The alarming truth is that the rose-like scent in your perfume is likely a blend of the fragrance industry's 4,000 chemical ingredients. With very little regulation in the cosmetics industry, perfumers are allowed to withhold fragrance ingredients to protect trade secrets leaving consumers utterly unaware of what is lurking inside their favorite bottle.
In April, this all changed when the brand Henry Rose made its debut and launched as the first fine fragrance line to obtain the coveted EWG VERIFIED™ mark, established by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Since 1993, the Environmental Working Group has specialized in advocacy and research in the area of toxic chemicals, agricultural subsidies, and drinking water pollutants. EWG VERIFIED™ was created to incentivize companies to create safer, healthier products, and obtaining the mark is no easy feat. Products must be free of substances that the EWG has placed on its list of unacceptable ingredients which include ingredients restricted, or banned, by the U.S., international government organizations or the World Health Organization. Brands must also disclose specific elements that make up the alchemy of its products (in this case, fragrance formulas) as well as follow strict manufacturing practices.
Henry Rose founder, actress, and environmentalist, Michelle Pfieffer, first found the Environmental Working Group (EWG) after searching for safe products for her family. Now an EWG board member, Pfieffer has supported lobbying and policy reforms in Washington, most recently accompanying EWG President, Ken Cook, in Capitol Hill urging federal lawmakers to support the Personal Care Product Safety Act, a bipartisan bill that would modernize how the FDA regulates personal care products, which has remained mostly unchanged since 1938.
The story of Henry Rose begins two decades ago when Pfieffer, a fragrance lover, struggled to find a perfume that did not compromise safety for quality. When she realized what she sought did not exist, she stopped wearing fragrance altogether. In 2010, seeing that there was still no movement in the space for safe formulations, Pfeiffer was inspired to create a line based on the strictest health standards with full ingredient transparency. After initial attempts at licensing deals with cosmetics companies, it quickly became apparent that full ingredient transparency was a guaranteed dead end. Pfieffer tabled the idea until 2016, the same year she joined the board of EWG. With the support of EWG President, Ken Cook, Pfeiffer deserted the idea of a licensing deal and pivoted, deciding to create her own line of fragrance instead. Henry Rose, a union of the middle names of Pfeiffer's son and daughter, launched this year with a collection of five fragrances disclosing 100 percent of its ingredients.
Organic Authority recently caught up with Henry Rose co-founder and CEO Melina Polly, a former Headspace VP of marketing and communications.
Organic Authority: Who is Henry Rose, and what was the inspiration for starting the perfume line?
Melina Polly: Michelle Pfeiffer and I founded Henry Rose. Michelle had been working on creating an EWG verified line of fragrances for several years, and when we met about a year ago, we decided to partner in creating a company and brand around the scents she'd been developing. Henry Rose is a line of fine fragrances that is fully transparent with its ingredients, proving you do not have to sacrifice quality for safety. No one ever really questions fragrance, and everything is protected by trade secrets and proprietary information. Henry Rose was determined to open that last "black box" in personal care. We are the first fine fragrance on the market to be both EWG Verified and Cradle to Cradle GOLD Certified, with an overall material health score of PLATINUM.
OA: Obtaining the EWG VERIFIED™ mark is quite an accomplishment. Why was it important to launch the product line with this standard?
MP: It's important to be EWG Verified because it means our product meets the most stringent health and safety standards set forth by the industry's leading watchdog in personal care. By being EWG Verified and Cradle to Cradle Certified, consumers seeking transparency and safety do not have to look any further than those two marks. We've already done the work for you.
OA: What were the challenges your team faced when creating formulas with limited palettes?
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MP: I guess just like with everything else, scarcity breeds creativity. It forces you to be creative with the few tools (or ingredients) you do have and strip away the unnecessary. To say it with the words of one of our perfumers, Pascal Gaurin: "In working with a limited palette, you are creating an olfactive signature for the whole collection that makes it identifiable and groundbreaking. That's the part that I like - the fact that it gets you out of your comfort zone, pushing you to rethink the parameters around you as well."
OA: Aside from the challenges with formulating, how difficult was it to source materials that aligned with the ethos of the brand?
MP: It was important for us to remain committed to sustainability and safety outside of the scents themselves. Made with NEO-Infinite glass that is 90% recycled and caps made from soy, which means our bottles are 100% recyclable. Secondary packaging is from a bio-based, biodegradable, and compostable paper alternative.
OA: What are your goals for Henry Rose as the company grows?
MP: We have set a very high bar for ourselves - the C2C, EWG labels, and full ingredient transparency along aiming to be as sustainable as possible with our packaging. We want to stay as close as possible to this bar as we grow. We believe that there's room for a brand that takes transparency and sustainability very seriously without compromising on a premium, luxury experience.
OA: How do you see the fragrance industry changing, and do you see Henry Rose as the catalyst for this change?
MP: We would love it if, by us proving that it is possible to create fully transparent fine fragrances, we could claim a small role in an industry shift towards more transparency, so we can all learn more about the role ingredients play in people's health. But most importantly, we want to focus on building a brand and business that can offer this very thing to consumers, to prove that you don't have to choose between premium experience, quality, and a safer product. We don't see ourselves as warriors. We believed that there was a need for a line of products like this and are so happy that the reception has been so positive.
OA: What is your favorite scent of the line?
MP: Honestly, it depends on so many factors - the occasion, the weather, my mood. But my favorites are: Last Light, Dark is Night and Fog. They are all good for layering, which is great if you change your mind mid-way through the day.
To Henry Rose, impressive accolades only mean greater transparency. Right out of the gate, the brand makes a firm commitment to the safety of its customers and the environment. In line with sustainability, Henry Rose partners with Heifer International to give back a portion of all proceeds to the farming families harvesting vetiver in Haiti for its blends. Want to give the scents a try? The five fragrance collection (Torn, Last Night, Jake's House, Dark Is Night, and Fog) is available in 2 ML sample sizes through the Henry Rose website, sold exclusively online and presently only shipping to the U.S.
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