HomeA-Z of terms and ingredientsMusks


Musk odours have always been very important for the fragrance industry. Musks were once only obtained from a gland in a particular species of deer which was in danger of extinction. Synthetic musks were developed by the fragrance industry as an alternative to the natural musk derived from animal sources. In fact, musk ingredients were one of the first synthetic materials used in perfumery.

Musks are now synthesised in a sustainable way. Scientists have been able to identify the molecules that make the essence of the natural smell and replicate these exactly.

Due to their widespread use, synthetic musk ingredients have been the subject of extensive testing, examining both human and environmental safety. Minute traces of musks have sometimes been detected in human breast milk and this led to a full review of their safety in cosmetic products by the European Commission's independent committee of scientific experts. This committee concluded on the basis of a full package of safety data that the synthetic musks which are used in cosmetic and personal care products in the UK and EU are safe for use. In particular, the opinions of the committee take into account the studies relating to traces found in breast milk. Those musks typically used in cosmetics are the synthetic polycyclic musks - HHCB and AHTN, and the nitromusks - musk xylene and musk ketone.

Musks have also undergone comprehensive environmental assessments by scientific experts. The polycyclic musks have been shown to have no adverse environmental impact.

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