Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Sweet smell or allergies?

A year ago the European Commission's Scientific Committees issued a public opinion on fragrance allergens in cosmetic products and invited stakeholders to share their opinion on this subject. (Scenting... new regulations) The idea was that this could allow for a review of the existing Cosmetics Regulation which includes a list of substances which are forbidden in cosmetic products, as well as of those which are allowed under some restrictions. The last review with respect to fragrance allergens took place in 2003. 

The Committee recognizes now three new allergens (HICC, atranol, chloroatranol) as not safe for use in cosmetic products and identifies 12 single chemicals and 8 natural extracts as substances of special concern. What does this last bit mean? When you suspect you are allergic to some fragrances or other ingredients in your cosmetic products, you may ask for an allergy test to be conducted. It is a patch test - where you have extracts of these chemicals (or of natural extracts, since it's as likely you are allergic to a synthetic fragrance as to a natural essential oil) patched to your back and left there for a day or two. If you develop a rash, skin reaction - well, it's a positive patch test, showing you are allergic to a given ingredient. The Committee suggest that at least for these 12 chemical that often result in a positive patch test, concentration limits should be introduced in the cosmetics. 

Also the increase of information disclosure about additional allergens in cosmetic products could be handy. Though, it should come in hand with the disclosures' simplification - after all, I (as allergic to fragrances) already have to read all the ingredients list that often does not tell me much. It would be handy if some of the ingredients came with an explanation (color-coding?) as to what potential allergy they could lead to and its likelihood. The Committee's plan to mention these allergens on the ingredients list (currently, most products just contain 'perfume' or 'fragrance' on the ingredients list, without any specification) will not mean much unless consumes know it's an allergen.The works on the review of the Cosmetics Regulation will continue and hopefully the changes will be adopted by the end of 2014. (Commission launches consultation on fragrance allergens)

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