All-natural perfumes

Do you really want an all-natural fragrance?  And what does natural actually mean?

What is a natural fragrance?

In recent years there’s been a rise in brands creating completely natural perfumes or marketing their formulas as predominantly natural. That means that the ingredients within that fragrance already exist in nature in some format. It also means there are limited, or no, synthetic/lab created, materials used.

Why would you want that?

The theory is that if it’s natural, it can’t be bad for you or the environment. It comes from a good place; it’s great that brands and consumers want to do better by themselves and the planet. In reality it’s not that simple.

Why naturals might not be all good

Well, first things first; just because it’s natural, it doesn’t mean it’s not harmful. Anyone fancy an all-natural deadly nightshade fragrance?! Or Eau de Hemlock? Probably not.

Whilst the vast majority of natural ingredients wouldn’t be classed as straight-up poisons, a lot of them are extremely allergenic. Rose, jasmine, oakmoss and many other perfumery classics can all cause really nasty skin reactions.

And natural definitely doesn’t mean sustainable. In fact, there are some precious woods used in fragrance that are considered endangered. An increase in demand for these natural materials can put species at risk, along with the humans trying to protect them – or traffic them.

It’s also an unpleasant fact that a lot of perfumes used to contain animal materials. How anyone discovered that tincturing the dried gland of a musk deer produced something nice, is a mystery. Other gross things used in perfumery are; anal secretions from civets, anal secretions from beavers and whale puke. None of this is pleasant and a lot of it is very cruel, but it is all natural.

Is there anything wrong with using synthetic ingredients?

There are pros, cons, and limitations with each material, synthetic or otherwise. But lab-made materials shouldn’t be thought of as bad. In fact, scientists can do some pretty cool things. For example, by deconstructing the chemical formula of rose, or bergamot, they can isolate the chemicals that cause skin reactions then recreate the scent leaving those chemicals out. They can make recreations of natural ingredients that are hard to grow or are endangered. And they can create the smell of beaver bum, without having to harm a beaver.

And for those people who just don’t like the idea of using synthetic materials and think they simply must be bad for us, remember; the dose makes the poison. Apples, pears, and potatoes all contain chemicals that are toxic to humans but it’s present in such minuscule amounts that overall we still consider them to be good for us.

What to watch out for

There are a few brands that refer to their fragrances as “clean” or with “no nasties”. When questioned about those claims they said that they try not to use chemicals in their formulas – as if chemicals were inherently bad. Absolutely everything has a chemical composition. Natural ingredients are made of chemicals, everything we eat is made of chemicals… we are made of chemicals!

So, it’s absolutely fine if you want to use a 100% natural perfume, but make sure you’re making an informed choice and not being told that that’s the right thing to do for your health or the environment because it actually might not be.

What’s our stance at Thursday Fragrance?

We love both. We’ll use naturals in a safe and sustainable way, and the same with synthetics. Each material, whether natural or synthetic, has its own character and brings something different to the composition so it really depends on what we are trying to achieve. About Thyme has loads of beautiful naturals in it and Magic + Science really does use the magic of science because there is a spectacular violet note in there that just couldn’t be achieved in nature.