Thursday, 31 March 2011

So... What Would You Like To Ask IFRA?

Ok, I've been teasing you about this for weeks, but the time has come to let the cat out of the bag and enlist your help. The person I'm soon going to interview for Basenotes is... the Director of the UK branch of IFRA (formerly the British Fragrance Association). 

Did that get your attention?

Good, I'm glad.
When I set up the interview, I made it very clear that Basenotes readers would feel let down if I didn't ask questions about what many perfume lovers consider to be emotive, infuriating issues. Indeed, I think I used the words: "IFRA's gradual destruction of Europe's perfumery culture"... or something along those lines. I'm pleased to say that the response from the PR people was that raising such subjects wouldn't be a problem.

So, this is your chance to air those oakmossy grievances and articulate those cinnamon woes. Tell me what you'd like me to ask. Naturally, I've already got a long list of my own questions, but I'm sure you can come up with loads of things I haven't thought of.

By all means feel free to leave your questions as a comment on this post, but on this particular occasion, you may wish to consider sending them to me directly at persolaise at gmail dot com. I don't want to turn this process into Cold War-style espionage, but if your questions need the element of surprise in order to be effective, then perhaps it would be wiser not to leave them in a public Comments section that could be read by anybody...

I'm looking forward to receiving your suggestions. Don't hold back!



  1. OMGZ! I just had a giggle fit. I don't have any questions as of yet, but I will think about it. Good job securing this interview!

  2. Great, Persolaise! I can't wait for this interview! You'll be wonderful I am sure, after that line "the gradual destruction of perfumery culture" I am sure the Director of IFRA UK is not particularly looking forward to this meeting (not to say quaking in his boots). ;)

  3. I don't think I can come up with any question that won't seem offensive to me, let alone your guest.
    This is a sore subject for me and I don't appreciate what they did one little bit so I'll simply enjoy your interview as I'm sure it will be very interesting (it certainly hints that way). :)

  4. Hi Persolaise,

    Well done first of all on the gig! I'm sure you're excited and nervous (maybe) too.

    I'd ask them why the feel the need to tinker and interfere? I understand health risks, carcinogens etc. but if someone can eat copious amounts of basil but not smell low concentrations of the oil, "How does IFRA justify it's regulations? What procedures and measures do they take?"

    -forgive the basil reference, i can't find a source but remember reading this somewhere...

    Also, more importantly, I'd ask them something in a positive light as it's easy to get our backs up. I'd ask, "What they feel they've contributed to the industry in a positive aspect? Is there something they feel they've set in place to inspire or foster the industry?"

    Hope these help in some way, shape or form. Keep us posted for the interview itself ;)


  5. Liam said it all , enjoy putting him on the hot spot and don't hold back.

  6. Ask about warning labels...why not use warning labels instead of banning or severely limiting the use of certain ingredients if allergens are the concern?

  7. Since your allergy regulations resulted in degraded and/or discontinued fragrance classics by the scores, please just put allergy warning labels on the fragrances` boxes, and let the manufacturers/perfumers go back to producing the gems they created that we sorely miss! Warnings work for the much more harsh world of hair dye, so scent should be a cinch!!

  8. Carrie, thanks. I look forward to seeing what you come up with.

  9. Olfactoria, thanks very much for the vote of confidence, but I should say that I'm not planning on adopting an overly confrontational mannner... at least not to start with.

    Oh, and by the way, the Director is a woman... and I doubt she's quaking ;-)

  10. Ines, fair enough. I hope the article turns out to be worth reading.

  11. Liam, thanks for the helpful suggestions. And yes, I definitely intend to ask them about what they see as their positive contributions.

  12. Angela, thank you... but I'd never enjoy putting ANYBODY in the hot spot.

  13. Alice, thank you. As it happens, I've already received three emails today making the same suggestion.

  14. Linda, thank you. I suspect this is an area on which I'll dwell for quite some time.

  15. Firstly, I would like to know where the line is drawn with IFRA- at what point does a product not longer fall under IFRA regulations? If, say, a product is not used on the skin, would it be treated differently?

    Secondly, why would skin tests not be a suitable option with fragrance like with most beauty products?

  16. I would like to know if the mid 80s formulation of Magie Noire would be technically legal today. Because if so, could Lancome please find it in themselves to bring it back in its original form? A lot of us would pay over the odds for the real - as in old - deal.

    PS You are such a tease, Persolaise! Also with your truncated / collapsed post design which serves to fuel the suspense... : - )

  17. I am mostly interested in the banning issue, like most of us. I would love to see a direct response on the issue. If a warning label is satisfactory for potentially lethal food allergens ("may contain peanuts or peanut by products") then why is it not sufficient for a topical product that is not nearly as dangerous?

    ps: great interview, P. What a coup. I can't wait to read the article.

  18. Alexander, thanks for your suggestions. Your second question - or different versions of it - certainly seems to be one to which many people would like an answer.

    As for your first, I suspect the asnwer is that IFRA standards don't apply to a fragrance designed, say, only for fabric, but I'll try to find out if I'm right.

  19. Vanessa, I have a feeling the Director won't be in a position to comment on individual perfumes, but your question raises a crucial point.

    IFRA doesn't set the law. Individual countries - or groups of countries, such as the EU - set the actual laws as to what is and isn't permitted in a perfume. They also set the law as to what IS permitted but MUST be declared on the packaging.

    There's every possibility that the original formulation of Magie Noire might be legal today... but perhaps Lancome feel it wouldn't be prudent to release it in that form... and that's when we enter the interesting, grey area of the pressures applied on perfumers by the twin forces of IFRA and the lawmakers.

  20. Jen, yes, this is the question that most people are asking. (I've had loads of emails about it.)

    Let's see what the Director's response is... although I suspect it'll be that the perfume houses are free to do what they like, because IFRA doesn't make the laws...

  21. What a scoop, Persolaise! Well done.

    I'm with Jen, that's a very good question, and I'm sure you will press the diesctor on that.

    I would like to ask how the director feels about the perfume bans cropping up in the US and other places. Does she agree with them? Does she see that, even though IFRA don't make the law, their findings can be used by nanny-staters and over-controlling corporations to justify scented product bans? Does this concern her?

    Yes, that is a bugbear of mine ;-) So feel free to tone it down a bit.

  22. Persolaise, you've got me thinking about it, I even couldn't fall asleep for a while!

    I tried reading IFRA's site but I didn't find that information easily and I'm not that determined to keep looking but I'm curious so I'll throw in my question here.

    I understand that an Independent Panel reviews data and assesses risks of different ingredients. But how are the data collected? Are there also independent studies on allergies? Are those testings blind (double-blind)? In layman terms, how many people (as a percentage in testing and as an absolute number) should demonstrate an allergic reaction (and how severe it should be) for, let's say, lavender to be banned/restricted?

  23. Tania, thanks. I will definitely try to explore the issue of how much power is wielded by a body that doesn't officially make any laws...

  24. Undina, your questions are great. I'll definitely try to get some info about the reliability of RIFM's findings.

  25. Hello Persolaise! This is a fantastic opportunity you have, this interview. Thank you for extending the opportunity to us out here in perfumeland!

    My questions:

    What exactly does "restriction" mean? Does it mean only so much of an ingredient is available, or that only so much of an ingredient can be used?

    Perhaps this is outside the sphere of the IFRA...Will the IFRA restrictions effect the livelihoods of plant growers and their workers?

    The IFRA's proposed restrictions don't seem to mesh with the average person's ideas about fragrance. A simple internet search will tell you that mainstream consumers are concerned with "chemicals" in fragrances, believing they cause cancer and are harmful to the environment. Those consumers are turning to natural fragrances. If IFRA restrictions make it difficult to create natural fragrances and all that's available are fragrances perceived as harmful, consumers will be unwilling to spend.
    How does the IFRA plan to change the consumer's perceptions of aromachemicals?


  26. JoanElaine, thanks for writing.

    As far as IFRA Standards are concerned, a 'restriction' refers to a proportional quantity in which a certain ingredient may be used in a perfumed product.

    I'm not sure if IFRA see it as part of their role to inform the public about aromachemicals, but if the opportunity arises, I'll raise the issue.

  27. God forbid you should be rude , just call me the Jeremy Paxman of perfume .I am firmly in my place now.

  28. Angela, I wasn't trying to put anyone in their place... and if you've got Paxman's skills, then you can come with me to the interview ;-)


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