As we move towards greater transparency in our beauty products, it may surprise you to learn about potentially harmful ingredients found in some of our favourite fragrances.
While calls for all natural products are at an all-time high, it is important to consider eco-conscious and sustainable alternatives that best respect the environment and have a positive social impact rather than the push for exclusively non-synthetic formulas.
We have consulted the experts on what we should be looking out for and to decode the dilemma of natural versus synthetic ingredients in the world of perfume.
Should we be looking for all natural fragrances?
“There is a tendency to believe that natural is safer than synthetic but it’s simply not true,” explains one the UK’s leading perfumers Karen Gilbert. “Natural materials are highly concentrated and packed full of allergens. They can also be difficult to standardise, so will vary from batch to batch as materials are at the mercy of weather, growing conditions and natural disasters. Some materials might be endangered and not sustainable. Perfumery materials grown in politically sensitive and war torn areas can lead to fluctuations in price and availability as well as ethical concerns.”
That being said, natural ingredients add a richness, depth and intrigue to a fragrance, and essential oils can have a therapeutic effect — but natural does not mean it is inherently sustainable.
Are all synthetic perfume ingredients bad for you?
Some synthetic perfumes can contain carcinogenic ingredients like toxic petroleum and coal-derived chemicals that can have damaging long term consequences. However, Floral Street’s founder Michelle Feeney explains why not all synthetic ingredients are deserving of the same reputation, “Some natural materials are no longer in general use due to over processing or animal cruelty, so are created to be ‘nature identical’”.
Artificial ingredients also tend to be cheaper, have greater variety and may last longer without the natural volatility of their non-synthetic counterparts. They can also be modified to include minimal allergens and can be standardised so your perfume will consistently smell the same.
How do we ensure our perfume is environmentally friendly and sustainable?
“Look for companies who can trace the provenance of their materials and use naturals from an ethical sustainable source especially for things like Vanilla, Patchouli, Sandalwood and Bois de Rose,” explains Gilbert. She also stresses that it is important to “accept that sometimes lab made is more environmentally friendly than naturally derived, so be prepared to compromise for the sake of the environment.”
Shop our selection of eco-conscious fragrances:
L'Artisan Parfumeur Mon Numéro 9 Eau de Cologne
The L'Artisan Parfumeur Mon Numéro 9 offers an instant burst of freshness with a summery scent composed of tangy and zesty notes.
All the ingredients are made from raw materials with citron, key lime, petitgrain, lavender, coriander and rhubarb at the top with cyclamen, shiso, rose, and myrrh at its heart. This fragrance is best served with a mojito in hand.
£105 | Harrods | Buy it now
Clean Reserve Avant Garden Sweetbriar & Moss Eau de Parfum
Created through green manufacturing practices Clean Reserve only use responsibly-sourced ingredients. For the woody Sweetbriar & Moss expect top notes of mandarin, Sichuan pepper and lychee rose combined with middle notes of jasmine olibanum, rose de mai absolute and saffron flower. The perfume does not contain any phthalates, artificial dyes, preservatives or gluten.
£129 | Space NK | Buy it now
Timothy Han/ Edition On The Road
Taking inspiration from Jack Kerouac’s 1951 novel of the same name, the Timothy Han unisex ‘On The Road’ scent is designed to take the wearer on a journey. It embodies a rebellious spirit with top notes of galbanum, lemon, bergamot and lavandin and a heart of amyris, cedarwood, and patchouli. Each perfume is handcrafted with an identifying number on the bottle.
The composition is 100 per cent natural, created from responsibly sourced ingredients with a reduced impact on the environment and uses a certified organic base of grape alcohol. The fragrance is suitable for vegans.
£120 | Timothy Han | Buy it now
The latest addition to Floral Street range and the brand’s ninth fragrance is created in collaboration with the Royal Horticultural Society.
The scent combines rhubarb, Australian Sandalwood and Island Gardenia with a milky coconut twist. Housed in an eye-catching bottle, the citrusy and fruity fragrance is set to be your scent of the summer. This perfume is vegan carries a PETA Beauty Without Bunnies status. It is also housed in eco-friendly and sustainable packaging with no plastic.
£58 | Floral Street | Buy it now
Laboratory Perfumes Gorse
The unisex Laboratory Gorse fragrance offers a unique scent to each individual wearer as the crisp, zesty fragrance interacts with your skin.
Notes of coconut and hints of cardamom are combined for a timeless and wearable perfume that is comprised of only sustainable ingredients. The brand bases the fragrances on natural oils but uses synthetics when it is more environmentally friendly. The scent is also vegan.
£65 | Liberty London | Buy it now
Officine Universelle Buly 1803 Eau Triple Sevillian Bigarade
For a natural option, the Eau Triple is a water-based perfume with a fresh citrusy floral scent. Free from dehydrating solvents, the unique formulation will not aggravate sensitive skin and offers a delicate fragrance with the light scent of mint and rosemary that will follow you throughout the day.
£138 | Buly 1803 | Buy it now
Pacifica Waikiki Pikake Spray Perfume
Transporting you to island life, the floral Waikiki Pikake evokes the scent of Hawaii with water lilies and jasmine. Made with natural ingredients, the delicate fragrance is comprised of a blend of essential and natural oils with corn-sourced and gluten-free pure grain alcohol. It is 100 per cent vegan.
£19 | Feel Unique | Buy it now
Kierin NYC Santal Eau de Parfum
In an ode to urban life and the city of New York, Kierin mark a new generation of perfumers that are turning traditional techniques on its head. The scents are eco-conscious, vegan and paraben, toxin and cruelty free as well as being sustainably sourced, recyclable and accessibly priced.
Promoting equality and inclusion, the fragrances are gender all with a range of heady options to choose from. Our personal favourite, Santal, is an earthy and woody fragrance that combines cardamon, saffron, sandalwood and vetiver to create a heady aroma.
£65 | Feel Unique | Buy it now
Prosody London Travel Set
Perfumer and Prosody founder Keshen Teo explains, “I love perfume, but am allergic to a lot of them and I wanted to develop a completely natural and organic fragrance that delivers beauty, complexity and longevity.”
As a result, the perfume house lives by a green ethos with all natural and organic scents created with ethical and sustainable producers. Teo does not use phthalates, synthetic musk, parabens or any petroleum derived ingredients, GMO ingredients or animal derived ingredients.
The travel set allows you to sample all six of the brand’s debut fragrance in a handy travel size that you can slip into your hand luggage. The set is made up of the heady Jacinth Jonquil that puts a contemporary twist on a classic springtime floral fragrance. It is followed by the long-lasting Neroli Nuance - a fresh citrus, floral fragrance and the floral Lissom Linden that you can wear all year round. Next up, the Rose Rondeaux is a decadent, romantic floral, woody aroma, while the Oud Octavo is sweet and woody. The fruity Mocha Muscari is made up of mango, jasmine and lavender to create a surprisingly seductive scent.
£135 | Fortnum & Mason | Buy it now