I often have people ask me what those strange ingredients are at the end of my product ingredient list. Of course they are referring to things like Linalol, Geraniol, Citral and others known in the industry as ‘allergens’.
So what are these allergens? Generally speaking allergens are substances that can cause an allergic reaction. Anything of substance can be an allergen however in terms of the cosmetic industry they are referred to as specific common substances (generally fragrance materials) that are typically found in cosmetics. A number of years ago the scientific committee, after much research, identified what they called the 26 common allergens and decided that it would be a good for all companies selling cosmetic products to list any of those allergens on the label so that the consumer would be better informed and protected.
What does this mean?
As a result, in the EU we (cosmetic manufacturers) are obliged to list any of the 26 allergens contained within a product if they are there at levels of or above 0.001% for leave on products such as creams or toners or 0.01% for wash off products like shower gels and shampoos.
These particular allergens just so happen make up part of the chemical structure of essential oils or fragrance materials. Essential oils are packed full of aroma molecules – these make up the natural scent of essential oils. For instance linalool and geraniol both sound a bit scary a but they are molecules you may find naturally in floral essential oils like Rose and Geranium and without them those plants would not smell as wonderful as they do.
Rather than listing individual essential oils, some companies prefer to just list perfume/parfum /fragrance as sometimes the essential oil list can be particularly long with complex natural or partially natural fragrances. Seeing allergens listed at the end will show you in part that a fragrance is of very high quality or that it contains essential oils.
I for one love the scent of essential oils so have formulated them into MBotanicals products. I think a product that smells good adds to the enjoyment of using them. Having the allergens listed on the pack is unavoidable (for me it means explaining what they are an awful lot) but on the up side these are the substances that help create wonderful smelling products! It goes without saying that if you know you have an allergy or a particular sensitivity to one of the 26 allergens, it might be a good idea to avoid that particular product. If you seem to have an allergy to some cosmetic ingredients or have particularly sensitive skin in general it might be a good idea to also avoid any skincare that contains fragrances, be they natural or otherwise.