The material selection platform
Cosmetics Ingredients
The material selection platform
Cosmetics Ingredients

Sweet Sensations of Fragrance Selection

Getting the fragrance selection ‘just right’ for a product, range or brand is an essential match to a specific target market. It also requires consumer evaluation panels to make sure you’ve made the right selection - because it’s not just about what you love in a fragrance, it is actually what your target market loves that is most important!

So, learn how to select the right fragrance for your product.


Select the Right Fragrance

Select the Right Fragrance

One of the first things a consumer does when trying a new product is - smell it!

Aroma is also one of the strongest evokers of emotion and memory as well as primal indicator that impacts later impressions of a product. Getting it right can greatly enhance consumer acceptance and attitudes toward your product while getting it wrong can have a disastrous effect!

So, what do you need to consider when selecting the right type of fragrance for your formulation? Here are some things to consider:

  • Benefits of the product: May be tangible, which can be experienced as part of the product, such as: An intense aroma of freshness or intangible, where it adds to imagery perception and attractive to a certain sector of the market.
  • Features of the product: Where an aroma is used to cover the base smell of a product or add substantivity, a lasting aroma to add appeal to the product.
  • Signal attributes: The impression that the aroma provides about a product, for example: Where fruity fragrances are used - they give the impression of fun, compared to more classic aromas designed for up market products.
  • Branding of a product range: Enabling grouping of products or product extensions based on the same aroma profile, for example: Body washes, lotions and perfumes to layer a fragrance or matching aromas for a shampoo and conditioner.

While the input of a fragrance seems like just a small component of a formula, it actually provides an incredibly powerful message about your product. So, it is important to get it right and test carefully what you have got!

Here is a simple example of how these aspects build a story about your products:

Product Benefits Features Signal Attributes Branding
Budget body lotion
  • Tangible: subtle, lasting fragrance 
  • Intangible: simple fragrance structure that smells ‘nice’
Subtle, substantive fragrance; type of odor dependent on target market Would depend on target market General body care fragrance; could match a companion shower gel or body scrub
High priced face cream
  • Tangible: subtle aroma from fragrance or essential oils 
  • Intangible: complex aroma structure; adding to the perception of quality
Subtle aroma; classy and may also be modern aroma Classic or more unique aroma; actual notes would depend on target market Complex aroma which may or may not be companioned with other facial care products in the company’s range

» Explore All Available Fragrance Ingredients Today!

How to Describe a Fragrance

How to Describe a Fragrance

When describing fragrance, one of the methodologies we use is to describe the notes of aroma. These include:

  • Top note: The aroma that is smelt immediately on smelling the fragrance after any alcohol solvents is evaporated.
  • Body (middle) note: The aroma that is smelt 1-2 hours after the fragrance has been applied.
  • Dry out (base) note: The aroma that can be detected the day after the fragrance has been applied. The dry out base note is usually described with a time frame given after which time no more change is observed. For example, the dry out note could be attained after 24 hours or up to 5 days.

Strength of Fragrance

Fragrances also have principal, secondary and background notes as well as particular odor characteristics. The strength of fragrances is rated on a scale of 0 – 6 (0 being odorless and 6 being extremely strong). These terms are used in reference to the aromas that can be detected using a smelling strip. The descriptions are used together, to provide a full description of the aroma.

Starting Materials of Fragrances

Starting Materials of Fragrances

Fragrances can be composed of between 20 to 100 or more aroma chemicals. These chemicals can be obtained from:

  1. Natural sources: Components (isolates) from essential oils can be separated out and modified. For example: Eugenol from clove oil and limonene and citronellol from citrus oils.

  2. Synthetic sources: Crude oil sources can provide hydrocarbon backbones which are then modified to produce a variety of fragrance compounds. For example: Various manipulated types of aldehydes, ketones and hydrocarbons as well as aroma chemicals synthetically produced to be identical to those found in natural for commercial reasons (where cheaper or more consistent quality is obtainable this way).

Perfumers put a fragrance together much like a Cosmetic Chemist puts a formula together using known materials in various combinations and then repeating samples and variants until they get the aroma just right to suit the client’s brief.

To be a perfumer, you need to undertake extensive studies in perfumery and focus on that solely. In addition, to be a perfumer you need to have ‘the nose’: an incredibly acute sense of smell. This is not something that can be learnt - you either have ‘the nose’ and ability to be a perfumer, or not. As a Cosmetic Chemist, you will order fragrances to suit a brief, but not actually be creating the fragrance blend.

Having an Acute Sense of Smell is Necessary to be a Perfumer

Fragrance houses are the best to provide fragrances because they contain multiple ingredients which must be purchases in at least 1-5kg quantities. This makes it cost prohibitive for a small manufacturer to purchase the individual materials for their own fragrance creation, as the cost to purchase and hold such large quantities of multiple chemicals, when only a small portion of these would get used in standard fragrance developments.

How to Request a Fragrance?

How to Request a Fragrance?

Generally, you would not be involved in the actual creation of a fragrance (unless that is a field you choose to specialize in); but you may be involved in asking a fragrance company to create a particular fragrance. When requesting fragrance, you will need to provide the fragrance company with answers to questions such as:

#1. Purpose of the Fragrance

  • Provide a list of the types of products the fragrance will be used in. Will it be used in just one product, or a range of products?
  • Is the fragrance to cover undesirable smells in the base product? On the body?
  • What tangible and intangible benefits do you want from the fragrance?
  • How substantive does it need to be?

#2. Uniqueness of Product

  • Do you want a unique smell for the product or are you happy to use a more ‘off the shelf’ variety?
  • Do you want to copy another fragrance?
  • Sending samples of fragrance to the fragrance house in the theme of what you could be later can be a good guide for the fragrance chemist.
  • How natural do you need the end product to be - do you need a natural fragrance from all-natural isolates or is it okay to contain synthetic components?

#3. Application of the Product/s

  • Are these products going to be washed off, or left on the skin?
  • How strong do you want the lingering fragrance to be, after the product has been applied?
  • Is this fragrance to be used on babies, children or adults?

#4. Formulation Characteristics

  • What is the pH of the products the fragrance will be used in?
  • What is the climate the product will be sold in?
  • What about packaging? Is discoloration an issue?
  • Is oxidation through hot climates and clear packaging an issue?

#5. Target Market

  • Provide a brief overview of your target market; include information on their age, income, employment and interests. For example: Professional women aged 35-40 earning > $60K per annum; interests include socializing with other like women / shopping / holidays. This gives the fragrance chemist an idea of who should be attracted to the fragrance.

#6. Cost

  • Provide a cost frame and quantity you require to the fragrance company so they can formulate a fragrance to suit your needs. Make sure to also provide them with the % it will be used in finished product/s so they know how intense the aroma of the finished product needs to be.

#7. Lead Time

  • How long will it take to get product prepared and sent to your warehouse?
  • Is this time frame suitable for the project? Consider not just the time you need in formulating, but also the time then needed in manufacturing.

Modifying ‘off the shelf’ blends provide a cost-effective way of getting a relatively unique and tested product within a short time frame and in smaller purchase quantities (1kg+).

Fragrance companies have a variety of ‘off the shelf’ blends they tend to supply for cheaper products. What they can do in many cases is add a few different fragrance chemicals to the base blend to create something new and relatively unique for your needs. By modifying an ‘off the shelf’ blend in this way, the fragrance company is able to provide you with a fragrance to suit your requirements, in smaller quantities, individualized to your needs, at a moderate cost.

Here is a summary of the information you should provide to a fragrance house as part of your fragrance ‘brief’:

Product Name
Purpose of the Fragrance (end product/s)
Uniqueness of product
  • Key competitors?
  • Natural requirement?
  • Ages
  • Wash off / leave on
  • Substantivity
Formulation needs
  • pH
  • Hot fill
  • Oxidation potential
Target market
  • Ideal cost / kg
  • Minimum order quantity

EU Regulations on Fragrances

EU Regulations on Fragrances

In the EU, leave on products containing more than 0.001% or rinse off products containing more than 0.01% of substances listed in Annex III of the Cosmetics Directive, entries 67 to 92, must be listed on the label. These substances, commonly referred to as ‘allergens’, are found in many essential oils and fragrances.

If you are formulating a personal care product that will be sold in Europe, you must make sure to check and list any allergens that are present in excess of these amounts in the finished product. To do this:

  • Checking the SDS of the individual essential oils and/or fragrances to see if the allergen is stated
  • If no allergens are stated, go back to the supplier and ask them for specific allergen information as present in the material. It is a regulatory requirement that they must provide this information to you
  • Add the different allergens present (where present from more than one material)
  • Check the amount present in total against the formulation to determine if the 0.001% (leave on) or 0.01% (rinse off) limit has been exceeded
  • If they are, then the allergens must be stated on the label

Usage Rates of Fragrances

Usage Rates of Fragrances

Fragrances can be potential irritants, so their use must be within certain limits. In order to maintain safety, yet provide an aroma of intensity which consumers are used to, fragrances should be used in products within set amounts. As a general guide, products used on the face should contain less fragrance than those used on the body.

Fragrances should be carefully selected to ensure they have low irritancy profiles while also considering the skin coverage and type of person the product will be used on. For example, baby lotions which get applied over most of the baby’s body should contain far less fragrance than a product applied to the legs of a normal adult.

A typical guideline is (always check with your fragrance supplier, as the concentration of the fragrance they supply you could mean different input rates than those suggested here):

Once the verification of fragrance limit is done, you need to learn how to incorporate the fragrance appropriately. Let's see how to do that:

Incorporating Fragrance and Essential Oils into Products

Incorporating Fragrance and Essential Oils into Products

Incorporating Fragrance & Essential Oils into Cosmetic Products Fragrances will almost always be supplied to you in a liquid form. If they are resinous, they will first need to be mixed in a suitable quantity of carrier oil to become more liquid. Fragrances can be oxidized or destabilized by unsuitable conditions. Before adding fragrances ensure:

  • The pH of the product is not going to adversely affect the fragrance. If you need a fragrance for a product that has an extreme pH (e.g. a depilatory product) then you should let the fragrance house know this as part of the brief.
  • Temperature is even throughout the product and is below 40°C.
  • Mixing of the product ensures there will not be any ‘hot spots’ or uneven distribution of acids or bases which may still be able to react with the fragrance.

Also make sure that on addition, the fragrance is evenly dispersed throughout the entire product. To ensure this, you could mix the fragrance with:

  • Surfactant (in the case of a foaming product), or
  • Solubilizer if being added to water or a gel; or
  • Adding after an emulsion has cooled down if adding to a cream, lotion or conditioner

» Check Out The Available Solubilizers For Even Dispersion of Your Product!

Fragrances will not normally need additional antioxidants added to the final formula – they normally come with antioxidants butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) or butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) already present to ensure they have a good shelf life.

A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet…

The most important thing to remember with fragrance is the power it can have over the success of your product. Make sure you work with a fragrance house and perfumer who really understands your brief, your target market, the needs of the product and what you are trying to achieve, as it can make all the difference when it comes to product sales.

Commercially Available Fragrance Ingredients for Cosmetics



Leave a comment

Want to comment?

No Account yet?

Rate this Content
1 Comments on "Sweet Sensations of Fragrance Selection"
Anatoly K Nov 21, 2023
helpful information

Back to Top