Consumers seem to revel in the idea of nature and natural cosmetics and toiletries. True the concept is elastic and many ‘naturals’ are far from what the consumer thinks them to be. Somewhere along the line ‘perfume’ became a word not associated with nature. Pundits pointed to perfume as a main cause of irritants in cosmetics whereas the true motive was probably one that drew from being anti luxury and some perverse social conscience rather than reality or safety.
This was born out when allergens or likely irritant culprits had to be listed on packaging and unsurprisingly to professionals natural components were shown to contain many irritants. So another urban myth was exploded.
Natural cosmetic and toiletry brands have long claimed to have natural fragrance. These are often little more than amateur blends of essential oils akin to aromatherapy. Many brands in this ‘natural’ arena have shunned the term pafum on pack. Regulation requires that a compound used to fragrance a product should be labeled ‘parfum’. There has been a tendency in the world of green cosmetics to hide fragrance as an aromatherapy blend of essential oils perhaps naming a few essences. This enables them to say they have no ‘perfume or parfum’ which of course they do. It is just smoke and mirrors and quite misleading.
With the rise of essential oils being used in everything from room fresheners to laundry the natural brands have to change. Consumers no longer want to smell of fresh sheets and floor polish whether you call it Chamomile or Lavender and they certainly want to move away from smelling ‘herbal’ like stuffed turkey. Creams, lotions and toiletries have to have more sophisticated fragrance as who wants to go to bed smelling of a night cream reminiscent of washing up.
Consumers are beginning to talk about natural fragrances and fine perfumes beyond the smells of simple blends. Consumers talk of Natral Perfume expecting the complexity and sophistication of Chanel or Patou not Neals Yard or L’Occitane. They want something creative and with that air of sophistication found in fine fragrance. This is a new market.
The problem for the perfume houses is that a fine fragrance is difficult to create and the palette of natural materials very limiting requiring skills long lost. Naturals require a perfumer and not a computer. Natural Perfumes require a real nose to develop that certain, subtle difference. It takes time to develop and trial and retrial to achieve a creation which is timeless, elegant and beautiful.
Prior to the introduction of synthetic materials to perfumery the oldest brands relied solely on natural materials. These were times of more complex fragrances. Perfumes would adapt or change to the individual. This is explained by the fact that a natural substance like an essential oil is a complex itself of many molecules perhaps as many as several hundred. If forty or so natural materials make up a perfume then the molecular structure consists of thousands of components each contributing to the subtlety of the aroma. Contrast this with synthetic perfume which consists of only at a maximum perhaps thirty components.
A fine fragrance is based on a series of accords, each a creative group of aromas, which in turn are built into a pyramid of fragrance that give a top note, heart and base, a symphony of fragrance that travels over time on the wearer . Modern fragrance usually hit a top note with strident aroma.
Few brands today can work in such a way. Most modern perfume is of course synthetic catering to strong aromas such as fruits and pinning marketing to celebrity rather than the actual aroma itself.
Nevertheless sophisticated all natural perfumes can be found and Brands such as Osciem have gone to lengths to make something different and beautiful created with difference in mind.
Expect to see more natural perfumes in the coming years but check out what is really meant by the phrase as it can mean anything from synthetic with nice sounding notes to real nature.
Consumers confuse organic and natural. Organic simply means that the raw materials have been grown by a specific agricultural method claimed to be better for the environment. Simply that and no extra magic! To obtain a truly certified organic perfume that is beyond mere aroma blends which are nothing like a real fine fragrance is very difficult. Fragrant Earth is one of the few specialists in that area but they admit that the materials available are in short supply and so are very limiting. They suggest about a maximum of 140 materials could be available. Possible then but the resulting compounds (the blend of accords that make a perfume) do not have a great variety of possibilities.
When buying an organic perfume make sure the components are organic and not just the carrier solvent alone.
Fine fragrances were made with natural materials before the dawn of synthetic components. Natural perfume materials are good for producing Floral, Fruity, Citrus and Green fragrances. The sources could be essential oils, expressed oils such as Lemon zest, biotech materials from fermentation processes such as vanillin, natural isolates obtained from fractional distillation which isolates one component from another such as eugenol from clove, CO2 extracts and natural solvents or vegetal triglycerides such as myritol. A perfume made with such would certainly have a 100% natural claim. And good news for the organic exponents is that most certifying bodies would accept these natural perfumes into a certified organic product.
As natural is not defined as such, some companies will accept absolutes within the natural genre. These increase the palette available to the natural perfumer. Absolutes can bring in notes from seaweed to rose, jasmine to hay; they are the great playthings of good perfumers. The organic movement does not like absolutes for some quite unrealistic reasons. However in natural perfuming they formed the core of great perfumes before the advent of synthetics.
A true fine fragrance is something new that might have notes that remind you of something or evoke or provoke something in the emotion or imagination. They give feeling. You should not be clearly able to identify what its components are. It should have the first top note that catches you a heart note that is the character and a base that holds it to you. The nose should be able to play with the aroma.
Unfortunately the perfume industry itself has had little to excitement to offer in recent years except rather play safe and celebrity aromas which follow each other and offer little differentiation. There are many copies and similar aromas o the market. This opens the way for artisan perfumery and creative natural perfumery to set a new way forward for those who enjoy perfume and fine things.
Not unfairly sellers want to look good. Looking at a Perfume pack from L’Artisan Parfumeur I note that the box is labeled with Ecocert Bio logos indicating the product to be Organic and by rote then natural. Leaving aside all the well written copy about purest essential oils the starred ingredients are the organic ones and surprise it is the alcohol which is organic not the perfume!! On a Shantara pack we see the same Ecocert labels but with a much higher content of organic ingredients. The lesson is buyer beware if ecology alone is your sole reason for purchase. Buy fragrance for the Beauty of the fragrance.
Fragrant Earth are creators and manufacturers of natural perfumes with over thirty years experience. A Company goes to them and issues a brief and the FE company makes a submission. If the brief is accepted there is no fee or charge. Sometimes in the UK a perfumer or other being makes a substantial charge to take the naive brand manager through the mystery of creating a perfume. Eventually the client having found a compound they like are then taken to Grasse and the client has their chosen fragrance created, computerized and ready for the industrialization required for an international market complete with all the many documents required. Little mystery just hard work and no creative payment was needed!
In recent times as the fashion grows for natural fragrance new self taught artisan perfumers have arisen. Many have limited experience and no true capacity fro reproduction. This is especially so in the USA where a number of hopefuls exist selling mostly via the Internet. Unfortunately today a host of new legislation applies to perfume and the buyer is advised to avoid new ‘green’ named suppliers as no adequate precautions in health and safety are likely to have been applied by small companies.
A perfume description like fine wine is made up of notes – what it reminds you of and smells like. So strangely something that smells of lavender may not be lavender. So read a description carefully, if it says it contains jatamansi then it should do so but if it says something like “reminiscent of the tropical smells of cocnut and lime” it may have neither. This is not deceit but evocation just as wine might be described as smelling of blackberries but contains none!
Natural perfumes are a coming trend you only have to look at the launches this year. The day of the aromatherapy blend is passé, true this makes life more difficult for the cheap end of the natural market but the pleasure of fragrance and nature is what we should be considering. We were born to live and work in a Fragrant World. We are only just realizing the benefits of smell to our mind body and soul. This is beyond the medical aspects of aromatherapy and is sheer sensuality for well being. Natural perfumes are set to make a big come back.
In a mass market it is difficult for world brands to cater for specific tastes. There is a world of difference as to what is acceptable in Scandinavia to that of France or Arabia to Japan. In some cultures fragrance is little more than an expensive gift so the container should be admired as much as the perfume.
As true naturals are relatively expensive surely they should be packaged in more than cheap paper and string as has happened to natural products in the toiletry market. A fine fragrance whether natural or synthetic best resides in something that is aesthetically beautiful.
Perfume extract, or simply perfume (Extrait): 15-40% (IFRA: typical 20%) aromatic compounds
Esprit de Parfum (ESdP): 15-30% aromatic compounds, a seldom used strength concentration in between EdP and perfume
Eau de Parfum (EdP), Parfum de Toilette (PdT): 10-20% (typical ~15%) aromatic compounds, sometimes listed as "eau de perfume" or "millésime"
Eau de Toilette (EdT): 5-15% (typical ~10%) aromatic compounds
HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eau_de_Cologne" \o "Eau de Cologne" Eau de Cologne (EdC), citrus type perfumes with 3-8% (typical ~5%) aromatic compounds
Splash and After shave: 1-3% aromatic compounds
Nature is beautiful, strong, subtle, fruity, sharp soft. It has many aromas and faces. Each person has their likes and dislikes. Each country has its own smell. Nature is what we live in and relate to. We find it easy to live with even when we do not like it. I mean we may not like a storm but we understand its power. It is different to the smell of Jasmine even though a storm has the freshness and smell of rain. So let us enjoy Natural Perfume in all its shades.