Natural vs Synthetic Fragrances. Which is best?

For many it is becoming more and more interesting to seek out an ‘organic’ orientated life. Steering away from processed chemicals, whether inside or outside the body. When it comes to cosmetic care and beauty products the eco-friendly, chemical-free, naturally produced options are fast becoming the more attractive choice.

This also presents itself within the perfume industry. For many years synthetically produced perfumes have ruled the shelves by way of owning the market and branding. These days the more earth- (and self) conscious audience are looking for ‘real’ products containing natural ingredients.

What are Natural Fragrances?

fragrancesNatural perfumes are made using only aromatic ingredients extracted directly from nature. Officially a natural fragrance must consist purely of substances already present in raw materials which have been isolated by purely physical means; using distillation, expression and extraction. Nothing can be chemically modified, the ingredients must be natural aromatic, raw materials such as essential oils, isolates, resins, distillates, extracts and volatile concentrates, absolutes, concretes, floral waxes, tinctures, and infusions of raw plant material; all free from anything synthetically made. Flowers, leaves, stems, wood, roots, seeds, and resins all can be used for extracting the precious essences. A botanical fragrance is one consisting purely of plant extract whereas historically animal essences were included such as ambergris (sperm whale sputum), castoreum (beaver gland), deer musk, civet (paste from anal gland), and hyraceum (fossilized urine).

What are Synthetic Fragrances?

Some fragrances are 100% synthetic, others can be comprised of some natural aromatic raw materials combined with other chemically created or unnatural materials. Most modern perfumes contain materials that have been chemically created, more often than not from petroleum, or have had their chemical structure altered to create synthetic aromatics. The advantage of this for the perfume companies is that the varieties are endless and the cost is much lower than extracting natural essences.

Fragrance Composition

To construct a perfume is a complicated yet harmonious affair, you don’t just put a few things in a pot and hope for the best, there is a specific science involved. All fragrances whether synthetic or natural, have a certain composition. This is a complex structure made up of ‘top’, ‘heart’, and ‘base’ notes. Top notes are ingredients with smaller molecules and a more volatile nature, e.g.; citruses or herbs, these are the smells the nose detects first. The heart notes are more based along a floral aroma or spices, these smells last longer as an undertone of the perfume. Base notes, e.g. woody or musky tones have larger molecules which are much less volatile than the top or heart notes and are not detected straight away. If the top note of a perfume is the introduction, the heart is the soul and the base note is the conclusion. A perfumer must find a perfect balance and also a successful combination of aromas with so many options and variables this is not a straightforward and simple task.

Natural vs Synthetic

fragrancesSynthetic fragrances contain fixatives which literally ‘fix’ the smell to your skin as it is. For some this is a positive point which continues to encourage people to purchase such fragrances. A natural perfume, not containing such fixatives, has less longevity which, rather than being assumed as a negative point, there is actually a process to the fragrance; the top note is permitted to last longer and remain linear.

A synthetic perfume will smell as it smells from start to finish, it can fill a room and follow you around all day. For many people this is the desired effect. A natural perfume blends with the wearer’s natural odours and skin types to create a personal fragrance which evolves and may be layered or changed throughout the day.

As discussed a natural perfume does not contain any chemically modified products and consists only of natural ingredients. Great for those with sensitive skin, allergies, asthma, and multiple chemical sensitivities who previously could not wear many perfumes due to the high level of synthetic compounds they consist of.

We must pay attention to the environmental effect anything we purchase has and so it is essential to research a product’s ethical construction as well as its ingredients. Both natural and synthetic perfumes alike can have negative effects on the environment; laboratories produce a negative impact, as can mass production of plant-based fragrances; for example, massive deforestation has resulted from the production of natural sandalwood and rosewood; so it is essential to ensure we look into the background of any company’s production process.

The benefits of using natural fragrances:

  1. Using natural essential oils can promote emotional and physical healing
  2. Synthetic smells derived from petrochemicals can cause migraines, nausea and lung irritation.
  3. There is no testing of animals involved.
  4. Natural perfumes can be layered to achieve a personal, unique scent.
  5. They do not contain any harmful chemicals.
  6. The aromas are REAL!

Creating your own Natural Fragrances:

fragrancesTo learn and understand the nature and complexity of essential oils would be a small step towards becoming a perfumer, however such knowledge could also entice you to put together certain fragrances to create a scent of your own. To learn more about aromatherapy and it’s many benefits, check out our aromatherapy course – a distance learning diploma course of 12 lessons.

This content was originally published here.

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