Part II: The Perfume Industry & EU Regulations



There is a new Reuters article on the situation involving the EU regulations, but this one focuses heavily on what the response of various perfumers or perfume houses, along with measures that they’ve taken to deal with the potential oakmoss ban. In Part I of what seems likely to be an ongoing series of mine on this issue, I focused on Frederic Malle versus LVMH, Chanel, and L’Oreal, based on various reports by Reuters’ Astrid Wendlandt. This time, she has spoken to other perfumers like Parfums d’Empire‘s Marc-Antoine Corticchiato, Maurice Roucel, and Patricia de Nicolaï in a piece entitled, What’s in a scent? Perfume makers adapt to EU rules.”

However, what I found most intriguing of all in the article was Ms. Wendlandt’s subtle hint of a potential bias in the SCCS group (Scientific Committee on Consumer Safetywhose original 2012 proposals started this mad dash towards increasingly draconian EU restrictions. So I looked into the group, and Ms. Wendlandt may have a point. I’ll discuss all that, as well as provide analysis from others regarding the iffy science underlying the SCCS’ theories. There will also be a brief tangent of my own to look at the wealth of several perfume companies who would seem to have every incentive to join in a united front against the EU measures, but are doing next to nothing.


Oakmoss or tree moss.

Oakmoss or tree moss.

Very briefly, however, let’s start with some background if you’re unfamiliar with the convoluted details of the EU situation. As I noted in an 2014 piece I wrote on perfume regulation, a 2012 Advisory Committee had offered certain draconian suggestions to the EU regulatory body on widespread restrictions of 12 ingredients. These were mere suggestions, but, as I talked about in a 2013 post, it had already led the perfume industry to begin changes to formulas of existing perfumes. To bring you up to date on the current situation, and to put it in a nutshell:

  1. the EU is currently contemplating banning 3 things: two compounds in oakmoss and tree moss, as well as HICC (otherwise known as lyral), a synthetic that replicates the smell of lily of the valley (muguet). To be specific, in the case of oakmoss, what the EU is targeting are two core compounds, atranol and chloroatranol. (Any oakmoss that is stripped of these elements can be used, but I doubt the process is affordable enough to be widely available to everyone.)
  2. The EU is deliberating on how much 9 other key, very essential ingredients should be restricted and to what levels they should be limited. As Ms. Wendlandt wrote in an earlier Reuters article a few weeks back, these other ingredients include citral, found in lemon and tangerine oils; coumarin, found in tropical tonka beans; and eugenol, found in rose oil.”
  3. Finally, they are trying to determine what sort of perfume lists and labeling should be required.


Marc-Antoine Corticchiato of Parfum d'Empire. Source:

Marc-Antoine Corticchiato of Parfum d’Empire. Source:

The new Reuters article, “What’s in a scent?”, had some interesting comments from Marc-Antoine Corticchiato, founder and “nose” at Parfum d’Empire, especially with regard to countermeasures he is considering to replace the scent of oakmoss: seaweed.

Seaweed may not be the first ingredient that springs to mind for perfume. But algae are among obscure ingredients to which perfume makers are turning to preserve the scent of their fragrances in the face of new EU anti-allergy restrictions. […][¶]

“I am crazy about oak moss, it is one of my favorite ingredients,” says Marc-Antoine Corticchiato, perfume creator or “nose” at his niche Parfum d’Empire brand. A 100 ml bottle of scent costs 120 euros.

Corticchiato, like many other “noses,” is anxious about the new wave of potentially costly rules emanating from Brussels. […][¶]

One solution for oak moss, Corticchiato says, is to add a touch of algae as its wet, iodized smell coupled with other ingredients, can help recreate oak moss’ moldy character.

Patricia de Nicolaï, via her own website.

Patricia de Nicolaï, via her own website.

Equally interesting to me was the fact that more perfumers are slowly going on the record to admit that they’ve reformulated fragrances already. Patricia de Nicolai, for example, points directly to the oakmoss and lyral/HICC issues as reasons for why she’s changed two fragrances. (At least, two that she’s willing to mention by name….)

She says she has never received a complaint about allergy but has reformulated some of her best sellers such as New York and Eau d’Ete because they used oak moss and lyral respectively.

She’s not the only one speaking out about forced reformulation:

“Many perfumes have had to be reformulated even though they were considered masterpieces due to changing legislation,” said Olivier Maure, head of Accords et Parfums, a supplier of major brands including Dior based in Grasse, likening it to “changing the colors of the Mona Lisa”.

In Part I, I noted the sharp change in LVMH‘s comments over the course of the last year or so on the issue of EU perfume regulations. This time, LVMH flat-out refused to make any comment whatsoever, as did its subsidiaries Dior and Guerlain. Perhaps they realized that their sudden shift in the wind had become too obvious. As for the other big brands, Hermès and L’Oreal said nothing at all, which is fully in keeping with their constant silence on the issue, no matter what the year or article.

Chanel's Jacques Polge. Source:

Chanel’s Jacques Polge. Source:

So consider me shocked when Chanel actually said something this time around. In fact, there are direct quotes from Jacques Polge, though they follow the standard line that you’d expect and nothing of any substance:

Chanel said it stopped using lyral in 2010 and has been evolving its formulas in anticipation of new rules.

“At Chanel, we follow very closely talks about regulation and scientific findings concerning raw materials,” Jacques Polge, Chanel’s chief perfume creator for 36 years, said in an emailed response to questions.

Polge said Chanel controls its formulas and supply chains to ensure its natural oak moss is bereft of the allergens targeted by Brussels. That way, “we can respect the original scent”.

Maurice Roucel. Source:

Maurice Roucel. Source:

One of the most famous noses around, Maurice Roucel, seems to have a response to that line of argument:

But “once you change an ingredient or two it can be very difficult to keep the scent absolutely intact, especially if those ingredients played an important role in defining the scent,” says Maurice Roucel, creator of many perfumes including L’Instant for Guerlain and Hermes’s 24 Faubourg.

A few years ago, Roucel reformulated Dior’s Fahrenheit perfume to remove lyral along with a few other ingredients and he is now working on the reformulation of about eight perfumes to make them meet new regulation.

“Big brands tell me: replace this and that and make sure it smells the same and costs the same to produce,” Roucel said.




I’ve written about the EU perfume regulations about 5 or 6 times by now, and the issue of cigarettes comes up each time, whether from me or from readers in the comments. So, I have to admit, I snorted rather gleefully when Ms. Wendlandt raised the matter bluntly in her article:

Some inside the perfume industry say lobby groups representing the interests of tobacco firms are better financed and better organized than those representing perfume makers.

One reason is the sheer size of the global cigarette industry. In sales terms, it is more than three times the size of the perfume industry. Cigarette lobby groups include the tobacco manufacturers’ association and the tobacco retailer’s alliance.

By comparison, perfume makers rely on Cosmetics Europe, a bulky organization that represents 4,000 companies including deodorant, toothpaste and perfume providers which have very disparate interests.

Even within the perfume industry, there is no united front as some brands are more affected than others by IFRA and new EU regulation.

One of the industry’s biggest players, L’Oreal, says it uses mainly synthetic ingredients in its perfumes. These ingredients raise fewer allergy concerns than natural products found in niche perfumes and brands such as Chanel and LVMH’s Dior and Guerlain.

Another issue is that perfumes are not protected by intellectual property rights. The composition of a perfume is not legally recognized as a “creation of the mind” but rather an industrial formula that can be replicated and altered.



I’m afraid I don’t understand how that last argument relates to the issue of the perfume industry not having adequate lobbies to support their interests. Cigarettes — whether Marlboro, Lucky Strike, Gitanes, or some menthol contraption — are products that might well be considered to have an individual “industry formula” which can be replicated. To my knowledge, they aren’t a patentable product, and there are certainly knock-offs floating around that I’ve seen myself. Yet, that doesn’t stop Phillip-Morris and its brethren from having a powerful lobbying presence. To me, the IP (intellectual property) concerns pertain more to the labeling issue and the third-prong of the upcoming EU regulations. It has nothing to do with the size or power of lobbying groups.



Even if the perfume industry is not as large or as wealthy as the tobacco one, it still doesn’t explain to me why they can’t unite in a common cause. (Well, not L’Oreal whose stuff is replete with synthetics, but I’ll spare you a repetition of my views on that company.) For everyone else, there is ample money at stake to warrant a joining of arms, even if it’s done behind the scenes to avoid potentially negative PR from some tabloid banners. Consider an article in Euronews from June 2013 which discusses the financial cost of the upcoming regulations to just the French perfume industry alone:

There are 2,500 lavender producers in France, covering 20,000 hectars. Grasse is considered by many to be the “capital of perfumes”. It is close to the lavender flower growing regions and home to Robertet, a world leader in natural fragrance production and perfume design. Their 22 branches worldwide turnover 400 million euros a year.

Robertet workers were shocked at the SCCS report with its long list of allergenic substances to declare, limit or ban. To adapt, the French perfume industry would need to pay up to 100 million euros, according to one of the directors. The cost to Robertet would be approximately five million euros. [Emphasis added by me.]



People keep talking about the wealth of the aromachemical companies who are IFRA supporters, like Givaudan, to which I keep countering with the amount of money on the other side of the aisle. Forbes puts LVMH‘s worth at $28.4 billion as of November 2013 is worth. In my article on Coco Chanel, I noted how Forbes estimated the wealth of the Wertheimer brothers who privately own the company lock, stock, and barrel at roughly $19 billion. Businessweek estimated Hermès’ worth in 2012 at $19.1 billion. Coming in at a much lower level is Robertet which Businessweek says had $389.5 million in 2013 revenues. It may be less than LVMH, but it’s still nothing to scoff at. Plus, Robertet’s core business is based on natural fragrance oils, and they are based in Grasse which is currently seeking UNESCO World Heritage protection against the financial depredations already wrought by the EU proposals.

Alain and Gerard Wertheimer, owners of Chanel. Source:

Alain and Gerard Wertheimer, owners of Chanel. Source:

When you add in the financial impact on all the various smaller perfume houses, there is a lot of money in total on the side of those who have a vested interest in preventing more draconian EU measures from passing. The amount that Chanel makes just from Chanel No. 5 alone is something that should interest its Wertheimer owners. In addition, there is the fact that many of these fashion houses rely desperately on their beauty and fragrance sales to support their costly haute couture lines that hemorrhage money but provide a necessary prestige. For example, I highly doubt Armani could never keep up his Privé couture line if a bottle of Acqua di Gio were not selling something like every 8 or 20 seconds in this world. (I read that once in an article, but I can’t find it now to quote you the exact number.)

My point is, the perfume industry may not be as large as the tobacco one, but there is certainly enough wealth amongst certain groups to justify a united front. Why isn’t there one? There may be a split in the industry with those like L’Oreal and Givaudan on one side, but reformulation is a costly enough affair to warrant companies on the other side stepping forward.

The fact that they haven’t is starting to seem suspiciously strange under the circumstances. I have to admit, I’m starting to inch towards the camp of those who have been saying all along that the big perfume houses will benefit in the long run from lower production costs if they have to use more synthetics and if natural ingredients are drastically curtailed in their allowed percentages. Perhaps the companies are simply giving in, or perhaps they see the current wave of reformulations as a temporary financial setback which they will compensate for with decreased expenses down the road.

Viktoria Minya. Source: Fragrantica.

Viktoria Minya. Source: Fragrantica.

Whatever the reason, I think the ones it hurts the most are the smaller niche perfumers, the ones we rely upon for truly creative or high-quality fragrances. Perfume houses like Parfums de Nicolai and Andy Tauer (who has written repeatedly on his blog about the serious impact of even current EU regulations on a business like his, including the cellophane rules for his packaging). Or, professional noses like Viktoria Minya who has had to tell clients that she can’t make something according to their specifications because the ingredients are illegal or heavily restricted in the EU. And, then, of course, we have poor Marc-Antoine Corticchiato resorting bloody seaweed as a solution to his perfume woes.


The most fascinating part of the Reuters article pertains to the SCCS advisory committee (Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety) whose extremely draconian proposals in 2012 made everything so much worse. The new Reuters article states:

The European Union denies targeting perfume any more than any other industry and says its new regulation seeks to address scientists’ and doctors’ concerns about the health hazards related to the use of perfume. […][¶]

[However,] Some industry executives say Brussels’ recent focus on the perfume industry stems from its main advisory body, the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS). Many of the committee’s members come from northern countries such as Sweden and Denmark where there is opposition to perfume on health grounds.

“Clearly, there are more experts at the SCCS who are based in northern Europe than in the south but it is not a deliberate choice,” said David Hudson, spokesman for consumer policy at the European Commission. “We strive for geographic and gender balance but the primary selection criteria is expertise.”

Perfume is not as important to the economies of northern Europe as it is to southern countries. Perfumes and cosmetics are among France’s top five exports and the southern city of Grasse is the historic capital of the perfume industry where many leading brands such as Chanel, Hermes and Dior source their essences.

Added to that, research shows people from northern regions tend to be more vulnerable to allergies than those living around the Mediterranean. One theory is that people in northern countries are more susceptible because of their lifestyle and generally cleaner environment.

I don’t know about you, but my jaw dropped at the Reuters statements and their implications. So Scandinavians who oppose perfume on general health grounds are influencing proposals that would impact the entire EU and, by its ripple effects, perfumery around the world? The bloody bastards. If it’s true, that is….

Chairman of the EU's SCCS group, Prof. Thomas Platzek.

Chairman of the EU’s SCCS group, Prof. Thomas Platzek.

I looked into the members of the group, as listed on the SCCS website, and I don’t think that one can say that a majority come from Sweden or Denmark. However, there is no doubt that ALL the current members are geographically based in Northern Europe, even if two seem to be of Indian or South Asian ancestry. Here are the SCCS members and their country, as stated by the organization itself:

  1. Dr Ulrike Bernauer: Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), Berlin, Germany.
  2. Dr Qasim Chaudhry: The Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA), Sand Hutton, United Kingdom.
  3. Dr Pieter Coenraads: University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.
  4. Prof. Gisela Degen: Leibniz Research Centre for Working Environment and Human Factors (IfADo), Dortmund, Germany.
  5. Dr Maria Dusinska: Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU), Kjeller, Norway.
  6. Dr Werner Lilienblum: Retired.
  7. Dr Andreas Luch: Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), Berlin, Germany.
  8. Dr Elsa Nielsen: Technical University of Denmark, Søborg, Denmark.
  9. Prof. Thomas Platzek: Chair of the Committee : Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), Berlin, Germany.
  10. Dr Suresh Rastogi: Vice-Chair of the Committee: Retired [Location seems to be Denmark according to a Google search.]
  11. Dr Christophe Rousselle: French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES), Maisons-Alfort, France.
  12. Dr Jan Van Benthem: National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Bilthoven, the Netherlands.
SCCS member, Dr. Bernauer from Germany.

SCCS member, Dr. Bernauer from Germany.

Out of those 12 people, 5 are Germans (if you include Dr. Werner Lilienblum whose location is not listed but which I looked up). After that: 2 are Dutch, 2 are Danish, 1 is Norwegian, 1 is French, and 1 is British (and of South Asian, Indian or Pakistani origins). Not a Spaniard, Greek, or Sicilian amongst the lot. While there are two South Asians of possibly Indian or Pakistani ancestry, one has to admit that the panel’s composition is heavily skewed in one direction.

What is more troublesome is the very real likelihood that all these doctors or scientists . used unsound, highly limited data as the basis for their ruthlessly stringent 2012 proposals to the EU. I’m wholly unqualified to speak to the underlying science, but Mark Behnke has an advanced degree in chemistry and wrote about this issue for his site, Colognoisseur:

The data used to determine the allergen potential of these molecules is scientifically and statistically unsound. […] The studies these bans and restrictions have been based on were performed one time at one concentration on 25 patients with no controls, positive or negative! This is what makes me shake my head as this is not good scientific practice and the conclusions made are very preliminary and possibly incorrect.

An even bigger flaw is the idea that it’s really only 23 molecules, so what? If these single molecules are restricted and banned it will have a ripple effect throughout many more raw materials. A natural oil is not a single molecule it is a combination of as many as hundreds of individual molecules. Any one of which could be identified as one of the “bad 23” which would then make that natural oil unusable as well. […]

Even I know that you need controls in a scientific study, but there seem to have been none used here. And only a one-time test on a mere 25 patients?! It’s rather astonishing.



As for the medical data, a reader of the blog, “Colin,” provided a response to that in a comment to one of my prior articles. He wrote:

Most people who may be allergic to perfumes or specific scent chemicals have a skin reaction which is not dangerous or life-threatening in any way. A brief review of medical literature reveals only two, yes that is TWO, reported cases of anaphylaxis, which is the severe, life-threatening kind of allergic reaction. One occurred in a health care worker when a patient sprayed her directly in the face with 3 sprays of perfume (I’m completely serious, look it up–Lessenger JE. Occupational acute anaphylactic reaction to assault by perfume spray in the face. J Am Board Fam Pract. 2001;14:137-40). The other occurred when a mother sprayed her 2-month infant in the face with cologne. Neither of these would be considered by anyone to be a customary use of fragrance. Incidentally, in the case of the infant, the cologne contained menthol which was the ingredient the authors suspected to have been the main factor in triggering this response. Is menthol even on the list of ingredients of concern? Should any chemical be regulated if, in the recorded history of humanity, there have been but 2 cases recorded of any anaphylactic reaction and in both cases the perfume was being misused?

SCCS Dr.  Pieter Coenraads.

SCCS Dr. Pieter Coenraads.

So, a geographic (and skin tone) imbalance amongst the SCCS, and their reliance on faulty science involving 25 people as proof, even though there have been only 2 instances in medical history of life-threatening reactions to perfumery. If you ask me, the SCCS and their northern issues lie behind all of this. If perfume were up there with automotive engineering as one of Germany’s leading industries, you can bet that they would not do anything so ridiculous as they are doing now. And obviously the fair-haired, pale Dutch or Scandinavians are going to care more about “research [that] shows people from northern regions tend to be more vulnerable to allergies than those living around the Mediterranean,” to quote the Reuters article.

I think it’s going to be important for more and more perfume houses or noses to speak out. The EU legislators in Brussels have not yet finalized their legislation, and they previously indicated that they were interested in hearing from people in the industry with the 90-day period that ended in May. The fight over oakmoss is lost, but there are still the 9 or so ingredients whose restriction levels are being considered, including such key components as lavender, certain citrus oils, compounds in rose oil, and coumarin from tonka beans. In my opinion, the only small hope in making the EU legislators put forth more moderate legislation lies in having numerous figures in the perfume industry speak out to the media, drawing attention to the situation and, more importantly, to the severe economic loss that might issue. I think a media campaign is something that  Brussels could not easily dismiss.

No-one can rely on the big houses like LVMH or Chanel to lead what’s left of the charge in the final months ahead, and I think that sad fact is starting to sink in across the industry. As Marc-Antoine Corticchiato of Parfum d’Empire stated in that Reuters article: “I expected big groups to take the initiative on this matter but it turns out that they are the most risk averse[.]”

Mr. Corticchiato, Frederic Malle, Patricia de Nicolai, Maurice Roucel, and a handful of others deserve enormous praise for their public stance. They certainly have my respect and admiration, which is more than I can say for both the SCCS and some of the companies mentioned here.

36 thoughts on “Part II: The Perfume Industry & EU Regulations

  1. This whole thing makes me so angry. People die from eating peanut butter if they are allergic, and yet no one has banned peanuts in this world. It’s in every grocery store ever, with no warning labels–imagine that! I have a severe allergy to apples and have to carry an EpiPen with me at all times. I’m not asking the world to stop selling apples. Come on now. The lack of common sense here from supposed scientists is astounding. And I am *pissed* that the big companies are keeping mum. I guess we’d all better stock up now. Grrr. Thanks, as always Kafka, for continuing to cover this insanity. I smell something super fishy here. It just makes no sense.

    • Apples??! Oh dear, that cannot be easy at all, Ms. Libertine. I mean, all such allergies are dangerous and worrisome, but some involve slightly more obscure things than apples.

      As for the EU situation, if there were numerous, extensive, exhaustive, and scientifically sound studies underlying their actions, I could understand it more. But the one study described by Mark Behnke in his blog truly astounded me, though. I don’t even know what to say at this point.

      • I know… and I *love* apples. They are the easiest, go-to fruit and go very well with cheese and wine. 🙂 I had hopes it would go away after a few years (some allergies will do that) but it hasn’t. Womp womp. On a perfume note, before I knew anything about anything, I got a sample of one of the DKNY apple fragrances and spritzed it on and *immediately* had to scrub it off–had an immediate reaction where tears were streaming down my face. And that is obviously a fake/chemical apple, so I don’t even know what that was about. I’m sure it’s completely unrelated, but I joke that I’m allergic to cheap perfume. 🙂

  2. This whole ingredients restriction thing makes me angry, too. I have celiac disease, a severe gluten intolerance- it’s an immune system disorder. If I even breathe in any dust from wheat flour (in wheat, rye, barley) I will get really ill. But I don’t see anyone banning bread or rolls or cake! And there isn’t even any “warning’ label on these foods and there doesn’t need to be. I know what I can eat and what I cannot.

    We’ve had a huge battle in the U.S. just to get the food manufacturers to label whether something contains wheat, gluten soy, eggs or milk, which are common allergens. No one is considering banning those substances for everyone else. I would be the first to say that my health issue should not affect anyone else except me and my family. This is vast overkill and downright craziness!!

    Another example of EU craziness. Give people a little power and they go freakin’ crazy!!

    • Whenever I post about this situation, there is always one EU reader (sometimes more) who comments that this perfume situation is merely one example of the EU increasingly over-reaching as a whole and invading spheres that are normally considered private. In America, the otherwise “private” spheres that seem to be subject to government regulation seem to be very different in nature.

      While I don’t want to get into politics on the blog, let alone country-specific issues, I do think that there is government involvement (okay, interference) worldwide in things that should be left up to the individual. The areas being targeted simply differ. In the case of perfume, however, it would seem to be much less offensive or scientifically warranted than products involving nuts or tobacco.

      Most of all, though, common sense seems to have gone completely out the window.

  3. Perhaps the EU should regulate as they see fit and allow the perfume industry to flourish elsewhere, which might account for the silence of others

    • That’s an interesting viewpoint. I think geography, practical considerations, economics, and the general nature of the globalized economy wouldn’t make moving the perfume industry elsewhere very feasible. And, legally, it wouldn’t change matters as a whole, either. The EU’s regulations are being indirectly adopted by countries far outside its jurisdiction. Like the United Arab Emirates. Countries who want to compete in the global economy have no choice but to adopt or follow EU laws, even if it impacts a millenium-old tradition. Witness Amouage giving up its incredibly popular attars, and ceasing production in Oman entirely based solely on the ripple effects of the EU regulations, its impact on their company’s ability to get corporate insurance, and the side-effect consequences of the neighboring UAE law.

      If the EU was regulating on the basis of sound science, proven in exhaustive studies using a massive pool, and substantiated by medical data, it would be one thing for them to issue legislation with such global consequences. But they’re not regulating on a sound scientific basis, it would seem. In fact, they are regulating on the basis of mere hypothetical possibilities in part.

      IMO, the bottom line reality is that they are influencing the world of perfumery, globally, not just the nations within their jurisdiction.

  4. Thank you for this incredibly well researched article. The more I learn, the more it seems really weird that these molecules are being targeted. The comments above point out the obvious discrepancies in regulation regarding allergens. There are so many things we buy, that we are exposed to, that at anytime could (in the remotest possible occurrence) cause an anaphalactic reaction. I could literally drop dead from eating a strawberry that my entire life never caused a problem, and then, boom, my mast cells and histamine receptors go crazy and I die from that innocent berry. These kind of specific, targeted restrictions are not in my mind really addressing the issue of our health. It feels like so much bullshit to me. Thanks for the hard work, Kafka keeping us in the loop.

    • You’re welcome, my dear. The problem for me is not giving in to the apathy of a hopeless situation. I suppose I’ve followed the Kubler-Ross stages. Except mine involves one phase called “Blank Bewilderment,” and another called “Logical Confusion” as well. *wry smile*

  5. Hello Kafkaesque,

    German perfume websites and perfume boutiques have edited a form which anyone can fill out and sign themselves in real life or on the internet to support a petition against these EU regulations.

    What strikes me is the fact that ingredients containing allergenes, such as oak moss,
    only have to be mentioned on the packaging. Instead they are being replaced. This
    is what in German is called “vorauseilender Gehorsam”, which to translate is almost impossible. Anyway, this obviously is what those Germans mentioned in your incredibly well researched article practice: obedience in advance, i. e. when it is not necessary and even could evoke adversary effects.

    The fact that perfume conglomerates follow these directives so willingly probably really
    is debited to them then having an excuse to replace more expensive natural ingredients with chemical products, which can be fabricated industrially in huge amounts at less cost.

    Maybe this “pretriggered obedience” will let us have even more non-degradable cosmetic waste like big moleculed synthetic musks and saturated creations such as ISO E Super.

    This is for crying out loud.


    • First, please call me Kafka, dear Petra. I think we’ve progressed past the point of occasional, mere passing aquaintances (in this little virtual world of ours, at least).

      Second, I thought your “vorauseilender Gehorsam” comment was incredibly astute. I’ve encountered the theory which the term encompasses in other venues or areas of study. Most noticeably, alas, in the context of totalitarian history (not just German history, I hasten to add). Yet, I had never thought about it in context, never ONCE, perhaps because I was unaware until today how the SCCS members are largely made of Germans and Nordic nationalities.

      I still can’t understand, though, why scientists and doctors (who have presumably been chosen because they are the premiere experts in the field) would not look at the study described by Mark Behnke, and just laugh it out of existence? How could they take that as sufficient, especially given the accompanying absence of extensive medical evidence of wide-spread, serious medical reactions? I mean, it simply confounds my brain as to how — even with preconditioned obedience — they could fall for it? After all, doesn’t the “group pressure” part of the preconditioned obedience require that they put aside their scientific selves in favour of some sort of ordered outcome? I suppose a group could be submitted to expected, ordered outcome here for the reasons implied or hinted at in the Reuters article, namely with their suggestion of a Nordic hyper-vigilence about health issues and their possible over-sensitivity to allergens. But still…. ack. It hurts my head to think about this crazy loop.

      As for the Parfumo German petition, I’ve actually had a post about that in the past and re-linked to it most recently in Part I of this series back in late May or thereabouts. I do hope people will continue to sign it, but I think more persuasive pressure would come from a media campaign and statements made by influential figures in the industry, from corporate leaders to perfume house owners to noses.

      If all of this could be consistently discussed in the mainstream press, with big papers and magazines, from Der Spiegel to Le Figaro, The (London) Times, Hola, The Guardian, and more…. THEN, I think something could be done. There must be some sort of pressure or media-generated awareness of the significance of the serious financial consequences in order for Brussels to pause. This lady at Reuters has worked valiantly and tirelessly for 18 months now, but she alone can’t do it. “For crying out loud” indeed!

  6. Hello Kafka,

    Thank you very much for your reply.

    It seems “vorauseilender Gehorsam” is an expression as well-known as “Blitzkrieg”
    or “Weltschmerz”…

    Unfortunately Brussels is a stronghold of lobbyism, and more often than not bills to be passed by the EU organisations are pre-written by legal advisers from economic institutions, i. e. the industry.

    MPs are then “persuaded” to turn those bills into laws. This is a feast for Transparency International.

    Consumers’ interests come last, and I entirely agree with you that a big media
    coverage would be necessary to lay bare this abuse of power, which I think we are
    dealing with here, taking into account the “scientific data” justifying this scheme.

    But it’s hard to find incorruptible persons, wherever you look. Of course, it could also
    have been the urge to having to comply with Northern hyper-correctness group
    pressure – the naive scientist at its best.

    But as we all know, sometimes a free bottle of perfume will render a fantastic review.

    Best regards


  7. Dear Kafkaesque,

    I read your blog entry with great interest. Few perfume bloggers have looked into the recent IFRA regulations as thoroughly as you did. I was glad to read part II today. The points you raise, in addition to the other readers comments, are good and seeing how the regulations are divorced from the severity of the allergies, it is very frustrating, and a part of me being a perfume fan, I worry about the long term implications on the perfume industry.

    However, the other part of me is a scientist with a special interest in science policy and so I could not help but point out a few ….shall I say slight errors…that you make in your analysis.

    Your concern for the diversity of the scientific committee tasked with recommending threshold levels is laudable. However, this is a scientific committee and not a committee made of, say, representatives or senators or members of parliament. So the fact that it does not include anybody from southern European countries is neither here nor there. Likewise the ethnicity or skin colour of Dr Chaudhury. Why? Because these individuals represent their profession, give their expert opinion after careful analysis and review of evidence – in theory, anyway 😉 They do not represent their fellow citizens or communities, and so their nationality and origin is irrelevant in this debate.

    The second point is the statement that you attribute to the Reuters journalist on the allergies affecting Scandinavians more than others due to their overall underexposure to aromachemicals. Again, assuming that the point the journalist is making is true – for the sake of arugement, that is not an attack on the regulation process. The reason is that regulation against risk always follows the precautionary principle and is designed to protect the weakest. So, if the regulations are mandated by the EU to suit the lowest levels of exposure common in Scandinavia, then that is exactly what they are meant to do.

    Imagine a household – an average family of four – with a baby. Now, assume their exposure to substance X to be allergenic at say…level 5. The baby is allergic at level 2! You do not average out the level to set it at below 3.5. What you do is you set the level at below 2 to protect the most vulnerable.

    Again, I’m not making these points to discredit your article – on the contrary. I just thought these points are necessary to raise. Personally, I get really angry about the whole regulation for perfumes. It is perfume!! If you are allergic to it, don’t wear it!

    • First, welcome to the blog, Smelly Dandelion. Second, love the name! Third, I greatly appreciate your comment, its depth, and its civility, so thank you for taking the time to respond.

      With regard to the issue of the committee’s composition, we shall have to agree to disagree about the relevancy. In any court of law, experts are examined for motive and bias. A gaggle of experts like this showing one particular pattern would certainly be deemed relevant. But let us chalk this one up to a difference in opinion. 🙂

      Your second point is a very interesting one. If one were talking about something like asbestos or toxic mold, I would agree completely that one sets things at the lowest level to protect the most vulnerable. However, in this case, your analogy rather assumes that the substances in question actually ARE dangerous. It almost seems to imply a situation involving an airborne pathogen or the like, rather than something which is intentionally sprayed on skin. One would not be spraying a baby with perfume under any sane, normal circumstances. Perfume is a matter of choice, so your analogy is perhaps not really applicable, if you’ll forgive the slight disagreement. I say it with all respect and politeness.

      The other small flaw I find in your comparison is that, again, it assumes that the alleged danger in question has been scientifically proven by comprehensive tests, the finding of which are met with uniform agreement. Like, say, the lethal consequences of cigarettes. However, in this case, the study pointed out by Mark Behnke is, in his scientific judgment, nothing so set in stone. He has the degree in the field which I certainly lack, so I take his word for it, though it doesn’t take a Masters to realise that a mere 25 people subject to tests without proper controls is… iffy… shall we say?

      “Regulation against risk” even at the lowest levels common in Scandinavia is fine if the risk has been solidly, exhaustively proven, but perfumes are not cigarettes, asbestos, or anything comparable. And if cigarettes are not regulated by having core components banned, if cigarettes are merely given a warning label on a box, then how is it reasonable to go so much further for perfumes? The fact that the scientists would use such iffy data to go so far and to regulate against the lowest possible threshold of risk for Scandinavian sensitivity — but are NOT seeking to ban the toxic elements that are essential to something like cigarettes — would, indeed, suggest a bias. At least, it does, to me.

      Please don’t take any of this as an attack. I see it as a debate, and an enjoyable one at that. I know you’re coming at this from an intellectual, theoretical perspective — something wholly separate from your perfume love and sympathies — and I greatly appreciate you raising your points. I simply hope you will forgive me if I see things a little differently.

      All of that being said, it’s been a pleasure to have someone who appreciates details and civil, intellectual discussions. I hope you will feel free to stop by more often. Perhaps next time we can talk about some of your perfume loves, or perhaps your choice of screenname. 😉 Have a lovely evening.

      • Hello Kafkaesque,

        Thanks for replying. I like it when bloggers do that!

        Absolutely see your point with regards to risk. I mean, the analogy I make is not meant to be taken literally – I suppose it is not an excellent analogy. But what I did not stress in my comment is the pedantic nature of my point, i.e. it being about the argument and not the content of the argument. It is simply the process of assessing risk that the EU take, and it is strictly procedural.

        But I do agree with you that the perceived risk, its nature – in this case perfume (perfume for goodness sake!!) and not second-hand smoke, is ridiculous. The excellent comparison you make with tobacco proves the point that a lot of lobbying and powerful corporations affect what goes through, and what doesn’t,as legislation. I have not read the Behnke article, but I wouldn’t be surprised. A lot of poor studies get published and when you have a limited number of studies in relation to certain substances (in this case, perfumes), they get taken on board! It’s ridiculous but unfortunately true!

        As for the first point I make, well, its a very old argument on the objectivity of science and scientists (real or perceived). The perspective of the EU is that scientists assess studies and research objectively hence choose committees based on knowledge and expertise and not who they represent. The other view suggests there is no such thing as objective science, and I suspect you would agree more with these guys. Unfortunately they tend to be a minority in the EU.

        I would rather not go into my own personal view on that matter (that would require volumes, and not a comment box). But I alluded to it with my remark ‘in theory’ followed by the winking smiley. So I don’t think we disagree much.

        These regulations are very frustrating and annoying. I’ve signed countless petitions hoping that the process is more representative, includes perfumers and industry experts and not just faceless scientists. Let’s wait and see what the end of this year brings. I’m trying to be optimistic about it.

        • I saw the smiley face wink and the “in theory” part, but thought I’d respond to that bit anyway. LOL.

          What really drives me mad about this whole situation is that it feels one is going after a gnat with a bazooka and an Abrams tank, when a small wave of the hands would suffice in the form of mere warning labels. I simply CANNOT wrap my head around the lack of common sense which would save so much fuss, bother, and money in the most practical sense. You know how Occam’s Razor points to the simplest explanation as a cause of a mystery? Well, surely there is an Occam’s Razor parallel for the simplest solution to a quandary?

          All these committees, all these proposals, heart-ache, reformulation expenses and so much more…. it could all be bypassed with a simple label. A skull and crossbones, if need be. Maddening, simply maddening.

          BTW, yes, I do tend to skew slightly towards those who argue that there is no such thing as objective science. I know it from history and historiography. One of your countrymen and one of the most famous historians around, AJP Taylor and his “What is history?” exposed the fallacies of thinking historical accounts could ever be remotely objective. Science is a field which is not as susceptible to distortion as history, but it is all a relative matter. I don’t think anything done by humans can really be impervious to human frailities and the insertion of personal perspective. And most DEFINITELY not when anything governmental is involved!

  8. Hi KAFK,
    your sensitivity about this arguments are always good.
    I wanted to remember some fixed point :

    1) “Follow the money.” This is the first rule for understand question, other arguments are false leads (health, science, etc..).

    2) Simply, there is a restructuring of interests between the parties dominant in the cosmetics industry. And, NOT only perfumes but cremes and oils for skin and face!With the downturn in profits, you have to change the way. It takes more concentration of production and you have to disappear so many manufacturers (little and medium).

    3) This restructuring must make sure that the costs decrease, technologies that replace the nature and the laboratory synthesis to replace human work done with the arms of thousands of peasants (that cost).

    4)I should mention that the substances that will soon be restricted or prohibited is much higher than that in those few molecole (in EU,from 26 to 80/90!). I think lobby will be desperate because they still have some natural substance resists. For example, the damn patcholuli have not yet found anything to limit :only patchoulol up to 20% , but for IFRA and (currently…) not for EU . Otherwise, the lobby will try to limit EVERYTHING.Citral is not only in lemon and tangerine, but also in lemongrass eo, litsea eo, melissa eo, petitgrain lemon oil,etc,etc. Eugenol are not only in rose oil but also in clove oil, cinnamon oil, pimento oil, carnation absolute, basil oil, hyacinth absolute,etc,etc. Coumarin are not only in tonka oil, but also in melilot,deer tongue,lavender,hay absolute,etc,etc. Understand? By removing some molecule prevents the use of natural oils. It is sold synthesis. And the synthesis production is done by a few and big and influential company in the world.Very powerful. I’m stop here.

    5)You write “…or perhaps they see the current wave of reformulations as a temporary financial setback which they will compensate for with decreased expenses down the road.”” Yes,thats right Kafk! This is first motivation for current silence of many big brand’s perfume and many others…!


    • First, welcome to the blog, Geco. Second, thank you for your wonderfully detailed comment. (The more details, the better, I always think. lol) I agree with almost everything that you write.

      The one area where it’s not easy, for me personally, is the “Follow the Money.” In prior articles, I’ve repeatedly said that the money trail isn’t as straightforward as it would seem. I really believe that. There is a lot of money on both sides, but even more so (when aggregated) on the side of those who would seem to have a vested interest in OPPOSING these measures. Yes, for some, the current wave of reformulations may be a temporary setback which they can offset later, but, for others, it can be quite a death blow. The City of Grasse, natural producers, companies who rely on high-end naturals, smaller companies who would be direly impacted by reformulation…. Big brands may have a motive to stay silent, but when you compile and aggregate all the other groups, they would be hurt badly enough to make it worth their time to unite and actively mount a defense. Big companies like L’Oreal or the aromachemical giants, yes, okay, but they are only one part of the equation. Even LVMH was freaked out enough to try to lobby Brussels against the serious damage that their proposals would do, though the company has since stopped their public overtures. But they still saw the serious damage they would suffer. So, you see, for me at least, it’s not so easy to just follow the money. It’s a murky trail, with lots of very mixed motivations that make things not as cut and dry as it would appear on the surface.

      But that’s only a small point. I agree with you on almost everything that you write. 🙂

  9. Just look what IFRA hath wrought… Bad Science from IFRA brought with it the whole EU bad science card too. Will stupidity ever cease? If a label works for a Peanut that can kill, Why can’t a label suffice for a perfume which WON’T kill you?

    • Hello Mr. Kiler and welcome to the blog. No, it appears that stupidity will never cease. I fully agree that labels should suffice. They certainly do for cigarettes, something which actually DOES kill people and far more so than even peanuts.

  10. I just have a question, are the banning recommendations for the European Union or for the whole world? And do companies reformulate for the European Union ONLY or for all production of the fragrance? You are not clear.

    Second, everyone that is bitching and moaning about this is missing the point. The consumer is not rejecting these reformulations. Like, at all. When Coca-Cola introduced the new Coke, it was violently rejected by consumers. Someone made the observation that, contrary to perfume formulations, the new Coke was advertised and acknowledged as a new formula, implying that that is why it was rejected. I don’t think that’s true. People do not like their products changed because people just stop consuming, and everyone knows that you don’t mess with your product, EVER. So why are these companies so willing to mess with their product?

    I think there is something more sinister at play here. I think the IFRA bannings are an excuse. The companies want to reformulate. Why? Because we live in a different time. People don’t want to wear perfume, and if they do they want it to be “clean, not perfumey, I don’t want to smell like I’m wearing anything”. Not my quotes, things I’ve seen people actually write. Workplaces are banning perfumes, people get offended, etc, in other words, people don’t want to smell of perfume, period.

    And the ones that do have a VERY SPECIFIC WAY they want to smell, for women it is the candy/fruity smell, period. Don’t even try selling them anything else because they won’t have it, it’s an old lady scent. For example, I honest to god do not know who wears Chanel No 5. I wear it, but everyone I know loathes it. Even the salesgirls can’t stand it. So either they reformulate to capture the up and coming consumer or the perfume dies, it’s that simple.

    Look at what happened to Miss Dior for instance. What Dior did should have meant the DEATH of both Miss Dior and Miss Dior Chérie. You do not mess with your product that way, had it been any other product in any other industry, you would have Dior begging for forgiveness from its customers, but did people care? No. The new Miss Dior is thriving.

    I also see people complaining and complaining and complaining, but do they stop buying? I loved Madonna’s Truth Or Dare perfume, and have been wearing it since it came out in 2012, and the formula is not the same. It doesn’t smell the same anymore. I don’t want to cry reformulation about a product that hasn’t even been out for a decade but I swear it is no longer the same formula from 2012. It is not. So that’s it, once I’m out I’m out, I have no reason to buy it anymore.

    So why do people keep on buying scents that are so obviously changed?

    • The EU regulations only apply to fragrances sold within the EU. However, that is an extremely large market and no perfume house is going to make a separate version of each scent to be sold in/out of the jurisdiction. It is not cost efficient. So, what is created for the EU is what is sold everywhere. Furthermore, some countries — like the United Arab Emirates, for example — are adopting laws to make their products conform to “international standards” which ends up being the EU rules, in effect.

      Companies reformulate for a variety of reasons. You are assuming that the average consumer is aware of the reformulation issue. I don’t think they are. I’ve received emails from people who aren’t hardcore perfumistas and who have said they thought they were crazy for thinking that their favorite perfume suddenly smelled differently. Until they read something of mine, they had no clue reformulation was even a possibility. They often frequently add that the sales people swear that the perfume has not changed at all. Many have told me that they felt quite crazy for feeling that their perfume was different. Again, sales people or companies do not help as reformulation is a dirty little secret. One person even sought my opinion on the merits of a class action lawsuit against Estee Lauder, stating that part of her reason was to make others actually aware of the situation.

      You are correct that there is a trend amongst a segment of society in favour of “clean, fresh” scents, or even gourmand ones. Not in favour of “old lady” or old-time scents. I think it would be a mistake to overgeneralize and think that is everyone, or that the trend applies worldwide. There are cultural differences between America vs Europeans in terms of perfume tastes. The French are hardly going to have perfume bans in the workforce, for example. And their tastes have traditionally incorporated things that many Americans could not fathom wearing in large amounts, such as fragrances with civet, animalic, or what Americans would see as “unclean” elements.

      There are also backlashes against the “clean, fresh” non-perfume trend with some seeking to create the exact opposite sort of thing. And, for every “clean” or gourmand fragrance launched today, I can show you 3 with Oud, many of which can take on unclean aromas or are powerhouses of force. One cannot reduce something as complicated as perfume tastes to any one single thing. And that includes those who love or do not love Chanel No. 5. You may know some who hate it, I know others who love it, even in its current formulation. (For what it’s worth, I personally have disliked it in all its forms.)

      Ultimately, your main argument assumes that the average perfume buyer in, say, Idaho, Orlando, Maine, or LA is aware of the reformulations to begin with. In my experience, judging on the people that I have spoken to from all over, they are not. Even on Fragrantica, I see many commentators who are completely surprised to learn that their fragrance favorites have been subject to reformulation, and I would argue that the Fragrantica membership is more aware about perfumery than the average person.

      • I think I must disagree with you Kafka, on a minor point. I do not formulate my perfumes for PK Perfumes to the weakness of either IFRA or EU. So therefore, I do not sell in EU. I do not see this as a handicap, but a strength. If and when I choose to sell into EU, I will indeed make an EU version specifically of my existing perfumes, and will label it as such. I do not see any reason to formulate with weakness in mind.

        IFRA and these EU regs are evil for Perfumery, and make weak products. I formulate to strength, not weakness.

        • Yes, there are small artisanal brands in America who do not sell within the EU, and therefore are not bound by their strictures. I was referring to houses who sell internationally.


  11. A. Perfumes are notorious triggers of asthma attacks.
    B. It’s fucking perfume, Get over it.

  12. The members of the SCCS are either academics or technocrats. I imagine not a single one has every risked a single euro in a venture of their own making so they have no comprehension of the impact of their rulings. The committee should not only be balanced geographically but should also have business and consumer representatives.

    The large perfume houses might not be fussed over the new rules because they can afford to obey them and they know that they will have an ever bigger piece of the pie if new competitors cannot afford to come into the market.

  13. I am coming in to this discussion very late. Since the EU is a giant cesspool of lobbying into law not unlike what goes on in the US – I could probably do a bit more research in the “follow the money” aspect here and tell you that the reason this is a northern European group of scientists exclusively is because northern Europe is where the chemical companies like Bayer in Germany and the vast number of seaweed compounding companies and petro chemical derivatives in Denmark and the Netherlands specifically reside. Both industries have plenty of “scientists” working night and day with lobbyists to get the EU to regulate most of nature (i.e. anything that comes from Grasse or Italy) in favor of chemistry or chemically restructured seaweeds/petro chemical/synthetic derivatives). Anyone who thinks that sensitivity to a natural oak moss or citrus oil is more dangerous than petro chemically refined artificial and synthetic fragrances is definitely working for those industries and knows nothing of actual perfume sensitivities. Ask anyone who does have perfume sensitivities what is most likely to cause a roaring migraine or an asthma attack and it will most certainly be the synthetic fragrances! And to the person who commented above it is “perfume get over it” – I wish they would follow that logic through with the tobacco industry instead. An industry with known harmful carcinogens that can protect their additives and ingredient lists under “trade secrets” and most definitely does cause health problems can just get away with LABELING? But perfumes cannot simply have labels? This all smacks of chemical company lobbying…

    • Very interesting point about Bayer and its location, as well as the Northern companies you mention. I fully agree with you that it’s the synthetics which frequently cause a roaring migraine or asthma attack. I don’t have skin allergies to fragrance, and yet I’ve frequently gotten splitting headaches from things like the clean white musk that is increasingly common in perfumery (niche as well as mainstream), as well as ISO E Super, Norlimbanol, and a few other aromachemicals. In some cases, the synthetics have caused my throat to seize up. (Norlimbanol is the key culprit, but Ambroxan is also problematic at times.) Sadly, as you noted, the aromachemical giants have gotten their way via their lapdog, IFRA.

  14. Pingback: AbdesSalaam Perfume Course - Part III: "Learning How to Smell" - Kafkaesque

  15. Guy here. I’m fairly new to the blog, and you’ve written a lot about these regulations, which I will catch up on in due time, but one question occurs to me. ( and forgive me if someone else has already asked this): Do the EU regulations pertain to someone making a bespoke fragrance for a client? I thought of this when you were describing the La Via Profumo perfume seminar. If a student of the seminar isn’t necessarily going to make a perfume for sale on the commercial market, but rather make a fragrance for a specific client, could they use as much Oakmoss as they want? Granted, the practical reality is that there would need to be Oakmoss suppliers who are able to provide the ingredients but perhaps a bespoke perfumer could distill or tincture their own oakmoss ( since I haven’t taken the class yet, I don’t know if one tinctures or distills oakmoss). Anyway, … thoughts?

    • Guy, I believe the restrictions apply to bespoke scents, too. As a general legal rule, one can’t contract to do something prohibited by law. You can waive rights when something is legal (e.g., waiving rights if skydiving), but you cannot contract to do something prohibited by law (e.g., bank robbery or fraud). It would be the same thing here. Plus, I recall one “nose” telling me in Paris of her difficulty when making fragrances for clients. When going down their list of notes or seeing how much they wanted of something, she would find herself having to say things like, “no, no, sorry, can’t include that one, no, no.” The EU laws are intended for consumer protection, so they would apply regardless of whether a sale occurs to one person or to 100. There is an exchange of money, so you’re selling your perfume, period, even if it’s just to one person. Now, if you made a fragrance purely for yourself, that is a different matter. (Gifts should be fine, too, but given the EU’s general insanity and extremeness on this subject, who knows? It might depend on whether the totality of the circumstances, like whether it’s a large-scale donation or just a personal gift between two friends.)

      • And you said you didn’t like Lawyering… the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Thanks for the legal interpretation. As a business person who works within the letter and/or spirit of the law, I can think of a number of ways to get the job done without a technical violation, but I’d better leave that to a conversation over a Lagavullin or a Laphroig and not on paper. Slainte!

  16. Pingback: Hermès 24 Faubourg - Part II: Modern EDP & How To Recognize The Vintage - Kafkaesque

Comments are closed.