Born with an allergy to perfume, essential oils, and fragrances, Katja Rosasco spent more than 13 years working as a hairstylist, navigating a world full of products she couldn’t use on herself.
— When it comes to haircare, there are two worlds, she explains — one with beautiful quality products that you buy in a high-end salon or store and one with no fragrance at pharmacies. Even though I have allergies, I still appreciate good quality and a beautiful design. Years went by and no one seemed to try and change this. So, I founded Meishai to be one of the first to combine the two worlds for those with allergy and sensitivities and for everyone else who want to avoid developing them. All products are certified by Asthma and Allergy Nordic — one of the hardest certifications to get.
Skincare and makeup brand Lumene’s specific fragrance-free range, called Arktis, has been developed together with Finnish Allergy, Skin and Asthma Federation to have ingredients that are suitable for sensitive skin.
— As the need for fragrance-free products has increased, we have also some products available in ranges where there is typically a fragrance, and in eye products, we never use fragrances as they might irritate the eye, says Alain Mavon, VP R&D and Sustainability.
Christian Arhøj is the founder of Clean up, offering a fragrance-free range which includes different shampoos, a conditioner, serum, volume cream, and such.
— It’s everything you need in your haircare routine, a simple range with focus on performance, without compromising on allergies, he says. We’ve created a haircare brand that works for all hair and skin types. I have worked in the haircare business for the last 20 years. Due to experiences with close friends and family members, who suddenly got allergic to perfume and couldn’t find good quality haircare without perfume, I got the idea for the brand.
According to Alain Mavon, the consumer demand for fragrance-free products has ”clearly increased” in the past years, due to two phenomena.
— First, consumers have become more interested in and conscious of skincare ingredients. They are quite knowledgeable of what ingredients to look for in products, are interested in understanding what certain ingredients do, and also have a perception of what ’should’ be avoided. Social media plays a part here. Some of these consumers choose to opt out of added fragrance, as they want to avoid ’extras’ in their products and might think that fragrance isn’t necessary for an efficacious product as it doesn’t have a skin benefit, merely sensorial. Secondly, it seems that more consumers are perceiving their skin as ’sensitive’. As consumers today look for efficacious products that deliver visible results, they are turning more to products with potent active ingredients such as peeling acids and retinol, which might cause their skin to feel more reactive and in need of products suitable for sensitive skin.
— More and more people demand haircare without perfume, because they get allergic or more attentive to a life with clean products in both haircare and skincare, says Christian Arhøj, Clean up.
Katja Rosasco at Meishai is based in Copenhagen and has also noticed changing consumer behaviours.
— When I worked as a hairstylist, I asked and talked with my clients about this for years. Not only those with allergies or sensitivities but also my younger clients and colleagues in the hair industry started to become more and more conscious of choosing fragrance-free products. I really had the best ’test panel’ — I still use them for feedback, testing new products, and taking wishes for future ones.
The fragrance plays a big part in the perception of a product, so how do you work to maintain a good premium feel without it?
— In our opinion, performance means a lot more than fragrance, says Christian Arhøj. The moment our customers feel the products in their own hair, they get a feeling of quality and high-performance ingredients. Our goal is to let people know that it is possible to find simple, clean haircare of a quality that is worthy of a salon.
— Most of all, it is a matter of the natural odour of the ingredients. We select ingredients with a mild or pleasant natural odour in the formulation — by formulating accordingly we can achieve innovative, pleasant feeling formulations, says Alain Mavon, VP R&D and Sustainability, Lumene.
— We have created Meishai with a different design and feel than what you usually will see on Asthma and Allergy certified products, says Katja Rosasco. Take our shampoo, which comes without two common foaming agents that can cause irritated skin and scalp and where we found and use a natural and more gentle foaming agent, called Sodium Coco Sulfate (SCS). So you will notice that it does not foam as fast as your normal shampoo and the trick is to add more water to the hair and not more product. We’ve also created a how-to guide for optimal use.
What feedback have you received working like this?
— It’s been as expected — and we do continue developing fragrance-free products, says Alain Mavon. Fragrance is a big part of the sensorial experience of the product and as such important to many consumers as well. Perhaps becoming even more important, as consumers look to boost their mood and improve their general well-being through skincare.
— The response to Clean up has been incredible and consumers have welcomed perfume-free haircare with open arms, says Christian Arhøj.
— We’ve only been on the market for one year and we knew that it would take time to find its place, Katja Rosasco, founder of Meishai, explains. Most consumers and retailers have to get used to the fact that it’s without any scent. However, after using it for a while, they say that they feel ’detoxed’ and that it’s funny how it suddenly seems so unnecessary to think that they used to have a different scent in every single cosmetic product. Most of them still like perfume and fragrances but now it’s something they choose to put on when they want and have chosen what scent they like themselves.
Will this grow bigger or is it more of a temporary trend?
— I very much believe that this is something we will see more and more of — I will do my best to show that it is possible and hopefully inspire other brands, says Katja Rosasco. I think it’s more like an awakening than a trend. The facts are that it’s a cocktail effect from fragrances in every single cosmetic product, that can trigger allergies. And once you got it, it’s not going away. I hope for more transparency regarding perfume in our industry. I knew how hard it was for me to navigate in, because today, perfume and fragrance come in many forms and many names.
Neither Alain Mavon nor Christian Arhøj believes that this is a passing trend.
— The demand for fragrance-free and fragranced products will continue to co-exist, says Mavon.
— People become more and more attentive to which products and ingredients they expose to their hair and skin. I see a lot of brands changing their formulas to make their products perfume free, as it gradually receives more and more focus in the beauty industry, says Arhøj. He continues:
— More and more people are becoming allergic. We have used the same parabens for the last 30 years, but now that they have been removed, other forms of preservation are used. But the problem is that we don’t have as much experience with those preservations, and many people experience reaction and cross allergies due to that.
— Where approximately 5% of the Danish population suffers from perfume or fragrance allergies, and what is concerning is that these numbers are increasing every year, predominantly among the youth. If more consumers choose perfume- or fragrance-free, it can hopefully inspire the industry to find the courage to create and produce cleaner. It’s important for me to say that perfume is not bad in itself but we have to ask ourselves if it is necessary for every single cosmetic product. Maybe with time, we can find a better balance, so that not more and more people are developing perfume allergies. I believe there is a big hole in the market and maybe this is really a big opportunity standing in front of our industry, says Katja Rosasco.
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