The countdown to Valentine’s day is upon us and as a result every store is finding different ways to cater to each person’s individual professing love and appreciation style. In recent years the way most people say “I love you” is through purchasing and giving scents to their loved ones on Valentine’s day. In 2019, sales for fragrances were up by twelve percent during the Valentine’s day season, and it is projected that it will be up by eighteen percent this year. With this comparison to aroma and amour, doesn’t the same idea of ‘it’s what’s on the inside that counts’ also apply for fragrances?
Ingredient content for everything is on high monitor these days especially since it’s becoming more apparent that the FDA is pretty lenient when it comes to regulations. The FDA regulates fragrances as if they are cosmetics. Under current law, if a product is intended to be applied to make the user more attractive, it is considered a cosmetic, meaning perfumes, cologne and aftershave falls under this category.
What we tend to forget as consumers are things like perfumes, colognes and aftershaves aren’t the only kind of fragrances, anything with an additive scent is also a form of fragrance. Meaning that Vanilla shower gel, or Victoria Secret Bombshell scented body cream is also considered a fragrance under current law. Even some products like your ‘unscented’ body wash also has some fragrance to mask out the ‘not so great’ scent of other chemicals used within the product and have a neutral scent.
The FDA’s method of regulation for items containing fragrances is solely based on the intended use of the product. A product can be considered a cosmetic or a drug based on the intended use. Fragrances are included in a spectrum of items as we know. In contrast to perfumes and body wash, fragrances are also included in things like muscle creams, melatonin creams, and creams that treat colic and in those cases they would be treated like a drug regulation.
A new trend for people who are trying to be more organic are essential oils and aromatherapy, which gets even more confusing when it comes to regulation. Aromatherapy and essential oils have a ‘natural scent’ coming from a ‘natural resource’. Like everything else, the FDA regulates oils, extracts, and aromas based on the intended use, so if one purchases it to ease some aches or pain it will be considered a drug or if it’s used to beautify, it is considered a cosmetic. There is a lot of grey area when it comes to regulating these kinds of products as well.
According to current FDA regulations, any fragrance considered a cosmetic isn’t regulated by the FDA and does not require FDA approval. Right now it is up to the manufacturer and cosmetic company to make their perfumes, aftershaves and any products with fragrances safe for consumers, not the FDA. This includes labeling, ingredient content, and overall safety of the product does not need any form of approval before hitting the market and becoming available for consumption.
The actual labeling of ingredients within perfumes, colognes and aftershaves are actually pretty lenient. If a cosmetic product is marketed to consumers on a retail basis (online or in person) the company must provide an ingredient list. According to current US law, fragrance ingredients can be simply labeled as “Fragrance” or “Flavor”. The reason why companies can do this is because under current US laws, companies have the option to have synthetic and natural ingredients listed as “Trade Secrets”.
A big issue for most consumers is allergies and sensitivities to certain ingredients especially with perfumes and body washes that have fragrances. Under current regulations the FDA does not have the same legal authority to require cosmetic companies and manufacturers to require allergen labeling on their product as they do for food. Meaning, it’s up to the manufacturer or company to provide that information, they are not required under any law.
So if you want to gift the one you love this Valentines day with a scent but don’t want to risk an allergic reaction or give some synthetic chemical-laden perfume here are some alternatives. You could make your own perfume which would be more ‘from the heart’ which could be a mix of your favorite essential oils, since that is the closest thing to natural according to FDA regulations. Or you can get a natural perfume that has an ingredient list of recognizable ingredients without super scientific sounding names, and without the ingredient of ‘Fragrance’ or ‘Flavor’.