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How to Use the IFRA Certificate

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 Sea Salt and Orchid

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 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 12 categories (and multiple subcategories) 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 four categories.

  • Category 12: Air care not intended for direct skin contact. This category includes candles, wax melts, and other products that are not intended to be used on the skin.
  • Category 10A: Household cleaning products. This includes reed diffusers. 
  • Category 9: Products with body and hand exposure, rinse off. This category includes soap, sugar scrubs, and other body products that are meant to be rinsed off after contact with skin.
  • Category 5 and subcategories:
    • 5A: Body lotion
    • 5B: Face moisturize
    • 5C: Hand cream
    • 5D: Baby products (leave on)

Since you’re reading this on the CandleScience website, you’re most likely working with one or more of the 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 a Valentine’s Day gift set that features a soy candle, melt and pour soap, and a body lotion all scented with Rose Petals.

Rose Petals has a maximum usage level of 100 for use in candles (Category 12). 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, we see the max usage level is 14.01 for soap. Perfect! This is above the CandleScience recommended usage rate of 3-6%. If you’ve previously used Rose Petals in your soaps, you may notice that the maximum usage level is higher than it used to be. Great news for those who love this fragrance in their soaps. 

To calculate our fragrance load for our Rose Petals soap, we’ll use the same formula we used above. 

(16oz of soap base) x (3% fragrance load) = (.48oz of fragrance oil needed)

For our body lotion, we’ll look at Category 5A. We can see that Rose Petals is approved at 1.83. So why doesn't CandleScience list Rose Petals as approved for lotion? We generally find that you get the best results from fragrances in lotions when used at a minimum of 2%, so when the IFRA lists the maximum usage level as below 2% we count it as not recommended for lotions.

You might test it out and find that you’re quite happy with the results of using, say, 1% or 1.5% Rose Petals in your lotion. If so, great! At this usage percentage, you’re still within the maximum allowable usage rate so your Rose Petals body lotion at 1% is IFRA compliant. Cases like these are why we always recommend taking a look at the IFRA certificate.

(16oz of lotion) x (1% fragrance load) = (.16oz of fragrance oil needed)

SCENARIO: Cactus Flower and Jade is one of my favorite candle fragrances. I’m thinking about experimenting with reed diffusers and want to try this scent first.

First, we’ll note that usage rates for reed diffusers changed quite a bit with the introduction of the IFRA 49. You can read more about those reed diffuser updates here and all IFRA 49 changes here.

Reed diffusers are considered to be in Category 10A, with a maximum usage level of 10.80. CandleScience recommends a 25% usage rate in reed diffusers—we’ve found that this is generally the optimal percentage for getting a good result from the fragrance.

However, it may still be worth testing out Cactus Flower and Jade at a 10% usage rate in your reed diffusers. You might find that rate gives you a result you’re happy with.

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!