Fragrance and Raw Materials: Birds of a Feather

Jul 1, 2007 | Contact Author | By: Katie Schaefer, Cosmetics & Toiletries magazine
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Title: Fragrance and Raw Materials: Birds of a Feather
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There is more to fragrance formulation than meets the eye—or nose that is. Fragrance is incorporated into nearly every personal care product on the market and often is instrumental in a consumer’s choice; and with personal care formulas ever-evolving, it only follows that the fragrance industry would evolve along side it. During the fragrance selection process, a fragrance formulator must be conscientious of many of the same issues that personal care formulators face. Both raw material and fragrance formulators spend significant time in the lab testing different materials to determine which ingredients, oils, extracts, etc. best meet their formulation and consumer’s needs. And although fragrance and personal care are two different industries, the discovery processes prove similar.

Leslie Smith, PhD, has been formulating fragrance for personal care products for a number of years, most recently as the vice president of fragrance technology for Coty/Lancaster. Although he recognizes that fragrance formulating is similar to that of a skin care active, he concedes that there are many details that go into producing a successful scent. Also similar are the technologies available for formulating fragrance and personal care products.

Trends in Delivery

Encapsulation is a trend that is growing in the personal care industry. Just as personal care formulators are enclosing actives to better deliver them to certain areas of the skin, so too are fragrance formulators attempting to encapsulate fragrance to better deliver the scent.

“[The fragrance industry] is currently looking at delivery in personal care. Fragrances would be encapsulated similarly to active ingredients,” said Smith. Fragrances could then be designed to release on skin through the agents that can trigger actives such as moisture, heat and pH levels, according to Smith. Among the encapsulated technologies that Smith and his colleagues are investigating is a meshlike polymer technology.

“In efforts to make fragrances last longer, we discovered a blend of polymers that create a mesh screen on top of fragrances. The mesh then regulates the release of the fragrance, releasing it slowly, thereby allowing the fragrance to last longer,” said Smith. Other pharmaceutical-derived technologies are being noticed in the fragrance industry. For example, nanotechnology, a noticeable trend in the personal care industry, has begun to appear in fragrances.

“We have used nanotechnology to make fragrance water-resistant. There is a new polymer technology that allows us to enhance the performance of fragrance in water for up to 8-10 hours. [Consumers] can jump into the sea and the fragrance will not wash off,” added Smith.

Natural and Organic Trends

Personal care ingredients are not the only facet of the personal care industry affected by the natural and organic trend. As more and more personal care companies look to formulate natural products, more fragrance formulators are being asked to come up with nonsynthetic fragrances, a challenge in the fragrance industry.

“Natural fragrances are easier to create than organic fragrances. [Natural fragrances] are a little bit more expensive, but we can make a good-smelling natural fragrance at a cost,” said Smith. Natural fragrances, for Smith, either occur in nature or are synthetic but nature identical. Organic fragrances, however, are a completely different challenge.

“It is getting slightly easier to create organic fragrances, but it is still difficult,” said Smith, who notes that there are few materials that can be incorporated into organic fragrances. Materials that can be formulated into organic fragrances include ingredients such as menthol, thyme and rosemary. Smith characterizes these fragrances as “medicinal,” which is a challenge for the fragrance industry. In addition to the limited supply of oils that a perfumer can use in an organic fragrance, formulating with organic ingredients may interfere with the fragrance’s ability to last. The organic fragrance industry is gradually improving, according to Smith, as new organic oils are being created at a slow rate.

Two Similar Industries

Although the raw materials and the fragrance industry experience similar trends, there are still many issues that affect each separately. One such example is research into consumers’ individualized affinity to certain fragrances. According to Smith, many researchers debate whether fragrance preference is inherent or acquired.

One issue remains popular between the two industries—global acceptance. Personal care ingredient suppliers continue to establish their ingredients globally and, in lieu of regulatory challenges, this is no easy task. Similarly, fragrance manufacturers are trying to market their scents around the world. “We are all trying to gain global acceptance of our fragrances. This can prove challenging because different areas of the world prefer different scents,” said Smith. Although fragrance and raw material are two different industries, they are interlinked and will continue to evolve together.