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Learn to use the IFRA certificate like a pro!

Have you ever been told to reference the IFRA certificate for a fragrance oil, taken a look, and made a face like 🤔? 

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Information about IFRA (pronounced if-rah) and usage levels can be intimidating to wade through, especially if it’s all new to you. In this article, we’ll go over what IFRA is and how to use the IFRA certificate as a maker of home and personal fragrance products. 

IFRA, or the International Fragrance Association, promotes the safe use and enjoyment of fragrances. The IFRA Standards are a set of rules and regulations for the use of fragrance materials, and a baseline for the industry. Their website is an excellent resource for learning more about fragrance, fragrance regulations worldwide, and the organization itself. 

Now, let’s dive into how to make sense of the IFRA certificate and how to apply the information in your making process. 

Each and every fragrance has its own certificate confirming compliance with IFRA’s standards. Because the composition of every fragrance is different, every fragrance has different usage levels for different applications. If you’re wondering why the usage level for each application varies, think about the difference between spilling orange juice on your hand and accidentally splashing some into your eye. Orange juice on your hand, you wipe it off and carry on. Orange juice in your eye, well, you’re going to have a bad time! 

This is the certificate for Fallen Leaves

At the top, you can see our contact and support information. Next, the date the certificate was prepared and the statement of compliance.

The “meat” of each IFRA certificate is the table of categories and usage levels for each category. The maximum usage level is the most fragrance it is possible to use for each application and remain IFRA-compliant. Just like a wax can only hold a certain percentage of fragrance, this is the cap on how much of a specific fragrance can be used in different kinds of products without making that final product unsafe or likely to cause irritation.

REMEMBER: The max usage level is the most fragrance you can use for that application and still be IFRA-compliant. It is not a recommendation for how much you should use for the best end results.

IFRA has 11 categories of uses and applications for fragrance and lists the maximum usage percentage of a specific fragrance for each category. You can find more details about each specific category on the IFRA website. For our purposes, we primarily deal with three categories.

  • Category 11: Non Skin Contact/Incidental Skin Contact. This category includes candles, wax melts, and other products that are not intended to be used on the skin. 

  • Category 9: Rinse Off Products/Aerosol Products. This category includes soap, sugar scrubs, and other body products that are meant to be rinsed off after contact with skin. 

  • Category 4: Hair Style Aids Spray/Body Creams. This category includes lotion, body butters, and other products intended to remain on the skin. 

Since you’re reading this on the CandleScience website, you’re most likely working with one or more of these three applications above. Let’s work through some examples of using the IFRA certificate to figure out how much fragrance we’ll need for a few different applications.

SCENARIO: I want to make some holiday soy candles and melt and pour soaps with the Christmas Hearth fragrance. I’ll check the IFRA and look at Categories 9 and 11.

 

 

Christmas Hearth has a maximum usage level of 51.10 for use in candles (Category 11). That’s well above the maximum fragrance load of my wax, so I’ll proceed with my usual methods for calculating how much fragrance I’ll need for this batch of candles.

Looking at Category 9, I see the max usage level is 2.40 for soap. Wait a minute—why does CandleScience say Christmas Hearth is not soap safe if the IFRA certificate lists the max usage level at 2.40?

 

The usage recommendations found in the Properties table of each fragrance oil are just that: our recommendations. CandleScience usage standards for soap are 3-6%, and Christmas Hearth falls a little below that with a max use of 2.4%. 

And that’s why we check the IFRA certificate! 

Because I plan to make my soap using a 2% fragrance load, I’m good to go with using Christmas Hearth as the fragrance. 

I use the same formula as I used above to calculate how much I’ll need for my soaps.

(16oz of soap base) x (2% fragrance load) = (.32oz of fragrance oil needed)

SCENARIO: I love Sea Salt and Orchid in candles, and want to try it out in my favorite lotion base. I’ll check the IFRA and look at Category 4.

 

For lotion, IFRA gives Sea Salt and Orchid has a max usage level of 28.19%. CandleScience recommends a 1-2% fragrance load for lotions, but now that I know how to use the IFRA certificate like a pro I’m going to bump my usage up to 3%, still well below the max of 28.19%. 


(32oz of lotion base) x (3% fragrance load) = (.96oz of fragrance oil needed)

 

Now you’re ready to use the IFRA certificate like a pro, too! And if you’re ever unsure or have additional questions, we’re here to help. Reach out to our customer support team or contact us on social media if you need a hand!