Fragrances in cosmetics, are they new forbidden ingredients?

It seems that lately, you hear over and over again to avoid any type of cosmetics that include fragrance as the are the main cause of contact dermatitis or eczema or even worse.  The issue has many folds and, there is also a lot of good news about fragrances that no one really tells you.

Perfume has a marketing role: smells have incredible effects on our brains. Hyper connected to our emotions, they lead us by the tip of the nose. Observe yourself choosing a cream: one of your first instincts is certainly to smell it. Unconsciously, we link certain fragrances to expected benefits: citrus notes for an energizing treatment, rose for an anti-aging … A real purchasing criterion! Perfumes have invaded our daily lives so much that their absence becomes almost suspect: odorless, a treatment seems less effective. So why the movement to remove them from our cosmetics?

The risks associated with perfume allergens are risks of irritation or allergies only for people sensitive to these substances

Only around 1 to 3% of the population will define themselves as being allergic. Allergens in cosmetics can create irritations or allergies only for people sensitive to these substances, they are not necessarily dangerous for the rest of the population.

What is the biggest problem in fragrances?

The many solvents, that are  very polluting, used to extract, dilute and fix odorous molecules. These include toluene, a toxic derivative of benzene, irritant and capable of causing headaches and nausea. All endocrine disruptors which cross the skin barrier of the dermis and the placenta.  They are Irritating, and, neurotoxic

The most common ones in perfumes: phthalates from petroleum, denatured alcohol (Alcohol Denat.) Obtained by adding glycol esters or even synthetic musk which is found in almost all synthetic fragrances.


In Europe, cosmetic products are governed by the European Regulation on cosmetic products (Regulation (EC) No. 1223/2009). Unlike the United States and Canada, in addition to the word “fragrance”, European manufacturers have been required, since 2003, to clearly indicate in the list of ingredients the allergens contained in their products.

When their concentration exceeds 0.001% in non-rinsed products (creams, lotions, etc.) and 0.01% in rinsed products (shampoos, makeup removers, masks, etc.).

Here is the list of only 26 of these fragrance substances recognized as allergenic are listed in the Cosmetic Regulations:


  • Alpha-Isomethyl ionone (synthetic)
  • Amyl cinnamal (synthetic)
  • Amylcinnamyl alcohol (synthetic)
  • Anise alcohol (natural or synthetic)
  • Benzyl alcohol (natural or synthetic)
  • Benzyl benzoate (natural or synthetic)
  • Benzyl cinnamate (natural or synthetic)
  • Benzyl salicylate (natural or synthetic)
  • Butylphenyl methylpropional (synthetic)
  • Cinnamal (natural or synthetic)
  • Cinnamyl alcohol (natural or synthetic)
  • Citral (natural or synthetic)
  • Citronellol (natural or synthetic)
  • Coumarin (natural or synthetic)
  • Eugenol (natural or synthetic)
  • Farnesol (natural or synthetic)
  • Geraniol (natural or synthetic)
  • Hexyl cinnamal (synthetic)
  • Hydroxycitronnellal (synthetic)
  • Hydroxyisohexyl 3-cyclohexene carboxaldehyde (synthetic)
  • Isoeugenol (natural or synthetic)
  • Limonene (natural or synthetic)
  • Linalool (natural or synthetic)
  • Methyl 2-octynoate (synthetic)
  • Evernia prunastri (naturally occurring)
  • Evernia furfuracea (naturally occurring)

Note that due to many cases of allergies observed among consumers, Hydroxyisohexyl 3-cyclohexene carboxaldehyde, as well as atranol and chloratranol (main components of Evernia) will be banned in all cosmetics from August 23. 2021 (and from August 23, 2019 for new product launches).

Click here to see David Suzuki’s dirty dozen of fragrances  :





What are the labeling obligations for brands?


In the INCI list, perfume (made up of several substances) is a special case. The regulations allow the manufacturer not to mention each of its perfuming substances on the product, but only the terms “perfumes” or even “aroma”.

However, brands are required to mention the presence of fragrance allergens listed in the Cosmetic Regulations in the list of ingredients when they cross the following thresholds in the finished product:


  • 0.001% for leave-in products (perfumes, creams, oils, etc.)
  • 0.01% for rinse-off products (shampoos, shower gels, etc.)


As mentioned above we know the fragrances are present in cosmetics at very small quantities, But cosmetics are far from being the only source. If you truly want to eliminate fragrances you also need to think about perfumes: eau de toilette, detergents, household products, room fragrances and even sometimes toilet paper! Let’s add plastics, food additives, paints, etc… All of the products to which we are exposed on a daily basis.

This  repetition + multiplicity of exposure sources: is known as the cocktail effect. It is even suspected that, as with carcinogens, there is no real threshold effect.


Generalization is impossible for fragrances. To give you a simple allergen comparison example. When we look at Organic olive oil for cooking it will be badly rated because it contains too many calories and therefore is bad for your health. However,when we take the amount of use of this product (ie, a teaspoon for cooking, good for health)we have a different result. The same is true for cosmetics. An organic essential oil or not contains allergens, if a drop of essential oil (0.02ml) is diluted in one hundredth, the proportion of allergens becomes homeopathic!


There are natural fragrances often made from pure essential oils or modified to remove certain components (risky or allergenic). At Morganna’s Alchemy we use and have incorporated these types of fragrances into some of our products.

  • Also made up of CO2 extracts (very pure and fragrant plant extracts), they contain no trace of water, sugar or protein, which greatly facilitates their conservation!
  • Diluted in ethanol or in an oily carrier of natural origin, such as Caprylis oil, natural fragrances provide fresh, soft and light scents, which are pleasant to incorporate into various recipes. .
  • Our natural cosmetic fragrances are “Ecocertifiable”, that is to say accepted by Ecocert in the formulation of organic cosmetics. The raw materials of natural origin that compose them are therefore obtained by processes accepted by Ecocert including distillation

extraction with accepted solvents (water / glycerin, alcohol, vegetable oils, CO2), roasting, hydrolysis, hydrogenation and oxidation (only under certain conditions accepted by Ecocert and ecological) … The use of biotechnologies (fermentations by microorganisms) is accepted on condition that it does not use genetically modified organisms

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