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  1. #1

    Default tip-on-reformulations-or-why-your-favorite-perfume-doesnt-smell-like-it-used-to

    http://www.nstperfume.com/2009/09/29...ke-it-used-to/

    Maybe you have read this article, maybe it was already posted. I posted this because I'm so sorry I'll probably never smell the old M7 or many, many more fragrances.

    One of the many hazards of writing about perfumes is that theyíre not static objects. If you pick up a new bottle of Jean Couture Coriandre, what youíll smell wonít be at all what I smelled when I first bought it in the late 1970s. It might not even be the same as what I smelled when I reviewed Coriandre a couple years ago, and found it to be an entirely different animal than the scent I remembered. The Coriandre you smell tomorrow, or next month, or next year, might have changed yet again.

    This has obvious implications for anyone blogging about perfume or reading perfume blogs. When you read a perfume review, unless itís about a perfume that launched recently, you canít be sure that what youíll smell in the stores is the exact same fragrance.

    This article is meant as a very basic primer on reformulation, and most of what Iíll cover is well-known to seasoned perfumistas.

    Perfumes get reformulated all the time, and they always have. Why? Well, there are any number of reasons. Sometimes companies substitute cheaper ingredients as a cost-saving measure. Sometimes once-plentiful natural materials become scarce or extinct. And some materials, such as natural animal-derived notes, have been replaced with synthetic substitutes because of consumer preference and/or trade restrictions.

    Sometimes ingredients are found to be unsafe, and sometimes, especially with older perfumes that relied on pre-made specialty bases, they simply donít exist any more. And sometimes, of course, perfumes are reformulated to bring them in line with modern tastes.

    Itís also important to remember that perfumes that rely on natural materials might have subtle variations from year to year anyway. A crop of jasmine from one year might smell different from the prior year, and a crop of jasmine from one part of the world might smell different from the same plant grown elsewhere.

    Perfumes are being reformulated at a more rapid rate than they used to. Vanilla, jasmine, oakmoss, coumarin, birch tar, citrus oils, heliotropin, styrax, opoponaxÖthese are just a few of the fragrance materials that are restricted and/or banned by IFRA1 or are under consideration for restriction. The most recent set of IFRA standards (the 43rd Amendment) was issued in 2008; perfume companies are supposed to reformulate all existing perfumes to be compliant with these standards by August, 2010. In practice, if youíve been doing much sniffing lately, you know that many old favorites have already been redone in advance of the deadline (goodbye and thanks for the memories, Sisley Eau de Campagne2).

    Perfume houses, for obvious reasons, donít tend to publicize reformulations. After all, who wants to hear that their favorite perfume is no longer exactly the same as it used to be? Also remember that a perfumistaís idea of reformulation ó the perfume no longer smells the same ó may not be the same as that of a perfumer or a perfume house. If Australian sandalwood is substituted for now-scarce (and costly) Indian sandalwood, you could argue that the ďformulaĒ hasnít changed, but to a perfumista, the result is the same: the perfume doesnít smell like it used to.

    So how can you find out if a perfume has been reformulated? Well, the best way is to trust your nose. Asking a sales associate is usually a waste of time: in my experience, they almost always swear up and down that the perfume hasnít changed even when itís patently obvious that it has. Customer service and public relations departments of the various perfume houses, more often than not, do the same, and this is true even when itís obvious that the original perfume would not possibly meet modern IFRA standards.

    Trusting your nose, however, has its own pitfalls. Itís important to remember that the last dregs of your three year old bottle of perfume wonít smell the same as a brand new tester even if the formula hasnít changed at all.

    Unfortunately, we canít constantly seek out and test new samples of everything weíve already reviewed here at Now Smell This. That means you should approach every review, especially the older ones, with caution (which strictly speaking, you ought to be doing anyway). If you do smell a perfume that weíve covered here and that youíre quite sure has been reformulated, you can do your fellow readers a favor by leaving a comment to let them know.

    1. IFRA is the International Fragrance Association. Here is a brief summary of their mission, from IFRA in a Nutshell:

    [IFRA's] main purpose is to promote the safe enjoyment of fragrances worldwide.

    IFRA represents the fragrance industry regional and national associations worldwide. IFRA is the reflection of the industryís choice to regulate itself and and [sic] its activities result in a Code of Practice and safety Standards, which members must adhere to, in order to achieve the objective of protecting consumersí health and our environment.

    If you want to learn more about IFRAís restrictions on the raw materials used in perfumery, you can see their whole list of standards here. Two excellent resources for those opposed to the IFRA standards are the aromaconnection blog and Cropwatch. You can also take a look at all the articles on Now Smell This tagged IFRA.

    2. Iím not meaning to pick on poor Eau de Campagne in particular; it just happens to be something I smelled recently (and barely recognized). I should also point out that I donít even know if itís a victim of IFRA standards; it could easily have been redone for some other reason.

  2. #2

    Default Re: tip-on-reformulations-or-why-your-favorite-perfume-doesnt-smell-like-it-used-to

    I wish we consumers had any way to stop all these reformulations.
    Anything that could make the house feel ashamed of doing a reformulation.
    That's the point. We gotta find a way to blame who makes it.
    To make them feel sorry and ashamed, and maybe they will stop it, or at least think twice before.
    Maybe some blogs out there should make a list of reformulations, with comparisons and all.
    Like a "Hall of Shame" of perfume houses. They would not like to be known for that.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: tip-on-reformulations-or-why-your-favorite-perfume-doesnt-smell-like-it-used-to

    Zgb,

    If the IFRA requirements force the perfume houses to re-formulate, can we really blame them for doing so? However, it does seem unfair on the consumer that the re-formulation isn't advertised as such. At least label it. For example, "insert fragrance name" with a Version # and date of change.

    Thank you for cross posting this very educational article from NST. I love BN, I'm learning so much. keep up the great work.

  4. #4

    Default Re: tip-on-reformulations-or-why-your-favorite-perfume-doesnt-smell-like-it-used-to

    Quote Originally Posted by knit_at_nite View Post
    Zgb,

    If the IFRA requirements force the perfume houses to re-formulate, can we really blame them for doing so? However, it does seem unfair on the consumer that the re-formulation isn't advertised as such. At least label it. For example, "insert fragrance name" with a Version # and date of change.

    Thank you for cross posting this very educational article from NST. I love BN, I'm learning so much. keep up the great work.
    I agree, they should come out of the closet about this, but then the real pomp would begin...

  5. #5

    Default Re: tip-on-reformulations-or-why-your-favorite-perfume-doesnt-smell-like-it-used-to

    Quote Originally Posted by vitorscpaiva View Post
    I wish we consumers had any way to stop all these reformulations.
    Maybe some blogs out there should make a list of reformulations, with comparisons and all.
    Like a "Hall of Shame" of perfume houses. They would not like to be known for that.
    It would be a lot of work but I think we have enough fanatics around here to pull it off.
    Unfortunately, the only objective information we really have to work off of are the list of potential allergen materials listed on the back of the box and the relevant product number. To catch reformulations, we would have to create a database (or add it to the basenote perfume library) that listed every product id number/allergen list and then look for any changes.

    The problem is that this would only catch reformulations that added/subtracted restricted substances. A more direct method of combating reformulations is to watch the major commercial brands like a hawk and send off samples from different dates for mass spectrometer analysis (I wonder how much that would cost) and then publicize any changes. Chanel is already on record as saying that the new IRFA regulations didn't cause them to change any formulas. If someone could disprove their claim it would be a major victory for perfume consumer protection and probably force companies to rethink selling cheap knock offs disguised as original products.

  6. #6

    Default Re: tip-on-reformulations-or-why-your-favorite-perfume-doesnt-smell-like-it-used-to

    Quote Originally Posted by vitorscpaiva View Post
    I wish we consumers had any way to stop all these reformulations.
    Anything that could make the house feel ashamed of doing a reformulation.
    That's the point. We gotta find a way to blame who makes it.
    To make them feel sorry and ashamed, and maybe they will stop it, or at least think twice before.
    Maybe some blogs out there should make a list of reformulations, with comparisons and all.
    Like a "Hall of Shame" of perfume houses. They would not like to be known for that.
    Things are as they are. Millions and millions will buy, I myself bought new M7 not knowing it was reformulated. Even though the scent is perfect, probability I'll smell the old one is close to null...

  7. #7

    Default Re: tip-on-reformulations-or-why-your-favorite-perfume-doesnt-smell-like-it-used-to

    Just wondering, does any one here know any one who has allergies from fragrances. I'm not generalizing, but in my entire lifetime I've never met, seen, known anyone with these allergies. I'm asking an honest question and would really like to know because if a lot of people DON"T have allergies then doesn't the IFRA have a lot of unecessary Power

  8. #8

    Default Re: tip-on-reformulations-or-why-your-favorite-perfume-doesnt-smell-like-it-used-to

    Quote Originally Posted by seasoldiermarine View Post
    Just wondering, does any one here know any one who has allergies from fragrances. I'm not generalizing, but in my entire lifetime I've never met, seen, known anyone with these allergies. I'm asking an honest question and would really like to know because if a lot of people DON"T have allergies then doesn't the IFRA have a lot of unecessary Power
    Funnily enough, I have.

    I suffered from severe eczema after having my first child. Eventually I was referred to a dermatologist who patch tested me with the European standard test battery (some 30 chemicals). I STRONGLY reacted to an adhesive and a common preservative (parabens), and mildly reacted to "fragrance mix", oakmoss absolute, balsalm of peru, and another one I can't remember. I stopped using all scented products and gave away the 90% of my personal products that contained parabens. My eczema vanished. I cannot tell you what a difference this made to my life.

    But life was boring. No perfume, no fabric conditioner, no scented soap etc.

    A couple of years ago I started to use scented shampoos and deoderants again (making sure there were no parabens) and had NO REACTION. I then started using my old perfumes which I couldn't bear to give away. NO REACTION. I bought new ones. Again, nothing. Nada. No problem. I currently use fragrances containing the troublesome ingredients. I'm aware that I may have to stop using them, but so far I haven't reacted.

    However, the few times I've forgotten and used a plaster (band-aid) on my heels with new shoes, I've had the mother of all reactions. Likewise, I've borrowed shampoo and body cream without reading the ingredients and developed a rash, subsequently finding they contain parabens.

    So, I don't doubt that people have allergies to certain ingredients, but I think that in many these may be exaggerated. As long as products are fully labelled, individuals should be able to choose whether to use them or not.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: tip-on-reformulations-or-why-your-favorite-perfume-doesnt-smell-like-it-used-to

    Quote Originally Posted by seasoldiermarine View Post
    Just wondering, does any one here know any one who has allergies from fragrances. I'm not generalizing, but in my entire lifetime I've never met, seen, known anyone with these allergies. I'm asking an honest question and would really like to know because if a lot of people DON"T have allergies then doesn't the IFRA have a lot of unecessary Power
    I have known two women, from differerent backgrounds, who were truly allergic to fragrances. Yes, that is a small number but the toll on these individuals was not pretty. (shortness of breath after application for one, rashes for the other). The effects could have been caused by just one of the ingredients, or a combo of them in the formulation- that was never answered, so they just avoid everything now. I agree with the previous poster about fully labeling all personal products so the consumer can choose.

    Also, IMO, there are some people who may say they are allergic because they do not wish to offend someone who overapplies.

  10. #10

    Post Re: tip-on-reformulations-or-why-your-favorite-perfume-doesnt-smell-like-it-used-to

    Personnaly I don't think that any perfume house really cares about how much a fragrance is loved by any one person or persons, but are more concerned about the commercial aspect of the fragrance. The cold hard facts are the ability of a fragrance to make money in the market place rather than be loved by any one person. If you think about it from there perspective they are right. We as fragrance lovers are stuck some where in between. I know for a fact they care more about making money than they care about how a re-formulated fragrance is accepted by fragrance lovers.If it sells great, if not they will just continue to crank them out in hopes one or more will become a money maker.

    Case in point. Not too long ago I e- mailed Andy Tauer, and asked if he had any plans on re-releaseing Orris even in a limited batch as my bottle was gettiing low, and this was next to impossible to find. He was kind enough to respond, and his response was no, he prefered to look to the future rather than looking to the past. Translated that means that this fragrance was not a big enough seller to release again. Now I personally think that this was the finest Orris fragrance ever created bar none. As a lover of this fragrance does that matter to Tauer Perfumes. Simply put NO! It just did not produce enough revenue to continue production. So I guess the bottom line to all this stuff is that money talks, and the rest of us walk.
    Don't panic. Just stay calm, and reload....

  11. #11

    Default Re: tip-on-reformulations-or-why-your-favorite-perfume-doesnt-smell-like-it-used-to

    Quote Originally Posted by knit_at_nite View Post
    If the IFRA requirements force the perfume houses to re-formulate, can we really blame them for doing so?
    No one's being forced by anyone, the IFRA is an association formed by the fragrance companies themselves, not by governments or anything. Now, colour me paranoid but I believe its ultimate goal is to supply an aura of legitimacy to reformulations with the sole scope of cutting costs. And they got the EU to do their work for them, too.
    Looking to swap/buy/receive for free () the following samples/decants:
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  12. #12

    Default Re: tip-on-reformulations-or-why-your-favorite-perfume-doesnt-smell-like-it-used-to

    Hi Bubby, I'm sorry to hear of you're allergic reactions, and to Knit at Nite, also for you're friends. We really enjoy these frags and it would be a shame to not enjoy them. Maybe the best way to tackle this issue (which I'm sure would never happen, because of the worries of perception the Houses might have) is to do like the cigarrette warnings here in the states by the surgeon general, unfortunately, which means now the governments might get involved. not always a good thing

  13. #13

    Default Re: tip-on-reformulations-or-why-your-favorite-perfume-doesnt-smell-like-it-used-to

    Quote Originally Posted by Merlino View Post
    Now, colour me paranoid but I believe its ultimate goal is to supply an aura of legitimacy to reformulations with the sole scope of cutting costs.
    I think it's got to be more than this. The companies are already under zero obligation to inform you about reformulations and are perfectly free to lie about it with no legal repercussions (as long as they are following EU labeling regulations/not adding cyanide or polonium). The block buster fragrances (that satanically inspired Britney Spears perfume was the number 1 feminine in 2004 and pulled in over $100 million) are already so awful that no one could actually wear them for their smell and I doubt a reformulation would be noticed.
    I think the IFRA regulations are occurring because they benefit the bottom line of the large fragrance companies and also address a few structural issues unique to the fragrance industry, specifically intellectual property and the abscence of contracts between perfume manufacturers and houses. By limiting the supply of certain notes by banning the naturals or restricting them to minuscule amounts, large perfume manufacturers lock in the perfume house customers (Givenchy, etc) into only buying from them. The producers can't patent a perfume formula but they can patent the molecules required to make them, increasing their market stability and ensuring continued business. It also reduces the already small chance of being sued for allergic reactions and eliminates the need for naturals with fluctuating prices and availability.

  14. #14

    Default Re: tip-on-reformulations-or-why-your-favorite-perfume-doesnt-smell-like-it-used-to

    we're talking about powerfull frag lobbies here...

  15. #15

    Default Re: tip-on-reformulations-or-why-your-favorite-perfume-doesnt-smell-like-it-used-to

    A perfumer is free to reformulate its fragrance whenever it wants. However, I find that the failure to give notice is an unfair practice. The EU should require that whenever a fragrance is reformulated, conspicuous notice must be given. I think the preferred way of giving notice should be in requiring the fragrance to be labeled with a version number or some other designation, such as and for example only, M7 (version 3). The fragrance would still be allowed to be called by its original name, but a version number would be required on the box and label.

  16. #16

    Default Re: tip-on-reformulations-or-why-your-favorite-perfume-doesnt-smell-like-it-used-to

    Quote Originally Posted by auee View Post
    A perfumer is free to reformulate its fragrance whenever it wants. However, I find that the failure to give notice is an unfair practice. The EU should require that whenever a fragrance is reformulated, conspicuous notice must be given. I think the preferred way of giving notice should be in requiring the fragrance to be labeled with a version number or some other designation, such as and for example only, M7 (version 3). The fragrance would still be allowed to be called by its original name, but a version number would be required on the box and label.
    so we'd be at Chanel No. 5.13 (beta) now probably
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  17. #17

    Default Re: tip-on-reformulations-or-why-your-favorite-perfume-doesnt-smell-like-it-used-to

    This whole thing about reformulations has been one of the reasons that I've gone to looking for old stock. I go to some of the local "mom & pop" stores that sell old stock, likely diverted from department stores. This is where I've seen a lot of older Guerlains, Chanels, Hermťs and the like. I really wish I would have bought up all the bottles of the original formulation of M7 when my Marshalls had them going for $15 a piece!

    The restricting of citrus oils is the last straw. Maybe IFRA started out with good intentions, but they're murdering an artform and a way of life. I also wonder if there is not perhaps an over-eager compliance by perfume houses, trading off raw material quality for being able to user cheaper synthetic substitutes-- and not giving a rat's a$$, because their competitors have to make the same bargain.

    I mean, fine if they want to sell their souls, but as for myself being a DIY perfumer who wants to eventually get some products on the market, why should I have to comply with this nonsense as long as my products are safe (and I don't mean "safe" in a plastic scissors kind of way). The big houses may use this as a convenient way of cheapening and adulterating their products, but suppose we little guys don't want to go along with the madness... is there any recourse?

    You know, it reminds me of my rant a while back on how damn hard it's become to buy good, effective over-the-counter cold medicine anymore. They stopped selling Nyquil with pseudoephedrine-- they reformulated it with some nonsense ingredient called phenyephrine, which is about as effective as a placebo. They did this to deter people from buying cold medicine and turning into crystal meth. Great! Just punish all the innocent people suffering through horrible colds, so some basement drugmaker has a harder time making recreational drugs. Ridiculous. Oh, sure, you can still buy the old formulation of Nyquil with pseudoephedrine-- you just have to give the hawk-eyed pharmacist your ID and personal info so they can enter you into a monitoring database. And forget about trying to buy BOTH a bottle of Nyquil to help you sleep and a bottle of Dayquil to help you get through your day- nope. You can only buy one or the other.

    Hell, like some have said, why don't they allow the companies to make the old formulations of fragrances and put warning labels on them or make customers sign a form saying they're "aware of the dangers of citrus oils". Society is going beyond farcical.

  18. #18

    Default Re: tip-on-reformulations-or-why-your-favorite-perfume-doesnt-smell-like-it-used-to

    Quote Originally Posted by auee View Post
    A perfumer is free to reformulate its fragrance whenever it wants. However, I find that the failure to give notice is an unfair practice. The EU should require that whenever a fragrance is reformulated, conspicuous notice must be given. I think the preferred way of giving notice should be in requiring the fragrance to be labeled with a version number or some other designation, such as and for example only, M7 (version 3). The fragrance would still be allowed to be called by its original name, but a version number would be required on the box and label.
    I would love if this were implemented but the counterargument is that batches of perfume are (or so I'm told) regularly tweaked and subtly altered in response to varying ingredient quality, availability, etc. You would have to set a minimum threshold for ingredient changes that would trigger a relabeling or set no minimum and risk having a very high noise-to-signal ratio, rendering the changes less helpful. As long as the formulas are secret you would still be relying on the honesty of the companies in reporting any changes, unless you set up a watchdog government agency/non-profit to regularly test perfumes (the government option is unlikely given the cost). The IFRA could do it (fat chance) but then you would be relying on the honesty of a private group funded by the very companies its supposed to regulate.

    The best we can hope for now is that the whole thing blows up in their faces. LT's new book contradicts Chanel's "no reformulation to Chanel No. 5" claim and that is a pretty big blow. I think Chanel and other high end houses will start to suffer when they see sales drop due to their reformulations and they will be faced with the choice of going low market or fighting the regulations. I hope.

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