Fragrances are complex combinations of natural and man-made substances that are added to products to give them a distinctive smell. They are added to enhance the experience of using the product.
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 affects people’s preference for products. There are hundreds of fragrances created every year, in countries all over the world. Many personal care products contain a fragrance ingredient that is indicated on their labels.
Like all other ingredients used in cosmetic and personal care products, Fragrances are thoroughly evaluated for safety prior to use in marketed products. Several expert scientific groups have also been established to study the safety of individual fragrance ingredients and to make recommendations for their safe use.
A small segment of the population believes they are extremely sensitive to many of the materials found in everyday life, including fragrances. This is sometimes referred to as “multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS)” or “environmental illness (EI).”
The American Medical Association, American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the California Medical Association and the American College of Physicians have rejected MCS or EI as an organic disease. The United States Department of Justice has specifically rejected the characterization of MCS or EI as a “disability” under the Americans with Disabilities ACT (ADA).
In the U.S., Fragrances (as with other ingredients) in cosmetics and personal care products are regulated under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) broad legal authority to protect the public if any personal care product is determined to be unsafe.
Some concerns have been expressed about the use of Fragrances in public places. Most of these concerns have been expressed by people that are extremely sensitive to fragrances and other materials. While no state or local government has chosen to regulate adult personal hygiene, grooming, or personal care products, because such intervention on an individual’s private life is not justified by any measurable health benefit, people should be considerate about their use of fragrance products.
Under the law, the ingredient statement for a cosmetic product is not required to list each individual ingredient in a fragrance. See 21 CFR 701.3(a)
Scientific support for the review of fragrance ingredients is provided by the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM). RIFM is the scientific arm of the fragrance industry and is a non-profit scientific institute, founded in 1966 for the purpose of generating and evaluating safety data on fragrance ingredients. The scientific foundation of RIFM is built around its independent Expert Panel (REXPAN), which is made up of toxicologists, pharmacologists, dermatologists and environmental scientists, none of whom has any other connection to the fragrance industry, and whose work involves the safety evaluation of fragrance ingredients under conditions of intended use. The results of their evaluations are published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, and their decisions regarding restrictions of use are promulgated through the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) Standards. RIFM evaluates and distributes scientific data on the safety assessment of fragrance raw materials found in perfumes, cosmetics, shampoos, creams, detergents, air fresheners, candles and other personal and household products. RIFM's Database of Fragrance and Flavor Materials is the most comprehensive source worldwide for toxicology data, literature and information on the safety evaluation of fragrance and flavor materials.
The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) defers review of individual fragrance ingredients to the IFRA/RIFM program unless the ingredient has significant uses other than as a fragrance. In this case, the ingredient may be assessed by both the CIR Expert Panel and REXPAN.
Link to the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) web site:
Link to the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM) web site: