Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Kiehl's Vetiver Essence: A Case Study for Countering Hyper Regulation?

This month I received a bottle of vintage Kiehl's Vetiver Essence from Regina Joskow. (Regina is the daughter of Aldona Joskow, the subject of the post Perfume Memories: Mitsouko). The two of us grew up together and were perfumistas before the word ever passed between anyone's lips. We reconnected over dinner at Salam, a setting befitting our passion for fragrance as perfume was born in the Middle East. Despite the passage of time each of us can still rattle off a list of every scent we have ever worn or purchased. Two ingredients remain perennial favorites; Vetiver and Patchouli.

When L'Oreal announced it was buying Kiehl's in 2000, Regina bought every single bottle of Kiehl's Vetiver Essence she could get her hands on (she may have single-handedly wiped out any remaining stock available online). The genie is still in the bottle she gave me. The Vetiver has grown rich and earthy over time, maintaining a distinctive, sweet grass-like character that turns me into jelly every time I smell it on myself or a man (dark chocolate and saffron have the same effect so if the three are ever combined I will be a slave to the provocateur). Kiehl's Vetiver Essence smells like a combination of Bourbon Vetiver (leathery) and Haitian Vetiver (smoky); the same combination that is used in Lalique's Encre Noire (created by Firmenich perfumer Nathalie Lorson).

In the days of yore, Kiehl's packaged all of its "Essences" in a sealed plastic bag with a warning that never stopped shoppers or gave lawyers a reason to fear litigiousness:

The susceptibility of persons to pure essences varies from individual to individual.

From time to time, susceptible individuals can experience a rash, desensitization, or a temporary discoloration of the skin areas where the pure concentrated essences have been applied.

Sun exposures greatly increases this sensitivity of the body towards certain essences.

We therefore wish to advise users of pure essences to determine their own sensitivity by using the pure essences in unexposed areas and in very small amounts until each person finds and is satisfied with their own tolerance level.

Anyone can be sensitive, and in the case a sensitivity is noted, please discontinue use until the reaction returns to normal, or sun exposure is minimized, or in the case of extensive sensitivity, discontinue the use of the concentrated essence totally.

Colognes or perfumes are far less concentrated and should not cause any such reaction. However, always be alert for any such skin reaction at all times.
With the EU and IFRA's hyper regulation of raw materials, one wonders why this type of warning cannot be included on all fragrance products. Warnings appear on a variety of consumer products and encourage safety and enjoyment in the product experience. Glass Petal Smoke believes that warning labels will not stop fragrance lovers from indulging in the art of perfumery. Ignorance and hyper regulation will.