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INCI Name: Fragrance

By: Steve Herman
Posted: November 1, 2011, from the November 2011 issue of GCI Magazine.

“Our whole philosophy is one of transparency.” —Valerie Jarrett

In the four heavy tomes of the International Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary and Handbook, entries are given International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredient (INCI) names for labeling purposes on finished product packaging. Consumers may not know exactly how to interpret much of what’s on the label because the INCI names can be intimidating, but at least the information is there—and they can easily learn more if they want to. In all the thousands of entries, only two totally ambiguous names survive, shrouded in mystery, one of which we’ll discuss herein: Fragrance (parfum)—the other being flavor.

This ambiguity is perfectly legal. According to 21 CFR 701.3(a), “The label on each package of a cosmetic shall bear a declaration of the name of each ingredient in descending order of predominance, except that fragrance or flavor may be listed as fragrance or flavor.”

Conforming to the letter of the law is good, but is it enough for satisfying the needs of a new generation of consumers?

The beauty industry decided that self-regulation was the best path forward in the mid 1960s, and by the early 1970s a workable framework was in place for two segments of the overall industry. In cosmetics, the result was the International Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary and Handbook, product labeling and the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) To assure fragrance safety, the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM) launched a testing program and published the results in peer-reviewed journals. The International Fragrance Association (IFRA)issues guidelines for fragrance suppliers based on the RIFM testing and analysis of data. These guidelines may ban a material, impose quality standards or limit dosage in different applications. When computers and the Internet made it practical, a database was created summarizing all the available safety information for every material used in fragrances.