The REACH Regulation establishes several chemical regulatory regimes, which operate, by and large, as stand-alone, but ostensibly complementary programmes. The two key REACH programmes for direct ‘command and control’ regulation of chemical risk are ‘restriction’ and ‘authorization’. In the case of substances of very high concern, both restriction and authorization are available as risk management measures. Because REACH fails to establish an independent, coherent and unbiased framework for chemical risk assessment and policy analysis of these alternative regulatory options, their deployment has been fraught with difficulties. This article reviews the REACH provisions governing the restriction and authorization programmes, and the differences, similarities and interrelations between them. In the second part, the problems arising in the application of the two regimes are illustrated with reference to the case of dipolar aprotic solvents. This case study demonstrates that the most appropriate regulatory instrument may be a regime other than REACH. The third part sets forth some recommendations to improve current practice and move towards a predictable, reasonable and balanced REACH application.