What’s In That Smell? P&G Will List All Fragrance Ingredients Online

Image courtesy of Chris Rief

If you’ve ever looked at the list of ingredients on a can of air freshener and wondered what, exactly, is involved in that “sea breeze” scent, you’ll have some more answers soon: Procter & Gamble is joining other companies in the push for transparency with a promise that eventually all of its smelliest home and personal care offerings will detail exactly what substances make up “fragrance.”

Fragrance is… fragrance

For example, if you check out the current ingredient page for Febreze products, things like “Alcohol” and “Citric Acid” are included along with “fragrance*.”


Follow that asterisk and P&G says that Febreze perfumes are “formulated taking into account our stringent internal safety standards for every ingredient, as well as the safety standards set by the International Fragrance Association (IFRA).”

If you dig a little further on P&G’s site, you can find a list of ingredients in its “fragrance palette,” as well as those it does not use at all. However, there are no explanations as to what any of these things are, so if you want to know what “β-Farnesene” is, you’re on your own — at least for now.

Coming soon

P&G announced today that its new plan is to share all fragrance ingredients — for any substance present in concentrations of greater than 0.01% — online for its entire product portfolio in the U.S. and Canada by 2019. The company will start by focusing on fabric, home, and beauty care categories, listing what’s in certain Tide, Febreze, Herbal Essences, and Olay products.

Pointing out that it already lists all fragrance ingredients online, P&G says this move is an “additional level of detail” that will “offer consumers more reliable information to help choose what’s best for them and their families.”

Beyond simply saying what’s in these products, P&G says it will also add information like where else the ingredients can be found, “such as everyday fruits, foods, and other products.”

Of course, just because your face wash is made with the same thing that’s in grapefruit rinds doesn’t mean you should go rubbing it all over your face. If an ingredient and its possible side effects are unfamiliar to you, you’ll still have to do a bit of research on your own.

“While we applaud P&G’s actions today, we will also urge them to go further in protecting public health,” says U.S. PIRG Toxics Advocate Dev Gowda. “P&G should also provide full fragrance disclosure to consumers on product packages, regardless of the product category and whether the product contains fragrance ingredients over 100 parts per million.”

Transparency is trendy

P&G seems to be taking a page out of the playbook other companies are using to woo shoppers who want to know exactly what they’re putting on their skin or spraying in their kitchen.

In February, P&G competitor Unilever promised it would list its fragrance ingredients for its home and personal care goods online, which you can see in the wild over on the Seventh Generation website.

Brands like skincare company Beauty Counter as well as household names like SJC-owned Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day also feature online ingredient glossaries, explaining things like what’s in each product — whether it’s synthetic or from a plant-based source — and what they do.

Retailers are jumping on the transparency bandwagon as well: After encouraging suppliers to remove eight controversial chemicals from products last year, Walmart is the latest company to join The Chemical Footprint Project, which rates companies on their use of chemicals.

Also this year, Target unveiled new guidelines for manufacturers that will require them them to remove certain chemicals from products and list all ingredients on products over the next five years.