Spotting a good fragrance from an ingredient list

Naturally sourced fragrances are usually higher quality

While writing my Creme de la Mer review I worked out that they were probably using an expensive fragrance at a high level from the ingredient listing.  We all pick up these little tricks as we go through life.  With a bit of practice, and some knowledge you should be able to do the same.

This is something that goes back to the eighties when dermatologists started suspecting that it was the fragrances in cosmetics that caused people to get allergic reactions.  The fragrance industry didn’t agree.  It turned out that the fragrance industry had a tonne of data supporting how safe its products were.  But they were considered to be vested interests while the dermatologists only had their patients interests at heart.  This proved to be a problem when the EU came to try and legislate on the matter.  They wanted to prevent allergic reactions but didn’t have any information on which to base the rules. They came up with a slightly odd solution to this problem.

They looked at what materials were used in fragrances, and highlighted the top 26.  These weren’t really the ones likely to cause skin reactions.  In fact, it turned out that most of them were in fact components of essential oils.  The law now states that if these are in the final formulation above a certain level they have to be declared on the ingdredient listing.  If you know that you are allergic to say limonene, you are now able to avoid products that contain limonene. This is handy information if you are a dermatologist or if you know that you have a particular sensitivity.

The smell of most of the personal care products that you use comes from a fragrance.  These oils are blended by specialist companies called fragrance houses. Fine fragrances, the more expensive blends tend to have more natural ingredients and these have the highest level of the so called fragrance allergens.  The cheaper ones use synthetic chemicals which don’t generally cause skin problems and so don’t need to be declared.  So if you can find one or several of the fragrance allergens on the ingredient list there is a good chance that it contains significant levels of high quality fragrance or essential oils.

There is a full list at the bottom of this post, but the big ones to look out for are limonene, geraniol and linalool.

I know this sounds a bit odd.  I am suggesting that products labelled with allergens are better.  But the highlighted materials are nearly all natural and  very very few people are actually allergic to them.  Limonene, as the name probably suggests, is found in lemons.  If you can manage lemon juice on your scampi you will probably cope with a trace of lemon oil in your shampoo or skin cream.

This advice isn’t foolproof but it is a reasonable guide.  Personally, after decades of smelling synthetic fragrances, I much prefer the smell of essential oils.  The cost of essential oils makes them prohibitive as the sole perfuming ingredient in all but the most upmarket of skin care products.  But the very best fine fragrances are the ones with the most natural ingredients.

The list in full:

Amyl Cinnamal
Benzyl Alcohol
Cinnamyl Alcohol
Amcylcinnamyl Alcohol
Benzyl Salicylate
Anise Alcohol
Benzyl Cinnamate
Butylphenyl Methylpropional
Benzyl Benzoate
Hexyl Cinnamal
Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone
Evernia Prunastri Extract
Evernia Furfuracea Extract

4 thoughts on “Spotting a good fragrance from an ingredient list”

  1. Pingback: Aldi Day and Night Cream Review | Colin's Beauty Pages

  2. I’m an aromatherapist and I agree, EO’s are the best ingredient when it comes to fragrancing. But as a therapist, I’m well aware of the cost of the real deal over a synthetic, especially when it comes to oils like rose, jasmine, neroli and sandalwood. However that’s not to say that a synthetic won’t also cause a reaction.

    With your permission, I’m going to copy your list and add it to my aromatherapy references.

  3. Pingback: Diferença Entre Óleos Essenciais e Fragrâncias | Alquimia Oriental

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