Fragrance is a mixture of fragrant essential oils or aroma compounds, fixatives and solvents that are used to give a product a pleasant scent. Perfumes are a popular choice for many people and can be found in products such as perfumes, lotions, soaps, shampoos, and body sprays.
Unlike chemicals in other types of cosmetics and food, ingredients in fragrances are not required to be premarket approved by the FDA or CPSC, and they can be used in unregulated amounts. Some of these substances have been linked to cancer, reproductive toxicity, and other health problems.
Ingredients in fragrance formulas are also often used as an “additive” to other cosmetic or personal care products, such as shampoos, shower gels, or body lotions. These products may be labeled as “unscented,” even though they are scented with fragrance ingredients, or they may have an ingredient in them that is not listed on the label.
Some of these additives can cause allergic reactions and sensitivities in some individuals, as well. This is why it’s important to read the ingredients on a product’s label carefully.
Identifying the ingredients in fragrances can help you determine whether or not the product is safe for you and your family. The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) and the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM) have standards that manufacturers must meet to ensure safety for their customers.
The ingredients in perfumes are typically categorized into groups or families, which describe different types of aroma components. For example, a perfume might be classified as a floral fragrance, with flowers such as rose and jasmine. However, these fragrances can contain hints of other aromatics as well, such as lily or violet.
In addition, perfumes usually have a scent accord of top, middle, and base notes that come together to create the overall aroma of a fragrance. The top notes are generally the first ones that a person smells after application of the perfume. These are usually sweet, citrusy, or smoky in nature.
While a fragrance’s top note may last for hours or longer, the scent of its middle and base notes will slowly fade away as it evaporates. This process is known as sillage, after the French word for “wake” that is left behind by a person wearing a fragrance.
Smells can be changed by how the fragrance reacts with other ingredients in the cosmetic or personal care product, including the concentration of the perfume or cologne and the amount of water that is used to dissolve it. For example, a fragrance may not have a strong scent when diluted in water, but may be very noticeable when it is mixed with other ingredients such as ethyl alcohol.
Because the fragrance industry is a specialized field, many of the ingredients in perfumes can vary widely in chemical structure and environmental acceptability. This is why it’s important to look up the toxicity data for the fragrance ingredients in your product to determine their potential to be harmful to you or your family.