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Safety in Numbers: The Henry Rose Team on a New Era of Ingredient Transparency

Published July 10, 2022
Published July 10, 2022
Henry Rose

Two years ago, WWD prophesied clean fragrance as “beauty’s next big bet,” demonstrating an impressive annual growth of 21%. Among industry figures, the clean fragrance category has caused a distinct divide: some claim it capitalizes on unnecessary fear and diminishes the role of existing regulations, testing, and safety procedures, while others see it as the only way forward to ensure peace of mind for consumers and the industry alike. The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) governs the industry's use of potentially allergenic raw materials, releasing the 50th Amendment to its guidelines in January 2022. To date, the organization has placed restrictions and bans on ingredients including oakmoss, lyral, and lirial. For those operating clean fragrance brands, the likes of parabens and artificial fragrances are added to their list. But what if the next iteration of fragrance moves away from the clean/dirty binary, emphasizing radical transparency instead?

One of the frontrunners of the movement has been Henry Rose, founded by Michelle Pfeiffer in 2019 in her quest for a fine fragrance with 100% ingredient disclosure, built on “an uncompromising belief that one shouldn’t have to sacrifice quality for safety.” Despite its association with the genre, the brand deems itself neither a “clean” or a “natural” fragrance brand, two terms which are often seen as interchangeable despite one emphasizing a lack of certain controversial ingredients while the other is about fragrance formulations devoid of synthetics. Henry Rose instead focuses on the terms of safety and transparency, being the only perfume brand to date to have certifications from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), of which Pfeiffer has been a board member since 2016, and Cradle to Cradle.

EWG certification requires full ingredient disclosure, a green (meaning low-hazard) scoring on the EWG Skin Deep database, formulas devoid of ingredients on the EWG’s Unacceptable list (Henry Rose mentions 35 families of ingredients including parabens, talc, and phthalates—the document of banned ingredients for personal care products overall is over 1,000 pages in length) and in line with limits set out for those on the EWG Restricted list, plus a manufacturing practice that coincides with FDA guidelines. Cradle to Cradle is a third-party certification process testing across five pillars: material health, product circularity, clean air & climate protection, water & soil stewardship, and social fairness.

While the safe and transparent fragrance territory Henry Rose is treading is certainly polarizing, one can’t deny that its team has gone the extra mile, and then some. Pfeiffer tells BeautyMatter that the journey to a EWG and C2C-certified fragrance line wasn’t a simple one. “In the beginning, I thought that the fragrances would be focused on plant-based ingredients. Then as I got deeper into it, what I soon learned was I most likely wasn't going to get the Environmental Working Group’s stamp for their verification for safety because so many people have allergies to a lot of these materials. That was the biggest learning for me and my first disappointment because I thought okay, now what do I do?” she recounts, noting that “in many cases, using a safe synthetic is actually a better option than using the plant-based material because that synthetic is going to be safer for you.” This further complicated the creation process, with the brand only able to launch its first floral scent two and a half years into its existence due to ingredient limitations.

“In many cases, using a safe synthetic is actually a better option than using the plant-based material because that synthetic is going to be safer for you.”
By Michelle Pfeiffer, Founder, Henry Rose

Slashing the list of available ingredients for fragrance composition from 3,000 to 300 is a daunting task for even the most experienced nose. IFF perfumers Yves Cassar and Pascal Gaurin rose to the occasion, crafting the five fragrances the brand debuted with: Fog, Jake’s House, Last Night, Torn, and Dark Is Night. Since then, Henry Rose has expanded its offerings even further, not only with body care and home fragrance, but six additional scents: the pink peppercorn and rose-laden Sheep’s Clothing; the full-bodied white floral Flora Carnivora; the citrus and tea-infused Windows Down; the smooth sandalwood stylings of Queens & Monsters; the fruity aquatic burst of freshness in Smyth; and Last Light’s harmoniously soothing musk and patchouli pairing. Flora Carnivora and Windows Down bear the olfactory signature of fellow IFF perfumer Céline Barel. “Henry Rose believes that scarcity breeds innovation, and some of the most creative work is born as a result of limitation. The brand has proven exceptional creativity from its onset through its ability to formulate and release new products while working with an extremely limited ingredient palette,” adds Vinita Jayant, Director of Product Development.

Green chemistry, which focuses on using renewable raw materials, avoiding hazardous materials, and employing an energy-efficient manufacturing process, presents another important cornerstone of the Henry Rose ethos, constituting 90-100% of the creation process of all the brand’s fragrances, which are also between 98-100% biodegradable. IFF states that another important facet of its green chemistry endeavor is waste reduction through using materials such as pine-based byproducts of the paper industry into fragrance ingredients. Throughout its partnership with the company, Henry Rose has assisted the scent manufacturer in building the necessary data for its Green Chemistry Assessment Tool, which is now used across its ingredient catalog, processes, and products, extending the impact far beyond the Henry Rose product range.

“Fragrance is a notoriously mysterious industry; formulas are considered trade secrets, and therefore the ingredients in fragrance aren't required to be disclosed. This isn’t limited to fine fragrance and perfume; fragrance can be listed as a single ingredient on personal care product labels, despite being composed of up to 3,000 potentially harmful ingredients,” Jayant explains. “Because of this, harmful ingredients, like preservatives or stabilizers, can be hidden from consumers by including them under this catch-all term ‘fragrance.’ The lack of regulation around fragrance leaves consumers in the dark about the ingredients they are exposing themselves and their families to.”

Furthermore, 30% of the general US population have demonstrated a fragrance sensitivity with varying realms of intensity, but without knowing the exact ingredient makeup of the product causing the reaction, it becomes more difficult to pinpoint allergen triggers. “Henry Rose gives the power back to consumers by providing complete ingredient transparency for all of its products. Every single ingredient in Henry Rose’s products has been vetted against the strictest standards for health and safety known today, “ Jayant adds. The company has also partnered with Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, supporting their “Right to Know: Exposing Toxic Chemicals in Beauty, Personal Care and Cleaning Products” campaign and donating a portion of proceeds to chemical safety research and advocacy.

Last but certainly not least, the bottles housing Henry Rose creations are made of NEO Infinite glass, which is made of 90% recycled glass (comprised of 65% internal cullet, 25% post-consumer recycled glass, and 10% raw materials) and topped off with compostable soy resin caps for 100% recyclable packaging.

The company’s dedication has not gone unnoticed, with its online community growing to 75,000 followers. Since launch, Henry Rose has garnered various industry accolades such as the Allure Best of Beauty awards (in the 2020 and 2021 Clean Fragrance category for Queens & Monsters and Windows Down respectively), with Pfeiffer honored at the CEW’s 2021 Female Founders awards. The brand’s sales have doubled year-on-year alongside its new customer acquisition numbers, proving the ultimate power of conviction.


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