Why Is It Always Perfume?


As I mentioned last week there is another regulatory crisis for fragrance on the horizon. For a comprehensive review of the details perfumer Pia Long has summarized it at this link. She explains the shoddy science being used to justify what is coming. I have always been astonished at the acceptance of it by the industry. There are enough big players and money to effectively push back. If they had the will to do it. The question I was asking myself after reading Ms. Long’s piece was, “Why?” Why is it that the perfume industry is so easy to take shots at? I am sure I don’t have all the answers, but I might have one.

Truth in Advertising?

Over the last twenty years there has been a trend in the wider beauty industry to clutch their pearls over “toxic” ingredients. Most of the time it is done in service for a new product to pry a customer away from the “dangerous” one they are currently using. They whisper at the counters that product has “blahblahblah, you know it causes cancer!” Lots of things cause cancer in high enough exposures. That is the key, exposure. In every beauty product or fragrance being sold the amounts are so far below the exposure limits it is farcical to consider them risks. As I tell anyone who brings this up, if you live in a big city the first breath you take every morning exposes you to more hazard than a lifetime of using your favorite beauty products. Which makes the safety argument specious.

It hadn’t really entered the perfume industry until the “clean” trend began a few years ago. Then several brands began producing these fragrances using this terminology. For all the reasons above, salesmanship and hucksterism, without a shred of evidence. Which then leads to why this nonsense is to be believed.

That comes from different people’s experiences. Those that ascribe a headache or watery eyes to someone wearing perfume. Perfume is always the blame when it comes to these things. Whether it is the culprit or not. Watery eyes could be caused by many things but if you smell something different that must be it. A headache? There are pages of what can cause that, but it must be the perfume.

What is particularly amusing is the people complaining are wearing clothes where the scent of their fabric softener is detectable along with the soap they used and shampoo. Those all have fragrance in it. When I have been in workplaces where the idea of a perfume ban has come up, I ask if that means you are going to also mandate scent-free clothing detergent, soap, and shampoo? They always back down. The analogy I use is nut allergies. If someone in a workplace has one you don’t ban food. You take precautions. Yet perfume is always the bad guy. The easy answer to show you’re taking action.

Which is why I think the regulators feel free to do what ever they want. They know the big corporate owners won’t push back. There is a significant segment of the public that has bought into a false argument that perfume is “toxic/dangerous”. It is barely discernable from cigarettes and vape pens in the eyes of these groups.

Sadly, I believe it is far too late to do anything about this. The argument has been lost long before these new regulations have appeared. What is providing a silver lining for me are the perfumers themselves. If there is anything I have learned from observing the fragrance industry these women and men can do amazing things. They have overcome these kinds of hurdles in the past. There is no reason that it won’t happen this time. Sure, there are going to be some things which will be legislated out of existence. Yet I believe my favorite artists will use their talents to save most of the things we like. That is what is going to allow me to smile through this storm.

Mark Behnke

2 thoughts on “Why Is It Always Perfume?

  1. I never forgave them for Oakmoss. You see all sorts of companies using it again, nowadays, in complaint amounts, combined with compliant amplifiers. (Thank the gods and goddesses) Yes, I agree with you Mark. Perfumers aren’t going to be stopped by this nonsense. Perfume still matters to them and it’s good to see this. Thanks for writing again, Mark! You have been sorely missed!!!

  2. Thank you for writing this! We have entered a period where wearing perfume is considered bad manners–people raise their heads and say “Someone in here is wearing perfume!” in an accusing tone. Or, as my workplace put it, “If your perfume can be detected by others, it is unacceptable.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *