Fragrance ingredient labelling in products on sale in the U.K.


  • Conflicts of interest
    None declared.

Deirdre A. Buckley.


Background The seventh amendment of the European Union (EU) Cosmetics Directive (March 2005) and the Detergents Regulations of the EU (October 2005) are now legal requirements in Europe. Cosmetic products and detergents must be labelled for 26 individual named fragrances, when present at concentrations of > 10 parts per million (p.p.m.) in leave-on products and > 100 p.p.m. in rinse-off products.

Objectives To make an assessment of the exposure pattern to fragrance of the U.K. consumer and to determine the frequency with which the constituent fragrances of fragrance mix I (FM I) and fragrance mix II (FM II) are included in products currently sold in the U.K.

Methods A study of perfumed cosmetic and household products available on the shelves of U.K. retailers was carried out in January 2006. Products were included if ‘parfum’ or ‘aroma’ was listed among the ingredients. Three hundred products were surveyed and any of the 26 listed fragrances named on the label were recorded.

Results The top six most frequently labelled fragrances were linalool (190; 63%), limonene (189; 63%), citronellol (145; 48%), geraniol (126; 42%), butyl phenyl methyl propional (Lilial) (126; 42%) and hexyl cinnamal (125; (42%). One of these, geraniol, is present in FM I and two others, citronellol and hexyl cinnamal, in FM II, thus tested as part of the British Standard patch test series. The frequencies of other constituents of FM I were as follows: eugenol, 80 (27%); hydroxycitronellal, 52 (17%); isoeugenol, 27 (9%); cinnamic alcohol, 25 (8%); amyl cinnamal, 22 (7%); cinnamal, 17 (6%); Evernia prunastri (oak moss absolute), 13 (4%). The other constituents of FM II occurred as follows: coumarin, 90 (30%); hydroxyisohexyl-3-cyclohexene carboxaldehyde (Lyral), 88 (29%); citral, 74 (25%); farnesol, 23 (8%). Linalool (= 46; 66%) was the most frequently found fragrance in 70 personal care products (soap, shampoo, shower gel). Linalool (= 47; 80%) and limonene (= 45; 76%) were the most frequent in 59 products for men (e.g. aftershave). Limonene (= 29; 51%) predominated in 57 household products (washing-up liquid, detergent). Limonene (= 43; 98%) and linalool (= 42; 95%) were the most frequent fragrances in 44 perfumes for women. Alpha-isomethyl ionone (= 28; 72%) was the most frequent in 39 cosmetics (foundation, lipstick, etc). Citronellol predominated (= 15; 88%) in 17 deodorants and limonene (= 9; 64%) was the commonest in 14 dental products (toothpaste and mouthwash). Thirty-four products (11%) contained none of the listed fragrances but were labelled as containing ‘parfum’ or ‘aroma’.

Conclusions There is ongoing consumer exposure to the most frequent sensitizers in FM I: E. prunastri, isoeugenol and the cinnamon fragrances cinnamal and cinnamic alcohol. Hydroxyisohexyl-3-cyclohexene carboxaldehyde (Lyral) is present at significant concentrations in almost one-third of products. Linalool and limonene, fragrance terpenes which are significant allergens in their oxidized state, are the most frequent fragrances encountered by individuals living in the U.K. The current exposure pattern of the U.K. consumer suggests that we should add oxidized limonene and oxidized linalool to the test series for patients suspected to have fragrance allergy.