrances created every year, in countries all over the world.
Our sense of smell is directly connected to the brain’s limbic system where our sense of memory and our emotions are stored. Numerous studies confirm that fragrances enhance well being and have a positive impact on the psyche. Often a particular fragrance becomes strongly associated with product identity and acceptability.
How are fragrances regulated?
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Regulation, a fragrance is "any natural or synthetic substance or substances used solely to impart an odor to a cosmetic product." Fragrances are regulated (as are any other ingredient used in cosmetics and personal care products) under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act), which gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) broad legal authority to protect the public.
If a product is intended to be applied to a person’s body to make the person more attractive, it’s a cosmetic under the law. Here are some examples of fragrance products that are regulated as cosmetics:
Fragrance ingredients are also commonly used in other personal care products, such as shampoos, shower gels, shaving creams, and body lotions. Many other products that may contain fragrance ingredients, but are not applied directly to the body, are regulated, not by the FDA, but by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Here are some examples:
Room air fresheners
Labeling of Fragrance Ingredients
If a cosmetic is marketed on a retail basis to consumers, such as in stores, on the Internet, or person-to-person, it must have a list of ingredients. In most cases, each ingredient must be listed individually. But under U.S. regulations, fragrance ingredients can be listed collectively simply as “Fragrance.”
Here’s why: FDA requires the listing of all cosmetic ingredients under the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA). However, this law is not allowed to be used to force a company to disclose “trade secrets.”
Fragrance and flavor formulas are complex mixtures of many different natural and man-made chemical ingredients, and they are the kinds of cosmetic components that are considered to be “trade secrets.”
Similarly, in the European Union (EU), perfume mixtures are labeled collectively as "parfum," except for 26 specific perfume ingredients which are required to be listed individually by name.