Why Fragrance Disclosure?

For 75 years, fragrance suppliers have enjoyed special protections that allow fragrance ingredients to be kept secret from consumers, researchers, and regulators. Fragrance suppliers are not required by law to provide full ingredient disclosure to manufacturers or regulators. As a result, consumers get incomplete information regarding the ingredients in their personal care products, manufacturers are unable to provide consumers with the full ingredient disclosure they are asking for, and regulators are unable to determine the full scope of ingredients on the market being used to formulate cosmetics. American fragrance houses – and their trade associations — are desperately trying to hold on to this special privilege, even as other industries and European fragrance suppliers have become more transparent about the ingredients in their products.

As a result, any one product containing “fragrance” – a word representing an unidentified mixture of up to hundreds of ingredients, can contain sensitizers, allergens, respiratory irritants, carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, neurotoxic chemicals, or environmental toxicants. Hair product choice, in particular, is unfairly restricted: more than 95 percent of shampoos, conditioners, and styling products contain fragrance.[1] Without required fragrance ingredient disclosure, it is impossible for consumers to avoid problematic ingredients or for researchers and regulators to understand the full universe of ingredients being used to formulate cosmetic products.

Lack of full fragrance disclosure negatively impacts consumers, manufacturers and regulators. The Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM), responsible for the bulk of fragrance ingredient testing, does not make all of its safety data available to those outside of the fragrance industry and, as a result, there is very little safety information on many fragrance ingredients in the public domain. The complete list of fragrance ingredients with potential allergenic, carcinogenic, endocrine-disrupting, or neurotoxic properties may be much larger than current estimates.

Senators Feinstein and Collins introduced federal cosmetic safety legislation known as the Personal Care Products Safety Act in 2015 which continues to extend this “trade secret” privilege to fragrance suppliers, however with the growing body of evidence linking fragrance chemicals to chronic disease, fragrance houses no longer deserve this special protection. Full fragrance ingredient disclosure will allow consumers to make safer and more informed decisions, benefit manufacturers who want to practice a higher level of transparency and provide regulators with the information they need to more effectively regulate the safety of cosmetic products. Full ingredient disclosure is needed now.

Health Effects

Trade Secrets

Additional Resources

[1] Scheman, A., Jacob, S., Katta, R., Nedorost, S., Warshaw, E., Zirwas, M. and Bhinder, M. (2011) Hair products: Trends and Alternatives: Data from the American Contact Alternatives Group. Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, 4(7), pp. 42- 46.