I first became aware of IFRA and the restriction of certain perfume ingredients sometime around the end of 2005 or the beginning of 2006. I was already an avid reader of perfume and beauty blogs but had yet to start my own. I've read that some classic formula had to be changed because IFRA, a weird organization of which I've never heard before was trying to eliminate raw materials that could cause skin allergies. But none of this made much sense. Skin allergies? I was certainly familiar with those being very sensitive to a bunch of soaps, detergents, hair and body products and very common household products. They give me a rash so I do my best to prevent skin contact. All these items were clearly labeled with "if a rash develops discontinue use". So I discontinue use just as I read the labels on food, medication and cat treats. This perfume issue could not be true, right?
Only it was. And soon it became clear this wasn't just about oakmoss. There (among many others) went lavender, certain rose absolutes, pure jasmine, lemon verbena and citrus oil. Yes, the stuff you get on your hands, raw and undiluted, every time you peel an orange or zest a lemon. And why was IFRA insisting on restricting to the point of neutering or outright banning ingredients in perfume while everything else from bleach to peanuts only gets a warning label? Because according to the EU, people who use perfumes cannot be trusted to read labels. Seriously.
One by one beloved perfumes were changed to the point they became unrecognizable and the industry kept quiet. Guerlain changed some formulas and discontinued others, Chanel (still!) kept denying anything was going on, pretending loyal customers were either dumb, anosmic or both and everyone else followed suit. It's their livelihood, after all.
It became clear that if anything was going to change, if anyone was going to say "enough!" it was not going to be the big corporations. They'd just keep on churning bottle after bottle of bland synthetic dreck, put all their money into marketing and shiny ad campaigns and pray we wouldn't notice. But we did and we still do. The answer seems to be coming from the indie perfumers, especially those dedicated to cultivating and using the best natural ingredient the world has to offer.
The Outlaw Perfume project is one such effort. The Natural Perfume Guild headed by Anya McCoy is embarking on creating a series of perfumes that would make IFRA itch. Made from the good stuff and smelling like perfume should smell, every Outlaw perfume will have a clear warning label. It's up to us to use them right. This project is backed by several bloggers and websites and will include reviews and exciting giveaways. Here are the other participating writers:
Elena at Perfume Shrine
Pat at Olfactarama
Donna at the Examiner.com
Carol at Waft by Carol
Beth at Perfume Smelling Things
Felicia at Fragrance Belles Lettres
Lucy at Indie Perfumes
Ida, Mark and Monica from Ca Fleure Bon
So, here's today's question: When did you become aware of IFRA and its influence on the perfume industry? What was the first reformulation you noticed?
Top image: Brigitte Bardot and Serge Gainsbourg as Bonnie & Clyde, 1968
Outlaw Perfume logo: Anya McCoy