Natural vs Synthetic fragrances

The “green movement” is flourishing, growing and deeply changing the consumers habits on a global scale. A sustainable development of the planet is becoming more and more of a major concern for many, who scrutinize labels and demand transparency of the ingredients used.

The reason behind this is found in the rising consciousness in people, who understand the importance of protecting the environment, life on the planet, and their own safety and wellness.

This trend touches the fragrance world as well, as consumers are looking for perfumes and perfumed products that contain substances labelled as plant-based and/or natural or “organic”.

That is why the perfume industry has recently started to shift towards “green” fragrances.


What’s the difference between natural and artificial fragrances?

There’s a general misunderstanding that high quality perfumes are, in most part, natural.

With the rising popularity of scents comes an increasing desire to capture fragrance notes more vividly than before and push the boundaries of scent creation. Natural essences presented a severe limitation as they were constrained to what you could extract directly from natural products: floral essences smelled more dank and earthy than the fresh, vivacious flowers on the stem. It was the 19th century that gave rise to modern perfumery with the creation of the first man-made synthetic ingredients through the work of organic chemists on odorant molecules to produce a more expansive, nuanced creative palette.

Modern perfumery is based on the synergy of natural and synthetic ingredients. Both are of equal importance to the perfumer.

Technically, a perfumer differentiates between:

  • natural oils, extracted from blossoms, citruses, woods and leaves, spices and resins
  • semi-synthetic oils, As the name suggests, the fragrance is only semi-synthetic; it can be created from some synthetic, natural, or artificially modified notes; sometimes, it’s derived from all three
  • synthetic oils or aroma notes, completely man – made, these are created to reproduce artificially natural essences, or to recreate notes of different creative inspiration (ex. Marine notes, Gourmand notes, Ozonic notes ect.)


Are we sure that natural equates to the best solution for both planet and humans?

No, we are not. Either natural or synthetic molecules, like cinnamon, rose oil, saffron or linalool, can be harmful at certain levels. IFRA, the International Fragrance Association, formed in 1973, regulates strongly the levels of certain components in fragrances, assuring that both natural and synthetic fragrances aren’t harmful for humans.

We generally have a classical notion that whatever we obtain from natural sources is beneficial for our health and is devoid of any side effects or toxicity, but this isn’t always true. It is in fact mandatory, that synthetic and natural fragrances must be strictly regulated and tested before being allowed to reach the market.

And for those who are mostly interested in sustainable and eco-friendly products, it’s important to clarify that natural oils come from materials which have to be farmed, and hundreds of pounds of plant matter can be required to produce a single pound of essential oil. For example, 10,000 pounds of rose blooms are necessary for only 1 pound of rose oil. This need for massive amounts of natural ingredients, at a low price, has led at times to the exploitation of plantations and of local farmers as well. Therefore, if it’s completely natural, but coming from a cultivation that exploits both natural sources and people, it’s better to think about it two times. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to tell if a product is truly sustainable just by looking at it, but consumers can be helped to realize that the product has as little as possible environmental impact, by spending a little extra time searching for reliable certifications and guarantees of reputable third-party organizations.

What’s best for consumers and for the planet we live on?

Our conclusion is that we need to be more aware about the real meaning of natural and that we should consider mostly the impact on the environment that a 100% natural raw material might have. It’s our responsibility as fragrance producers to help consumers better understand the various options that they have to protect themselves, and the planet they live on.

#green #education #learning #sustainable #truth