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The Changing Role of Fragrance in Personal Washes

By: Jeb Gleason-Allured, Editor, Perfumer & Flavorist
Posted: January 12, 2009

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P&F: What are the unique demands for masculine and feminine categories? Are these evolving? If so, how?

Van Dyk: In a crowded market, successful products capture consumer interest with differentiable feminine and masculine benefits and fragrances. Delivering products and fragrances that capture the attention of the masses is no longer the only route to success. Successful product ranges are also targeting smaller unique consumer segments with benefits and fragrances loved specifically by these groups, which may not directly appeal to the masses, but bring incremental users to the brand. For women, the trends in personal wash go beyond cleansing efficacy; cleansing is a given. Now women demand that their products do more for skin health, physical appearance, well-being or the overall shower experience. Even the most functional of soap products are offering moisturization benefits or exfoliation with ribbons, beads, oils and natural ingredients. We are also seeing age-defying/pro-age elements, vitamins, nutrient replenishment, antioxidants, hydrating and end-look benefits such as skin luminosity, glow, radiance, brightness, smooth skin, etc. Natural ingredients will continue to grow in importance among women. Environmental responsibility values for products is just beginning and communication that focuses on naturals, organics, etc., is a stepping stone for providing these values. All of these extra benefits are going to become increasingly important as consumers’ expectations increase.

Women are very knowledgeable about their fragrance likes and dislikes. They want their personal wash fragrances to be sophisticated and fun. This often requires elements that connote natural caring and sometimes sensual beauty. There is a move away from simple gourmand blends toward warm, sexy, beautiful, indulgent fragrances that enhance attributes of nourishment, moisturization or hydration in the product. Themes are sophisticated and complex yet comfortable and sexy, greatly influenced by combining fine fragrance and gourmand trends.

For men, what was once a deodorant claims (or deodorancy) market for personal wash is now being revitalized by following cues in skin cleansing and care from women’s products. There will continue to be both ends of the spectrum in men’s products: products that target men who want a more involved personal-care routine and products that target men who want to simplify.

For men who are looking for simplicity, there are an increasing number of 2-in-1 products that can serve double duty. Watch for 3-in-1’s soon. If men can use one product that cleans and has a positive effect on their appearance, hair or skin health, that’s a bonus. Manufacturers are becoming savvier as to the differing needs of men’s skin. They are offering new sensitive formulations to address the need for skin-caring products. Thanks to the men’s body wash explosion, there’s a much broader range of fragrance styles being accepted by men than ever before, allowing for a continuation of innovative fragrance types in the future. The men’s market is seeing more blends of olfactive families with increased complexity, fine fragrance influence and sophisticated styles. There is also an increase of modern fougères with unisex clean, crisp top notes being favored by men. Scent is clearly at the top of men’s minds and products are responding, such as with claims of longer-lasting scent technology.

P&F: What types of scents are being offered in the category?

Van Dyk: Overall, the category is evolving rapidly, with olfactively interesting new options available to the consumer every day. As the market becomes more cluttered, it is important to use the right fragrance to reinforce a brand and support the product’s message.

For women, personal wash has evolved into a more complex fragrance experience than ever before, wherein personal wash can be fun and sensorial at the same time. Meanwhile, a unique olfactive trend seen in both men’s and women’s personal wash products is the use of contrasting notes balancing freshness and warmth within a fragrance. Some current trends are:

  • Complex blends growing faster than fragrances dominated by singular notes
  • Fruity accords that convey freshness, as well as subtle fresh floral notes • Gourmand fragrances, blending fine fragrance types and creamy textures with indulgent edible notes
  • New olfactive proposals that are changing consumers’ preferences toward what is the smell of clean
  • Caring blends accented with crisp or exotic notes, as opposed to the singular citrus blends of the past that needed to convey only cleansing
  • For men, classic fougère fragrance types still prevail in masculine personal care products, but there’s a shift toward new fresh and spicy accent notes and blends that add modernity and a sensorial experience

P&F: Natural is today’s hot-button marketing term. But what challenge does that present for IFF’s fragrance formulators?

Van Dyk: One of the biggest challenges is that there is no consistent global definition of just what is natural or “green” in terms of finished fragrance products. Everyone has his own definition.