What Is It?

Flavor is a term for an ingredient or a combination of materials used to impart a flavor or a taste to cosmetics and personal care products. Flavors are typically included only in products which may be subject to ingestion, such as lipsticks and oral hygiene products. Many ingredients that function as fragrance components can also be used as Flavor compounds. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the term “flavor” on a product label signifies “any natural or synthetic substance or substances used solely to impart a taste to a cosmetic product.” In Europe, the labeling name for Flavor is Aroma.

Why Is It Used?

Flavors are used in a wide variety of products to enhance the taste of cosmetics and personal care products. They may also be used to produce or to mask a particular flavor.

Scientific Facts

A Flavor is generally described as the sensory impression of food or other substance and is determined by the senses of taste and smell. Flavors are used primarily by the food and cosmetic industry to affect another substance, causing it to become sweet, sour, tangy, etc. The perception of taste requires activation of the taste buds. However, there are only a few values that your tongue can sense (sweet, salty, sour, bitter, savory) while the nose can sense thousands of different odors. Therefore most Flavors have both taste and smell components.

Safety Information

The safety of Flavor ingredients is assessed in the United States by a comprehensive program operated by the Flavor & Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA). Independent, scientific review of flavor ingredients is conducted by the FEMA Expert Panel, made up of toxicologists, pharmacologists, dermatologists and environmental scientists, none of whom has any other connection to the flavor industry, and whose work involves the safety evaluation of flavor ingredients under conditions of intended use. The FEMA Expert Panel oversees the gathering of information about the safety of individual flavor ingredients and reviews this information to determine the safety-in-use of these ingredients. The results of the FEMA Expert Panel evaluations are published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) defers review of individual flavor ingredients to the FEMA program unless the ingredient has significant uses other than as a flavor. In this case, the ingredient may be assessed by both the CIR Expert Panel and FEMA Expert Panel.

Link to the Website for the Flavor & Extract Manufacturers Association:

Many flavors have also been evaluated for safety by the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA)

Link to the Website for JECFA:

The Expert Panel of the Flavor & Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA) supports a rigorous safety review program that systematically assesses the safety of flavoring substances. Manufacturers must provide all available information on specifications of flavoring substances, use and use levels as well as copies of test reports and other safety related information for examination by the FEMA Expert Panel. In evaluating a Flavor ingredient, FEXPAN evaluates in vivo metabolism data, lifetime feeding studies, genotoxicity data, as well as advances in biochemistry and molecular biology that factor into the estimated intake of a flavor ingredient. As a result of safety assessments, FEMA can designate a Flavor substance as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS), or can recommend a reduction in the usage of certain flavor ingredients if exposure presents a risk to human health.

More Scientific Information

Although Flavor ingredients are most often used by the food industry, they can also be used by the cosmetic and personal care product industry to produce a unique taste in products. Any natural Flavor is normally quite complex, with dozens or hundreds of chemicals interacting to create the taste/smell. Many flavors, particularly fruit flavors, have just one or a few dominant chemical components that carry the bulk of the taste/smell signal. Many of these chemicals are called esters. For example, the ester called octyl acetate is a fundamental component in orange flavor. The ester called isoamyl acetate is a fundamental component of banana flavor. If you add these esters to a product, the product will taste like orange or banana. Artificial Flavors are simply chemical mixtures that mimic a natural flavor.


Link to the Flavor & Extract Manufacturers Association Home Page:

Link to the Food and Drug Administration regulations regarding the labeling of cosmetics and personal care products with flavor ingredients: