As many of us know, when we pick up a bottle of perfume or a personal care product, a breakdown of ingredients are not divulged except for the alcohol that is found in most perfumes for dispersing the blend of scents. Otherwise, in just about every instance of commercial personal care brands, you will see the ingredient identified as “Fragrance” or “Parfum.”

It is just about never that I would even think of agreeing with the EWG or the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, but on this certain issue, I tend to be in line with their thinking on this point alone as it pertains to hidden ingredients.

It is a shocker, I know…..knock me over with a feather!

But when it comes to those with allergies or having a skin reaction I find this practice to be old school and not in keeping with the concerns that are raised by some consumers. The FDA currently allows certain ingredients to remain concealed from the public to protect what is known in the fragrance and cosmetic industry, as a “trade secret.”

This may be all well and good, and some of my compatriots of my industry, on this point, we will disagree, but it actually can be broken down into distinct differences of each industry, cosmetic versus perfume.

In Love With Aromas

It is vital for those in the perfume industry to protect that signature fragrance from their competitors and its’ formulation is kept top secret. In this scenario, I don’t really take issue with this because we know through history that perfumes are just that, a fabricated fragrance to enhance our feeling of well being and beauty and serve no other purpose. Plus it is truly an art form to create an individualized fragrance which is the foundation of their namesake.

Certain fragrances emote fond memories from childhood or perhaps a certain time of year. Fragrance is a big part of our lives in so many things, whether it is artificial or natural. Plus it doesn’t hurt any, when they are also packaged in such pretty bottles which creates a sense of femininity.

If we didn’t love fragrances and how they make us feel, the Scentsy Corporation wouldn’t be exploding and why others are now copying them……Scented candles have been around for decades, as have room fresheners…….Fabric softeners are used to leave our clothes not only soft, but smelling wonderful.

Yes no doubt about it, we are in love with our aromas….I love a fresh cut Christmas tree and it wouldn’t be Christmas without this scent in my home.

Aside from the perfume industry, these types of fragrances are widely unregulated since they are not part of the cosmetic or beauty industry. If there are concerns about environmental issues then this task would fall to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Are Fragrances The Poison Dose?

In regard to the aromas that we purchase outside of necessity, these are a consumer choice, so in reference to protection of the trade secret, I’m 100% for it since these types of fragrances don’t need to be in our homes and are strictly for the aesthetics of making ourselves feel pretty and our home….well homey!

In fact, fragrance is used to mask strong chemical odors in cleaning products to make them less noxious to our senses….but they are far from being the poison dose of our lives. I “hazard” a guess that there are more questionable and far more dangerous ingredients in these products if you asked EWG, than the fragrance they are using to mask them.

The EWG would have you believe all sorts of things in terms of them being unsafe for use and are possibly killing us, but again, we are dealing with theories and propaganda with very little scientific evidence to support it. You can avoid these altogether if you are either convinced they will do you harm or you are allergic or sensitive to certain smells. These are not being forced on the consumer and Perfumes are easy to avoid, just don’t wear any or buy any.

This is where the CFSC and EWG really are over the top, since it is easy to inform consumers about concerns, but perfumes are not a necessity and if women choose to spritz on an aroma or two, then allow them their enjoyment of these luxuries. Plus their concerns are not founded on any science, including the single study on phthalates, which to date is incredibly inconclusive and is not duplicated or supported by Dr. Swans peers. Also in reviewing the skin deep database, they do not produce a single study on fragrance except to mark it a hazard score of 8, whereby this only alarms, yet it states nothing substantial.

My disappointment continues when I review EWG’s site to only see a claim as to testing in excess of 72 products containing phthalates, yet don’t show a single study, just a link to the “Story of Cosmetics” video with its’ shameless overview of supposition without the evidence proving their accusations….just more tired fairy tales.

Any concerned consumers, and our legislators, who through their voting power are making life altering decisions, should demand to see the science from independent researchers, not those funded or maintained by Environmental Health Sciences which serves the EWG toward their research and is the reference point provided by CFSC when making their argument. Coincidentally John Peterson Myers is founder, CEO and Chief Scientist of Environmental Health Sciences and owns a green science lab, while also serving on the board of directors of the EWG. I actually find this quite humorous since they behave in the same manner as what we are accused of everyday by CFSC and its’ founder Stacy Malkin, that we are self regulated and are meeting an agenda. Kind of like the “pot calling the kettle black.” May I ask, who is watching EWG, their founders and their agendas, and their sources of funding? The inter working relationships within these organizations is quite telling and is for another article for the future, but not today!

Today’s fragrances that are used in personal care products are very safe and are rarely used beyond 1-2% in the emulsion. IFRA (International Fragrance Association) oversees fragrance ingredients for safety. Risk assessments reports by IFRA are done on a regular basis and data reports are maintained, yet EWG and the skin deep database never displays this information.

What Is IFRA?

The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) was founded in 1973 in Geneva to represent the collective interests of the fragrance industry. Its main purpose is to promote the safe enjoyment of fragrances worldwide.

Together with the industry’s scientific centre RIFM (the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials), the IFRA team makes sure that the establishment of usage standards for fragrance materials is put into practice according to the available scientific recommendations and that member companies comply with those standards. Self-regulation enables the IFRA standards to be adopted very rapidly by fragrance houses worldwide and by the industry as a whole.

All of RIFM’s scientific findings are evaluated by an independent, scientific Expert Panel — an international group of dermatologists, pathologists, toxicologists and environmental scientists.

EWG and CFSC will argue that this is a member organization of those in the industry, whereby being self regulated. Well, they are admittedly so! However, perhaps instead of attacking on this premise, it would be more important to note that there are stringent regulations imposed on its’ members and must be adhered to.

So, the better choice may be, if you are wishing to purchase a fragrance, but are unsure if the ingredients they use are safe, then just like those that announce their products are certified organic, stating a perfumer is a member of IFRA would certainly give you assurances that they are using safe practices for their formulas. Furthermore they would also be required to maintain the IFRA Code of Practice as part of their membership, and rest in the knowledge the European Union also is in support of this entity for keeping information in the forefront for consumers. IFRA also provides full transparency on the chemicals which are being used in fragrances and has compiled a list for the consumer demand which will go far to inform them in the event of questionable ingredients that may or may not pose an allergic reaction. Natural and synthetic chemicals are on this list which compose many fragrances so you may see for yourself what makes a perfume.

IFRA is also proactive in working directly with Dermatologists in order to track a small percentage of the population which can and does have an allergic reaction. It has been determined about 2% of the population can have a reaction of some sort on their skin when coming in contact with a fragrance product.

This is only a small part, as many women have reactions other than a rash or irritation to their skin. Headaches, nausea, dizziness, migraines, and even irritability can be caused by using perfume or other certain products containing fragrance, whereby a fragrance which should emote pleasure does exactly the opposite to the body. Fortunately, there are many formulators that create unscented products for those that are truly sensitive.

Make no mistake however, IFRA is not without its’ opponents as well, laying claims that it is ruining the perfumery and essential oil industry based on their studies and recommendations through their research. Cropwatch boycott of 40th IFRA Ammendment!

Fragrant Essential Oils

As we all know essential oils have lovely subtle aromas, that when blended in herbal remedies or into skincare products, they emote calm, relaxation, uplifting feelings to creating a sense of well being overall. They are used in healing remedies since essential oils are capable of passing into the dermis layer of skin for bringing about repair to the body.

But like all things natural, a small number of people will suffer from an allergic reaction to the skin, and in some cases also have physical reactions as the same list above for artificially created fragrance. This is a significant factor in protecting the consumer. A person may do well with citrus or spicy notes, while floral notes bring on a headache, or vice versa.

Keeping It Transparent

When it comes to skincare products, I do not believe ingredients that are used to create fragrance should be hidden. Products that are applied directly to the body should have all ingredients listed so the consumer can quickly learn if they would have a reaction or not based on past experiences. However, when it is just listed as “fragrance” or “essential oil blend” then all the consumer knows, that anything with a fragrance should be avoided.

Unfortunately, there are some wonderful fragrances being created through the use of essential oils and herbal extracts, yet the consumer is afraid to venture a guess as to the safety since they are still a fragrance in their minds eye.

Some essential oils and herbal extracts used will work wonders on a person while another set of essential oils may wreak havoc on the same person. So in this case one can certainly enjoy a fragrance if they can identify what comprises the fragrance blend. Contact dermatitis and other skin reactions are not fun and can be quite painful. I feel it is the duty as a skincare and cosmetic provider myself, to divulge what my customers are using on their skin before they make their purchase. Without this information, choice is actually removed from the customer through confusion in labeling.

Fainting From Fragrance

Now on a side note: What has been my personal experience when wearing fragrance many moons ago, is our noses can become desensitized the same way it happens with a smoker. We lose the olfactory sense of realizing the strength of a fragrance, whereby we end up bathing in the stuff, gagging those that come within 10 feet of us.

This example occurs when using the same fragrance day after day…switch to another that you haven’t used for awhile and you’ll see that only a tiny bit is needed according to the nose, but after awhile it seems to die out once again. But then switch back to the other and again, the nose tells you only a bit is needed. Our noses will clear and become more sensitized to different smells when we remove a familiar one from our senses. Why do you think they have coffee beans at perfume counters?

Trust me, what you once noted as a powerful scent with one spritz, is still as powerful as before….as people will attest to if they spoke up like they did with me. I had no idea until my fellow workers at my real estate office informed me I was giving everyone a headache….color me two shades embarrassed. It pretty much renders a pleasant experience into a “stinky” one.

Now that I am older, I also get repulsed by strong artificial fragrances, so now my fragrant blend of choice are the subtle aromas created through the use of essential oils. These have become my “sweet poison.” Plus they do so much more than just arouse the senses.

So, in closing, keep it light, keep it simple and please remember, less is more…fragrance is not designed to fill a room so others gag, but to complement the feminine side or enhance the male attraction by those that are close enough for a hug….there in lies the attraction!

Remember, fragrances are splendid and are an attractant, but when abused they become a repellent!


Katherine Corkill is the founder and creative director of Sterling Minerals Cosmetics. She became inspired to create products that would assist men and women in restoring the radiant healthy skin of their youth. It is her philosophy as an advocate of all things natural and organic when possible, to keep all skin looking young and healthy through protection from the suns’ harmful UV Rays, along with free radicals and environmental pollutants we are exposed to daily. Due diligence in knowing what goes into and on our bodies, and how it effects us long term has been a lifestyle for her and her family for more than 25 years. Holistic and wholesome nutrition combined with natural and organic ingredients in skincare products are key to keeping us healthy and beautiful inside and out. Katherine has over 20 years in Holistic and Homeopathic remedies with the use of Health Care through Ayurveda, and has been an Entrepreneur for more than 25 years. She has provided extensive research in Beauty and Cosmetic Industry Standards, and pursued studies in Chemistry, Aesthetics and Color Theory. She’s also the Master Formulator of her own personal line of mineral makeup for Sterling Minerals Cosmetics. She recently introduced her new line of ONATI Skin Care, where she believes in combining science with nature for the ultimate skincare regimen, keeping skin healthy while avoiding potential problems. Her commitment is to continue her never-ending research and provide truth, integrity, ethics, and education to anyone who seeks it. She will always continue to strive to offer result-driven formulas to those who will accept nothing less

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