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The Spirit of the Brand

By: Jeff Falk
Posted: August 28, 2008, from the April 2007 issue of GCI Magazine.

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GCI: With prevailing consumer interest in naturals, is there a growing and general notion that fragrance-free skin care products are superior to those with fragrances?

AR: There is a concern that fragrance can contribute to an irritant response in some individuals. Whether this population is significant in size is still open to debate. However, there are product lines and product types within a line that are more successful when developed as “fragrance-free.” An eye cream may be developed with a fragrance-free approach due to the more delicate nature of the tissue on which it is applied while other products in the line carry a fragrance.

P-C G: The amount of perfume in skin care product is very often under 0.5% of the total formulation of the product, but usually gives the identity and supports the efficacy of the product in a subjective way.

GCI: It has been suggested that products designated as fragrance-free should contain no fragrance chemicals. Is this realistic? What do consumers, in general, seek in skin care as related to fragrance?

AR: While many consumers would prefer a fragrance-free product, the notes of the base that often come through make it difficult for them to use the product. Many will, in my opinion, return to a fragranced product. Those consumers who perceive their skin to be sensitive may or may not react poorly to fragranced products.

Flooding the market with a plethora of unfragranced product will cause uproar from consumers. They will look to the product supplier to provide a fragrance that supports the product concept. The ability to reduce the odor in the base is difficult, especially with the growing number of natural ingredients being promoted. These naturals have their own characteristic (and not always pleasant) odor. Those who have experienced a reaction to fragranced products will use unfragranced (or hypoallergenic) products regardless of the product’s base notes.

P-C G: To perfume a cosmetic product is not an easy job. Aside from dealing with technically complex bases that are hard to mask (the natural smell of some active ingredients is very fishy or fat-nutty), stability issues (sun products) or even color change, the fragrance in a cosmetic is also an olfactive challenge.

Making the right perfume for skin care means understanding the target—men/women, elderly consumers or young skin with acne problems; enhancing the active ingredients within the products—a cucumber fragrance for a cucumber extract, a fresh fruity smell for a cream with fruit acids; and translating the efficacy of the product. It has to smell good and be a pleasure product, but has to be efficacious in the first place.