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What is fragrance transparency anyways?
Cosmetic Regulation of Fragrance
It’s important to note that cosmetics do not need to be FDA-approved to be sold in the US, but they are FDA-regulated. This means that anything sold as a cosmetic has to follow certain guidelines. This is where the labeling of “fragrance” is defined as a list of over 3,100 different ingredients in the United States. The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) has transparently published all 3,163 ingredients that can be included in the term. So, if you’re interested in taking a long scroll, you can find it here.
Let’s start with a sample definition of “fragrance” when speaking about cosmetics. The IFRA defines a fragrance as a “chemical mixture that has a smell or odor.” Fragrance is arguably the first feature that is noticed once a product, like a shampoo, is opened. The way something smells influences how we perceive the product and therefore is incredibly influential in our purchasing decisions. To that point, if we’re putting it on our bodies, don’t we want to know what’s actually in it? And why isn’t this always disclosed?
The History Behind the Term Fragrance
It would make sense for all cosmetics to have to disclose the term fragrance, but it would also make it easier for everyone’s favorite signature scent to be available from brand to brand, potentially eliminating the reason you purchase a product to begin with. The reason behind “fragrance” being listed as is, was so that brands were able to keep their trade secret fragrance formulas from appearing in products from other competing brands. But, is this reason enough to not offer a full list of ingredients? That’s where the clean beauty movement has raised a few concerns.
The Rise of Fragrance Transparency
Fragrance transparency has become a relevant movement within the clean beauty category, but it was not always visible to consumers. Now, it’s become a major topic of conversation for industry and consumers. On October 1st, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 312, also known as the Cosmetic Fragrance and Flavor Ingredient Right to Know Act of 2020. This requires product manufacturers to list each fragrance or flavor ingredient included on one of the designated lists defined in the Act that is found in the cosmetic product, along with the CAS number. This is the first law of its kind to be passed in the US. Since most brands in the US sell into California, we can expect this to affect all of the cosmetic products sold in the United States. In September 2019, Credo Beauty released their “Fragrance Transparency Policy” in which they challenged all their brands to disclose their fragrance ingredients and eliminate the mystery behind the term “fragrance” on packaging. We were happy to participate in this movement.
Fragrance Transparency at OWA
Our fragrance had been made with only naturally-derived ingredients as that was our requirement when formulating, so it didn’t make sense to us why we weren’t given full ingredient transparency from the fragrance house we were working with. As it turned out, the fragrance was formulated to have the ingredient list fully disclosed, we just weren’t given it without asking. That meant, when we first made our packaging, we ended up having to print “fragrance” on our labels. However, we’re now excited to be able to offer full fragrance transparency on our website. It will make its way to our packaging as well! As a small, clean brand, we work for ingredient transparency across the entire supply chain, but the push of larger voices within the industry (like a Credo) has significantly helped us receive the information we need to provide you with as much information as we can!
Understanding Natural Fragrance and Allergens
Even if a brand is transparent with their fragrance, there can still be allergens present. Just because a fragrance is natural does also not mean that you won’t have a negative reaction. Just like you might have an allergy to flowers blooming in the spring, you can be allergic to a compound within an essential oil. We love essential oils! We use them! However, it’s important to recognize, like any ingredient, they must be used within the recommended concentrations and they can contain allergens. There are also certain essential oils that physicians recommend avoiding while pregnant and/or nursing, making a case for options free of any fragrance at all.
Unscented and Fragrance Free
We actually published an entire blog post on the topic of unscented and fragrance free products. Is there a difference between the two? Actually, yes. Read more here. We offer a completely essential-oil free version of Hair Wash to accommodate those who prefer no fragrance ingredients at all.
If you want to see more on this topic or have questions, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!