I spent my Sunday afternoon this week perusing the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) website. IFRA prohibits and restricts the use of many beloved perfume ingredients. Some of these ingredients cause sensitization, phototoxicity, are carcinogenic or have the "critical effect" of genotoxicity (they mess with your genetic info). These are serious issues and IFRA also advises on the use of such ingredients to flavor products that come into contact with our mouths and digestive systems: tobacco, toothpaste, pastilles, syrups and the like. What got me on an IFRA kick in the first place? I've been testing LOTS of perfumes recently that are full of Iso E Super and I was wondering what IFRA had to say about it.
Iso E Super is on IFRA's restricted list (as flavoring) due to its critical effect of sensitization; it can cause an allergic response (one that may worsen with repeated use). You can smell Iso E Super in hundreds of perfumes and in toiletries, home fragrance sprays and candles, and household cleaning products, like laundry detergents and dryer sheets. If you research Iso E Super, you quickly see it has some problems: it's suspected of being bioaccumulative in people and it can be deadly (as many chemicals, aromatic or not, can be) to aquatic plants and animals (those in your home and in nature).
I suspect Iso E Super's widespread use in laundry products, and the fact Iso E Super is often joined by "white" musks, sensitized me to its tangy, faux-wood aroma.
Years ago, I bought several tiny vials of pure Iso E Super to acquaint myself with it. My perfume collection certainly includes lots of perfumes that contain Iso E Super, but over time, I've had to give away or discard perfumes that I once liked because when I smell them now, all I smell is Iso E Super (given time, does it EAT UP other ingredients that share bottle space with it?) Perhaps, as it has accumulated in my body (only partly joking here), I've developed a distaste for Iso E Super. When I read a list of notes that includes "wood accord," "soft woods" or even "cedar" or "woody amber" I'm suspicious and sample that perfume on my body for a few days before I even think of buying it to make sure Iso E Super is not present or assertive.
You know where this review is leading, right? Byredo Super Cedar1 PR may talk of cedar trees, turpentine and pencil shavings but Super Cedar serves up what smells like almost-pure Iso E Super. A nasty trick, especially since such a "perfume" already exists: Escentric Molecules Escentric 01 (but if/as you read her review, you'll see that Robin here at NST™ does not dislike Iso E Super as I do).
Super Cedar begins with alcohol-tinged cedar (what smells like diluted, authentic, Virginia cedar). This realistic cedar aroma (that smells nothing at all like pencil shavings), doesn't last long. After Super Cedar's initial cedar flare-up, Iso E Super comes to the fore where it will remain for ages. (Near the end of its development, Super Cedar reminds me of Lalique Encre Noir's Iso E Super-vetiver "accord".)
I wore Super Cedar full-on (full-body, not just on arms or wrists) for one day for this review; it had been on my skin for ten hours when I came home and scoured myself in hot water and soap. My shower didn't budge Iso E Super from my skin. The clean shirt I wore AFTER my shower absorbed Iso E Super as if I had sprayed it on the fabric. The next morning, my sheets smelled of Iso E Super. My laundry room still smells like Iso E Super five days later because that post-shower shirt is in a hamper there. Bioaccumulative, indeed!!!
Byredo Super Cedar Eau de Parfum is, in my opinion, ridiculously priced at $150 (50 ml) or $230 (100 ml). Super Cedar is out of stock at many retailers, so I am definitely an outlier when it comes to Iso E Super. As always, feel free to tell me how wrong I am (about Iso E Super in this case) and share some of your favorite Iso E Super-rich perfumes in the comments section. And: Happy Thanksgiving!
1. Super Cedar was developed by perfumer Jérôme Epinette; the listed notes feature rose, cedar, musk and vetiver.
Note: top right image of Iso E Super structure via Wikimedia Commons.