So you're considering switching to natural perfumes?

Switching to natural perfumes

Credit photo: Andrea Piacquadio

If you have considered switching to natural perfumes or have already made the decision to do so, you have joined a growing population of health and environment conscious individuals.

Some of the many benefits natural perfumes offer

Health benefits of clean ingredients

Our skin is not only our largest organ, it is also the interface between our delicate insides and the outside world. Depending on which area of the body, our skin absorbs between 64% to 100% of whatever is being put on it and that applies to substances such as perfumes.

Considering the above, it makes sense that people started considering the ingredients contained in whatever they spray onto their skin. Most mainstream perfumes contain chemicals meant to enhance their lasting power, shelf life and scent; however, such ingredients came under scrutiny as to what sustained exposure to them can trigger in the human body.

Better for the environment

Not only man-made chemicals used in mainstream perfumes may have a questionable impact on human health, they may also have an impact on the environment. For example, binding agents and preservatives used in mainstream perfumes are not biodegradable and when disposed, eventually reach the soil and water, impacting animal life.

In addition, there are still a fair amount of mainstream cosmetic brands (also producing perfumes) still experimenting on animals before releasing their products to market. Natural perfumes will usually be cruelty-free by if you want to be sure of that, consider perfumes that are natural AND vegan. By definition, a vegan perfume will be cruelty-free.

Finally, natural perfume brands may also integrate sustainability as a cornerstone of their identity. Natural ingredients do come from trees and plants and issues such as deforestation are real so ethical sourcing should be top of mind.

But what should you expect from natural perfumes?

Difference in scent

Natural perfumers restrict themselves to work only with natural ingredients whereas mainstream perfumers will have man-made chemicals in their arsenal to create unique signature scents. Such chemicals have often been developed for the sole purpose of being enticing to the human nose whereas natural ingredients spontaneously occur in nature and the human nose has grown to appreciate certain smells.

This doesn’t mean that natural perfumes can’t hold the candle to mainstream perfumes. It however means that if your main experience with perfumes stems from mainstream brands, you may find natural perfumes different.

Some natural perfumers produce very sophisticated scents and when switching to natural perfumes, it is always recommended to give it a fair go before concluding whether a scent works for you or not. It would usually take about a week of wearing a natural perfume to get accustomed to it and be able to make a call.

Difference in long-lasting power

Mainstream perfumers often favour the use of chemicals such as phthalates to work to their advantage on this one as it can make a perfume last over 24 hours. However, phthalates are known as being endocrine disruptors and several studies have linked them to reproductive and genital defects as well as cancer.

While the long-lasting power offered by phthalates may not be matched by a natural alternative, there are ways for natural perfumes to be long-lasting. Using ingredients such as resin, oakmoss or vanilla in a perfume composition can offer a solid base note to prevent the top notes from evaporating too quickly.

Another technique, while its effectiveness is still debated, is for natural perfumers to use natural glycerine to delay the evaporation process. But be mindful, if your aim is to be cruelty-free, make sure your natural perfume is vegan as well because glycerine can either come from animals or vegetal sources.

Difference in shelf life

Once again, mainstream perfumers have man-made chemicals on their side to help them out here. Paraben is extremely effective as a preservative, easily extending cosmetic products' shelf life.

Fingers have been pointed at paraben from a health standpoint as an endocrine disruptor as well as infiltrating our tissues through our skin and being stored there for an extended period of time. However, due to the minimal quantity they contain, most cosmetic products with paraben are still considered safe even though it still causes concerns for some.

Paraben is mainly regarded as nasty for the environment as most cosmetic products are being used on the skin, and while some gets absorbed, the rest gets washed down at shower time and goes down our drains to community wastewaters where it can have a nefarious impact on marine life.

A very long shelf life becomes handy when it comes to mass production and stock of products on a global scale. It doesn’t mean that a natural perfume without preservatives will be good for the trash after only a few weeks or so. However, it means that the essential oils used in your natural perfume will naturally evaporate on their own as time goes by but you should enjoy at least a good 6 months before that happens and starts being noticeable.

In summary

Natural perfumes are not subpar products, they are different and still offer sophistication alongside many other benefits. However, if you have only been exposed to mainstream perfumes, switching to natural perfumes could require some adjustments.