How Much Fragrance Oil Should I Use? Industry Safety Standards For Fragrance Oil

Fragrance Oils

If you’re new to candle making, cosmetic making or soap making, you might be wondering...

What is the maximum amount of fragrance I can use in my product? 

It’s imperative to understand how safe your product is before selling it. How we do that is via industry standards. Transparency is key. 


Industry Safety Standards

Anyone can create fragrance products, and every bottle of fragrance will vary considerably. One fragrance oil could be super concentrated. Adding just 1%  would be sufficient for a strong candle scent throw. The next bottle of fragrance oil could be so diluted, you’d need to add a vast amount to get any sort of fragrance throw.

There may be irritants or allergens in a specific fragrance - fine to smell but not so great on skin.

All of these kinds of factors contributed towards the need for an industry body, and the establishment, in 1973, of IFRA.


What Is IFRA?

IFRA (pronounced IF - RA),  also known as the International Fragrance Association, is a self- regulatory body formed by the worldwide fragrance industry.

  • IFRA regulates its own safety guidelines for fragrance chemical use, and promotes the safe use of fragrances in consumer products. 
  • These standards are voluntary. IFRA members must comply with the standards in order to maintain their membership.
  • IFRA publishes usage standards for fragrance materials, based on data from The Research Institute of Fragrance Materials (RIFM). It also limits or forbids the use of certain ingredients. 
  • IFRA updates standards around safe fragrance use as more knowledge comes to light. On June 30, 2021, IFRA announced the 50th Amendment to the IFRA Standards.


IFRA Certificate Of Conformity 

Commercial fragrances have an IFRA certificate accompany them. By providing this certificate, fragrance manufacturers and suppliers confirm the IFRA standards are being met.

These certificates address:

  • The maximum concentration that fragrance can be used at, in various applications or for a specific category. For example, a certificate might confirm that a fragrance can be safely used at a maximum of 2 percent in a lotion, but at a maximum of 100 percent in candles. When a manufacturer or distributor creates a certificate, every ingredient that comprises a fragrance is checked against the IFRA standards database to determine what the maximum usage percentage is in a finished product in each category.
  • IFRA certificates do not list the ingredients in the fragrance because these are trade secret protection or intellectual property.

If you, as a maker of products which include fragrance, don’t follow these standards, you will risk being legally liable for selling product which is unsafe for consumers. 

In the event that there is a raw material shortage, a fragrance may need to be reformulated, and a new certificate has to be created. Every time IFRA updates their standards, manufacturers must updates their formulations to comply with the current standards. IFRA has recently released the 50th amendment.

The International Fragrance Association does not produce certificates for its members. Instead, they release a digital template, and it is then up to the fragrance manufacturer or distributer to populate it with information. Anyone can use this template, even non- members. Although they don’t have to do this, many manufacturers and distributors choose to voluntarily. The digital template gets revised by IFRA when new standards are announced. 

You, as a manufacturer of finished products, do not have to create certificates. 


 How to Read an IFRA Certificate

At first glance an IFRA certificate might look confusing, so let's break it down.

First, everything stated in an IFRA certificate of conformity relies upon the concept of a usage category.

What kind of product are you making? Candle, soap, body oil, room spray? All of these products will fall into different IFRA categories.

Let's imagine you splashed lemon juice on your hand. The reaction would differ significantly from splashing it into your eyes. You can see from this example why categories are so important in establishing safety.

Each IFRA category might have a different maximum usage percentage. The category numbers might change every time there is an update. Candles for example used to be in category 11, but in the most recent IFRA 50th amendment they are now in category 12.

Category 1: Lip Products /Toys e.g. lipstick, lip balm, lip scrubs.

Category 2: Deodorant and antiperspirants/ body spray/body mist.

Category 3: Hydro-alcoholics for Shaved Skin, eye products, men’s facial care products, and products for children or infants

Category 4Hydro-alcoholics for Unshaved Skin, e.g. some hair products, body mists, body lotions, body oils, foot care products, and fragrance ingredients in cosmetics and perfumery kits.

Category 5: Facial care products, facial masks, hand cream products, dry shampoo, and permanent hair products.

Category 6: Mouthwash, toothpaste, or breath sprays.

Category 7: Insect Repellents.

Category 8: Makeup remover, hair styling aids, nail care products, and any powder or talc products.

Category 9: Wash-off products, e.g. soap, bath gel, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, liquid soap, shaving cream.

Category 10: Laundry detergent, fabric softener, and household cleaning products.

Category 11: Non-skin contact products that may come in contact with skin, eg. air fresheners, candles, and reed diffusers.

Category 12: Candles/Incense

Updated IFRA Amendments will also specify changes to restricted and prohibited substances.

Usage Rates

It’s vital to remember IFRA usage rates are NOT recommended usage rates for ideal product performance. They are maximum usage rates.

A certificate might specify that a fragrance has a 50% maximum usage rate for a specific category. This does NOT mean that you should go ahead and use 50% in your product. It might be safe to do so technically, but... it’s NOT a recommendation. Imagine how strong your lotion would be at that huge percentage! Candles, for example, have an IFRA usage rate of 100%. But just imagine how much fragrance oil seepage you’d get going beyond 8-10% ! 


Blaze & Foam Fragrances

We specify maximum usage recommendations for fragrances based on our own testing and ensure that these percentages are always below IFRA maximum usage rates for each category.  

Below is a screenshot of a summary for our version of 1 million fragrance oil, which shows  the maximum level for IFRA standards and our suggested level of use. You can see that the maximum level of use for IFRA Standards is significantly different from our suggested level of use.

1 million fragrance oil


*This suggested level of use is only intended as a guide and is always reliant on your own testing and research. Results may vary according to individual recipes. It is your responsibility to test all products and fragrances thoroughly. We take no responsibility for your finished products made with our raw materials. 

And there you have it!
IFRA standards exist to clarify safe limits for using fragrance. We hope you feel more comfortable and confident in determining how much fragrance oil to add to your finished products going forward. 


Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published