Famously, it was the only thing Marilyn Monroe wore in bed, and it has been synonymous with style and sophistication for more than nine decades. But now, for the first time in its 91-year history, Chanel No5 perfume is under threat.
The reason? One of its key ingredients - a naturally occurring type of tree moss - has come under the microscope of a team of EU scientists who believe it may cause allergies.
It may seem bizarre that the top-selling perfume in the world - a bottle is sold every 30 seconds - could potentially be so damaging when tens of thousands of women across the globe wear it every day. But it’s just the latest in a long line of restrictions imposed on the scent industry in the past few years.
Under rules implemented by the European Commission in 2006, 26 common ingredients including the now-infamous tree moss and eugenol (found in rose oil), must be declared on the packaging of perfume because they are potentially allergenic.
Now it has emerged that the Commission’s Scientific Committee of Consumer Safety, charged with protecting citizens from harmful substances, has extended the list to cover 100 ‘unsafe’ materials.
While they recommend that some must be declared on packaging or the amount used in a perfume be restricted, they want some - including the tree moss used in Chanel No?5 to help give it its distinctive smell - banned entirely.
And while these are only guidelines and not law, it is likely that perfume manufacturers will feel pressure to comply. The industry watchdog, the International Fragrance Association, is taking it so seriously it has decided to conduct further research into the potential skin allergens on the back of the recommendations.
This doesn’t affect only Chanel; a host of other well-loved perfumes - from Miss Dior to Guerlain’s Shalimar and Angel by Thierry Mugler - could be caught up, too.
For the new list calls for restrictions of many commonly used ingredients such as citral, found in lemon and tangerine oils, and coumarine, which comes from the spicy South American tonka bean - all naturally sourced ingredients, it should be pointed out, which have been used for decades in perfume-making without causing serious harm.
It is even feared that jasmine and rose - some of the most common ingredients in the world’s favourite scents - could be put on future lists. But back to Chanel. What is this innocuous-sounding tree moss, and how important is it to Chanel No?5? According to Francis Pickthall, director of UK-based international fragrance house CPL Aromas, tree moss has always been an important ingredient in high-end fragrances thanks to its distinctive earthy, woody scent, which No?5 fans would immediately recognise.