The EU Fragrance Allergens

The European Union (EU) began reviewing the safety of fragrance ingredients used in cosmetics in the late 1990s. This came from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) pressuring for the 100% safety of all ingredients. This mandate was given to the EU Commission and in turn was assigned to the scientific advisory committee. The committee’s response was to recommend that the EU prohibit some ingredients and restrict others. It came out with a list of 26 ingredients mostly found in fragrances and essential oils that, if present at certain levels or higher, must be listed as part of the product’s ingredient listing. The listing of these 26 allergens was intended to alert customers of their presence so they can avoid using the product if they are allergic to those chemicals. This has only made ingredient listings more complex; in fact, some marketers have tried to avoid using these ingredients or essential oils in their fragrances. However, few have been successful since these 26 ingredients include the most popular fragrance components.

On March 11, 2003, the EU published the 7th Amendment to its Cosmetic Directive 76/768/EEC. Among the changes was the addition of the 26 popular fragrance ingredients to the Annex III “List of Substances Which Cosmetic Products Must Not Contain Except Subject to the Restrictions Laid Down.” These are now commonly referred to as the EU Fragrance Allergens.


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