The Changing Face Of Fragrance
Do you ever sigh when you hear an older person complaining about how nothing is the same as their generation, how food doesn't taste the same and clothes are too flimsy. Well if you ever hear them say how their favourite fragrance doesn't smell the same they might just have a case.
Over the past couple of decades the fragrance industry has experienced a radical shift in both their manufacturing process and the fundamental structures of how they operate as a business. This is due to the industries governing body, the International Fragrance Association who are beginning to have a major impact on the industry by placing increased restrictions on the kind of ingredients that can legally be used.
Due to more thorough research into consumer products, the total list of banned ingredients is always on the rise, and this impact is creating conflict and dividing the industry. Due to new hunting laws, exotic items such as musk and ambergris have been banned for a number of decades now, the former coming from the gland of the musk deer and the latter from the vomit of whales. These types of restrictions are obvious to grasp, however it is items such as oakmoss and nutmeg oil which have caused the most controversy, because the effects of these ingredients are seen by the perfumers as petty in comparison.
Ambergris has been known to sometimes wash ashore on a beach, making it perfectly legal to use, so if you are ever taking a stroll down the beach and stumble upon an unnatural looking rock you may just be sitting on a fortune. A girl who found a chunk of ambergris recently sold it for $30,000 so keep your eyes peeled.
Oakmoss has been a staple of the perfume world for the last century, prized for its characteristic earthy aroma, but was recently banned because it has been shown to cause skin irritation in a small number of people. Nutmeg oil however acts as a mild carcinogen, and can cause tumours and cancer in rodents. These types of restrictions have caused frenzy throughout the industry, and perfumers are now scrambling to synthesise all the ingredients they previously took for granted.
Nowadays you are as likely to need a master’s degree in chemistry as much as a ‘good nose’ to work in fragrance, and the industry has seen a backlash from some insiders who feel the artistry is being slowly removed from the process. It has also had an impact on the smell of a large number of classic fragrances, which have had to reformulate their fragrances with synthetics or in some cases completely remove certain ingredients.
So if you’re old enough to remember the original scent of Chanel no5 or Guerlain Mitsuoko and something feels unfamiliar, you are more than likely to be smelling a reformulated, partly synthetic version of your old favourite. And while this means a loss of character for some of the best loved fragrances of all time, it is here to stay so we should probably get used to it.
For a further look at this phenomenon, check out this article from WIRED magazine.