The San Francisco-based clean beauty chain is introducing its Fragrance Transparency Policy, a two-part mandate that strongly encourages the brands it sells to reveal more information about the ingredients in the fragrances used in their products. The policy applies to all categories that Credo sells, including skin care, body care, makeup, hair care and fine fragrance.
It is the latest step in the company’s “Credo Clean Standard,” a lengthy set of guidelines rolled out last year that require brands to comply with tighter rules, ranging from label transparency to documentation from suppliers regarding good manufacturing practices and ingredient purity.
The fragrance policy is twofold. At a minimum, all brands sold at Credo are now required to disclose the source of the fragrance used in a product — i.e., whether it’s natural, naturally derived, from essential oils or synthetic, and so on. A second step asks for full disclosure of all ingredients that go into the fragrance of a product, an act that is not commonly practiced in the beauty industry.
While the second step of the policy is not mandatory for brands, 71 of the 137 brands that Credo sells have done so. Disclosing the ingredients found in fragrance is not always an easy step, said Mia Davis, Credo’s director of mission. It requires soliciting that information from suppliers, who are historically secretive around fragrance ingredients, ultimately leaving consumers in the dark on what goes into their products, especially given that fragrance itself is typically comprised of several ingredients.
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“There are very few unscented products on the market,” said Davis. “Fragrance touches so many parts of our industry and literally touches so many people’s bodies. We’re inhaling this stuff. The secrecy around fragrance and the fact that [a supplier] can use any number of 4,000 ingredients in these fragrance blends and not to disclose them to brands that are buying them or to the consumer is a real problem from a consumer right-to-know POV.”
Credo is hoping that by tightening its rules as a retailer, that pressure on brands will ultimately be transferred to suppliers, which may be more inclined to reveal once-hidden information when it is being repeatedly asked for.
“We’ve heard from some brands that [getting fragrance houses to disclose ingredient blends] is a pain point, and would like to be disclosing but are having a hard time getting that information,” said Davis. “Some might end up having to part ways with fragrance houses that aren’t giving them that information.”
Davis remarked that some fragrance houses are more amenable to revealing information than others. “They are seeing that this is the way of the future. Brands that are customers of fragrance houses have a right to know what they are buying and selling because it’s their brand reputation. There’s a slow movement of fragrance houses understanding that.”
Some of the ingredients Credo is most concerned about in regards to fragrance include phthalates, nitromusks and polycyclic musks, as Davis said there is significant (or enough by Credo’s standards) data on these ingredients to warrant concerns around toxicity when used in personal-care products.
While again brands are not required to disclose their full fragrance ingredient lists, Credo is encouraging disclosure by rewarding brands that do so with more exposure. For example, a landing page on the brand’s web site is dedicated to all 71 (and counting) brands that have signed on to fully reveal what is in their fragrances.
Credo introduced its updated brand standards in 2018 in an attempt to further define the meaning of “clean beauty” for the greater industry and to introduce some guidelines in a space that is largely unregulated. It is not the only clean beauty retailer to play the activist role, however — Boston-based Follain has also made its own well-publicized mandates, including the banning of preservative phenoxyethanol.
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