The Language of Fragrance

Each essential oil and perfume has three ‘notes’.

Top notes come out first: they are often tangy or citrus-like smells that are easy to smell and more fleeting.

Middle notes, often aromatic flowers, come out later: they provide body.

Base notes (often woody fragrances) last longest: they provide an enduring fragrance.

Discover the wide range of fragrances in this ‘Fragrance Wheel’ developed by perfumer Michael Edwards:

What is a fragrance?

A fragrance is a chemical compound that has a smell or odor. These compounds may include natural aromatic raw materials, obtained from plants using distillation, expression and extraction, and synthetic materials.

Making scents

IFRA members produce fragrance ingredients and create fragrance compounds, based primarily on requests from brands and consumer goods companies.

These compounds bring together natural ingredients – such as flowers, grasses, spices, fruit, wood, roots, resins, leaves and gums – and synthetic materials such as alcohol and petrochemicals.

Synthetic materials can also ‘recreate’ natural scents – which may make their use less expensive and resource-intensive.

Fragrance compounds are then added to finished consumer products such as personal care products, cosmetics, household cleaning products or fine fragrance.

From plant to perfume

Before manufacturing can begin, the initial ingredients must be brought together.

For natural ingredients this can involve collecting natural materials from around the world – often, these ingredients are hand-picked and distilled or extracted in the field to preserve their fragrance.

Oils are extracted from plants via several methods, such as steam distillation, solvent extraction and expression.

With these ingredients, perfumers can blend a formula that matches their customer’s request.

This creation process is carried out in compliance with the IFRA Standards, to ensure that the new fragrance can be used and enjoyed safely.

Where science meets art

Fragrances are the fusion of science and art: where chemists become creators, and where molecules make memories.

Fragrances are unique. They are designed with care, passion and ingenuity.

They give pleasure to billions of people around the world who use and enjoy fragrance every day – from a fresh-smelling shampoo to a stylish perfume, from a scented candle to freshly-laundered sheets.

Fragrances are part of our culture and history.

For more than 4,000 years – from ancient Egyptians, through the Persian, Greek and Roman Empires, and up to the modern day, scents have meaning: as part of a ceremony; as an expression of status; as a demonstration of cleanliness; as a statement of the imagination.

Even in today’s globalized world, scents are an expression of place.

And fragrances are rooted in nature: we have a particular connection to the natural world, with every person connecting a scent to something in the natural world.

Discover the Value of Fragrance

We all know how fragrance brings value to our lives: a perfume that evokes memories; the comfort given by fresh-smelling laundry; the clean feeling provided by a fragranced shower gel.

Fragrance brings joy, relaxation or a sense of escape; it boosts self-esteem; it allows us all to show our individuality and personality.

But fragrance also brings economic and social value. This report, prepared by PwC, studies the contribution of our industry in terms of jobs and value created, highlighted our key role as an innovative, sophisticated and global industry.

Trusting the Standards

An independent Expert Panel for Fragrance Safety oversees the safety assessment process to ensure that it is scientifically robust.

The members of the Expert Panel include renowned independent figures from scientific fields such as dermatology, toxicology, pathology and environmental sciences.

The Panel evaluates data on a fragrance material and checks whether that data supports current use levels.

Safety is the overriding consideration: the Panel seeks to ensure that fragrance materials are subject to appropriate safety assessments.

And the Expert Panel can act swiftly and decisively: in cases where the safety assessment does not support current use, the Panel instructs IFRA to issue a Standard either restricting, banning or setting specifications for a material so that it can be used safely.

Importantly, the final decision on the content of the Standard is solely in the hands of the Expert Panel, not IFRA or RIFM – adding an additional layer of independence.

The Fragrance Material Resource Center

Publications reviewed by the Expert Panel for Fragrance Safety are published on an open-source, publicly available, website sponsored by Elsevier’s Food and Chemical Toxicology Journal. The Fragrance Material Safety Resource Center features: 

Robust Summaries of Fragrance Ingredient Safety Assessments
The 2015 revision of the Criteria for the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM) Safety Evaluation Process for Fragrance Ingredients
Scientific methodology papers
An archive of earlier publications on the safe use of fragrance materials
Other scientific publications supporting the safe use of fragrance materials globally

Click Here to enter the Resource Center

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