Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Scoop on Miss Dior's Current Formulation

In March of this year some very intelligent fragrance lovers were wondering whether or not oakmoss had been removed from the composition of Miss Dior as the raw material was no longer listed on the packaging. Oakmoss is a defining ingredient in perfumery's chypre category and is on IFRA's list of ingredients that may cause skin irritation. IFRA's position on oakmoss is clearly stated in the sentence that introduces their assessment regarding safe levels of use, "Oak moss extracts (e.g. absolute, resinoid, concrete, etc.) obtained from Evernia prunastri should not be used such that the level in consumer products exceeds 0.1%."

When Dior's Paris office provided an ambiguous answer to Glass Petal Smoke's initial inquiry regarding the current formulation of Miss Dior, Diane Vavra (Vice-President of Public Relations at Dior Beauty) made sure that a clear answer was provided. The official response from Dior, which took three weeks to arrive, is as follows:

Oakmoss is well included in the formula of Miss Dior but does not appear on the full labeling because its concentration in the product is less than 10 ppm (the IFRA rule is that ingredients that could generate allergies must appear on the list of ingredients only if their concentration [in] the product (leave-on products) is more than 10 ppm).

Dior's original response inferred that the absence of oakmoss on fragrance packaging indicated its presence:

[There has been] no reformulation of Miss Dior but there has been a change in April 2007 in the listing, following some new information given by the supplier of a specific raw material, and also internal data on the concentrate. So, the formula is the same but the full labeling has indeed slightly changed.

Kudos to Ms. Vavra, who despite the implications of the question, valued a clear answer. Things do get lost in translation between France and the U.S.

An industry insider for a multi-million dollar beauty company that manufactures some of the world's finest fragrances made the following comment about reformulations and oakmoss, on the condition that they would not be identified; "Many companies chose to comply with IFRA rather than retaining their [original] formulas. Adding a sensitizing warning on the packaging, which is required for amounts of oakmoss over 10 parts per million, can potentially scare away the consumer."

I know many fragrance connoisseurs who would be happy to have a traditional dilution of oakmoss at hand that could be layered with chypre fragrances that have been reformulated to the point of amnesia. There is nothing like the scent of oakmoss, which author Steffan Arctander beautifully describes as "reminiscent of seashore, forest, bark, wood and tannery." If there is a company daring enough to create a single-note oakmoss fragrance, they could call it Eau de Lazarus and promote its resurrecting powers. The "self-governing body" of IFRA would prefer to call it Poison, but then, as Dior knows, the name Poison is already taken.


I write copy professionally by trade. At one non-Dior assignment I worked with a decision maker in fragrance marketing. I smelled a mod that would be released abroad and went into a tailspin; I smelled elements from the old Miss Dior (Miss Dior was reformulated by Edmond Roudnitska in 1992). I shared my enthusiasm with this person and their response was, "I couldn't stand the old formula. As a matter of fact I was consulting at Dior and worked on the reformulation. We took out that dirty, "old lady" smell."

From that moment on, as much as I loved working with this person, my opinion of them had taken a 180-degree turn. The irony grew as the essential oil house that made the mod I had smelled was the same essential oil house that worked on the original Miss Dior formula. Interesting indeed.