Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Outlaw Perfume- The Revolution Has Started

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


  1. Anya was the reason I knew of IFRA and embarrassed to admit I was one of those people that thought it would stop.. well that's obviously wrong. So let us join the fight in whatever way we can!

  2. I think it's been 2 years now that I'm aware of the IFRA regulations.
    The problem for me though wasn't that I noticed the changes, it was the fact that I kept smelling things that everyone talked about and couldn't understand what was srong with me that I kept missing all those wonderful aspects everyone mentioned. It took me a while to realize that what they talked about wasn't the same thing now available but some older versions.

  3. It's been 2-3 years now that I learnt about IFRA...

    The first shock came by smelling Opium, a perfume I knew very well and that was left as a shadow of his former self...
    The biggest "HATE IFRA" I cried in 2010: what is happening to the non chypre Guerlains (Jicky and Shalimar and god knows what else) is downright criminal.
    These very last reformulations have replaced heaven-on-earth guerlinade with a cheap, disturbing base....
    I "hate ifra", but I wish the outlaw perfumes were the Chanels and Guerlains, rather than the all-natural concoctions. Sorry if I sound rude...

  4. A few years ago, via the perfume blogs, and I noticed that Mitsouko seemed to have had her claws cut, all of a sudden. I still like the current Mitsouko, but I remember trying a version that was noticeably more temperamental and "difficult".

  5. About 18 months ago I raised my concern with Chanel that Cristalle had been reformulated because it didn't smell the same. They consistenly denied any change and sent me new bottles in exchange for ones I thought were faulty - but all these were identical to the ones I complained about!

    I couldn't believe that I had suddenly lost my appreciation of Cristalle (and in fact found testers in stores that still smelt like the old Chanel), so I started trawling the internet and discovered perfume blogs (that's a whole other story!) and the information about what IFRA was doing and how certain companies were complying and lying. Of course I was elated by realising that I was right after all, but so very sad about the whole thing. And I support everything Zazie says. Jill

  6. First alarm? Mitsouko, definitely. I started hoarding the old, good stuff. My mother noted the first (still denied) No 5 reformulation, she refused to buy a bottle, and no longer wears perfume! She was pretty angry....

  7. I read about ifra for the first time in your blog. I was totally unaware of what has been going on in the perfume industry. After reading much about the restrictions and the reformulations, it happened to smell Calvin Kline's "Truth" and it was a disappointment with a big D. I used to wear that perfume when it was launched and it was an elegant, flowery, airy, fresh fragrance. It wasn't earthshaking but it was simply beautiful. In a second i understood what all the bloggers have been talking about. The moment the last bottles of the vintage perfumes will be consumed, what shall we do? Stop wearing perfume at all? A few weeks ago i happened to discover a bottle (100 ml) of vintage Miss Dior and i am happy about it!!!

  8. I became seriously interested in perfume about 4/5 years ago, and I was aware of IFRA soon after. While I haven't suffered true "reformulation shock", the signs abounded... such as my Mother complaining that the new bottle of Private Collection didn't smell the same.

    Of course, I only truly realized what all this meant when I first sniffed a very old pure parfum extrait of Chanel 19 I found in my Grandmother's things. And then the vintage bottles of Femmes de Rochas and Jolie Madame I was lucky to find... they are all very different animals indeed.

  9. I think the first time I read anything about it was around the time I was pregnant with my daughter, in 2003. I started becoming truly alarmed by the time I was pregnant with my son, in 2006.

    The first reformulation I noticed (which no one else seems to) is La Chasse Aux Papillons. I have an old bottle from 2000, and can still smell it quite distinctly, but am completely anosmatic when it comes to all the bottles I have received since then.

    The one that makes me weep and rail against the IFRA is Mitsouko. Please, please, go back to the old formulas!!

  10. Great topic! Just yesterday I walked into a rather decent perfume store and asked to sniff Chanel 19 EdT. The EdP used to be my signature scent for years until they badly messed with it. I hoped that the EdT was an option (it's okay but nothing can bring back the glory of the EdP pre-reformulation). When I told the SA she replied that no, no, nothing had changed because Chanel hadn't given them any notice. Pathetic.

  11. Oh my word! This sounds fantastic! I've loved fragrances and scents all my life, but I've only heard about the IFRA regulations over the last couple of years (when I came across various fragrance blogs). I knew that from time to time fragrances started smelling different, or off, but thought it was just my nose. I was livid that formulas would be changed because people couldn't just avoid things that bothered them (maybe a little too simplistic on my part, but that's how I felt/feel...yes, I know that some people have severe allergies, but I think IFRA has taken things way too far). I love what Outlaw perfume is doing and can't wait to smell real, unadulterated, no-limits fragrances.

  12. My nose has been telling me for the last couple of years! My favorite perfumes (Chanel included) and new fragrances just didn't smell right on me. I had stopped buying fragrance and was only wearing old stuff I'd had around for years and even decades. I only recently heard about the IFRA from your blog. Now I know it wasn't that my chemistry had changed...the perfume's had! I have officially goined the seekers of vintage perfumes. Doesn't Big Brother have more important things to worry about?

  13. Morning all,
    I first heard about the IFRA in 2008, I think.... the first scent I noticed was my beloved Cristalle-I'd worn it for 25 years (since high school) and noticed it didn't have the bones it once had.

    Then two other scents that I'd worn for 25 or so years, EL's Private Collection, and Aliage changed. I'd just finished up relatively older bottles (from the early 90's) and headed to the local EL counter to restock. When I sniffed the bottle I had just purchased and noticed the change, I made a comment about reformulation, and got a blank stare from the SA. I promptly returned them and went searching on-line for older vintage bottles.

    The final straw for me was the reformulation of my beloved Magie Noire. I finished up an older bottle and headed to the Lancome counter to discover the body cream was discontinued and they no longer made the extrait. It's just madness.

    I've read numbers that perfume sales are down, I'm sure it's mainly due to the horrible economy we're having-but I do think that there are so many mainstream releases per year that the market is saturated.

  14. I knew about the IFRA restrictions two years ago, when I started to read about it in perfume blogs.
    But by then I had already noticed the reformulation of one of my first perfumes: Pierre Cardin Blue Marine pour Elle. I know that this perfume doesn't get much attention from the perfume blogosphere but I loved how it smelt 8-9 years ago (floral with lots of cedar). Fortunately, I still own a bottle of the "vintage" juice.
    I don't know if it was changed because of the IFRA restrictions or just because the brand made it cheaper and more mainstream.
    And then Lancôme changed Miracle. That still hurts! :(

  15. I haven't worn mainstream perfumes in a long time so I can speak on any of the reformulations. I sort of converted to scented body oils for awhile before I started in natural perfumery about 4 yrs ago. That is when I learned of IFRA but really didn't pay much attention until about 2 yrs ago.

  16. I think I became aware of it about the same time you did. The first one that the change really hit me over the head (or on the nose) was Hadrien. Just a travesty.

    They claim no reformulation too.

  17. Cristalle EDT (lets not even think about the bogus EDP or the 'verte' version) was my moment, Mitsouko, No 5, Hadrien came later... and Caleche? One even starts imagining it, I find. Interesting to me that I look at The Non-Blonde often here in the UK, because it's human and well written; I've bought things as a result, and discovered L'Heure Bleu and Jicky (and what must the pre IFRA model have been like!) - but this is the first time I've been moved to post a comment - or bothered. It's a civil liberties matter! Thank you for galvanising me!

  18. Cristalle EDT (lets not mention the bogus EDP or 'verte' versions), Mitsouko, No 5, Hadrien, Caleche? Eau Sauvage? (better on me than on my husband, but it now seems feeble ) - the trouble is that one can start imagining it. I often read The Non-Blonde here in the UK - it's human and well written, and fun, and I've discovered L'Heure Bleu and Jicky (and what must that have been like in the original) - but am fascinated it is this topic only that has galvanised me to post a comment. It's a civil liberties matter! Outlaw Perfumes sound wonderful. Will there be scent police out on the streets?

  19. about three months ago I got notice of IFRA's bad influence. I noticed that the new Jicky is only a shadow of my rest of vintage extrait. Sigh. Since then I spent a lot of money and time to hoard and hamster "my" perfumes (and there are quite some on my list...)in as vintage as possible formulations and store them cool and dark for the time coming.

  20. I think I found out about IFRA from your blog, though I'm not sure. I hadn't thought about Opium. When I was a teenager, I used to like Opium, and now I don't, but I had assumed it was because my tastes had changed. Perhaps, Zazie, even though I don't know Opium very well, my gut reaction is that the reformulation is no good.

    I have to agree, I love Jicky and wish all the oldies would return to being goodies.

    Still, I'm open to new scents, and will go searching out the Outlaws.

  21. I didn't realize this was going on until I read your blog. Then again I'm not surprised, the EU seems to try to regulate everything down to the most minute detail. You don't need that much government regulation, common sense is quite important too, i.e. break out ergo, stop using.


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