The Beauty Brains receive a lot of questions about fragrance in beauty products so we thought you’d enjoy learning a bit more about the science behind the scents. Over the next few weeks we’ll be running a multi-part series that will discuss the chemistry of fragrance ingredients, how companies decide what kind of fragrance to put in products, and how new regulations can help protect you from fragrance allergies. Part 1 gets the ball rolling right now by describing what a fragrance is and where it comes from:
Definition of Fragrance
Fragrance is a mixture of fragrant essential oils and aroma compounds, fixatives, and solvents used to give the human body, objects, and living spaces a pleasant smell. In the context of beauty care products, fragrance really means two things. First, it can refer to a scent that you wear on your body like Chanel, Dolce & Gabanna Light Blue, or Donna Karan Gold. This definition is the one most people probably think of first. But the term also refers to scents that are added to beauty products to cover the base odor of the chemicals and to make the products more exciting to consumers.
The terms fragrance, perfume, and cologne are sometimes used interchangeably but they don’t necessarily mean the same thing. Strictly speaking, fragrance is a broader term covering all aroma chemical mixtures. Perfumes and cologne describe a specific type of fragrance that is worn on the body. (The term Cologne comes from the name of the German city where it was invented.)
Where Do Fragrances Come From?
While a fragrance can be a simple natural oil, (rose oil comes to mind for example) most fragrances are compounded from many ingredients some of which are natural and some of which are not. Who creates a fragrance? You may be surprised to find the companies that sell hair and skin care products do not, in general, make their own scents. Even the companies that sell the perfumes mentioned above don’t make their own fragrances. And no, Britney Spears did not make her Curious fragrance! Instead, fragrances are developed by companies that specialize in perfumery, known as fragrance houses. There are dozens (if not hundreds) of these companies around the world. The largest global fragrance suppliers include companies like Givaudan, International Fragrances and Flavors, and Firmenich. (By the way, these companies not only create fragrances but they are also responsible for developing most of the flavors used in the food industry today.)
Fragrance houses work with finished product manufacturers to create new scents for all kinds of beauty products. They are involved in every aspect of fragrance creation: from predicting the next hot fragrance trend, to understanding the science of chemistry, to consumer testing of new fragrance/product combinations. In most cases, this development work is carried by under the direction of the finished product manufacturer.
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Beginning the Creative Process – The Fragrance Brief:
A brief is a document the finished product manufacturer provides to the fragrance house to direct the fragrance development. It establishes the objective of the project, the conceptual direction, and pricing parameters. In other words, tt tells the fragrance house everything they need to know to be able to create a new fragrance.
Once the direction for the project has been set, the actual fragrance development can begin. This work is done by highly trained perfumers who use a pallet of aroma chemicals to create new scents in the same way that an artist uses a color pallet to create a painting. In Fragrance Science Part 2 we’ll discuss how this fragrance creation process actually works.