Economics and ethics have stopped endangered species from turning up in perfume formulas. Still, there's a romance about natural ingredients. A scent molecule extracted from the natural environment is regarded more sympathetically than a scent molecule created in an artificial environment - and somehow seen as, well, instantly more ethical.
— From How green is your spritz? in the Sydney Morning Herald.
What a great article.
I am one for whom the “romance of perfume” is damaged when I read a litany of synthetic ingredients.
It was an interesting take on the synthetic vs. naturals issues. Since so few people know which they're getting and/or smelling, not sure how it really plays out in the stores….if you read “sandalwood” in the notes, you've no idea what is in the juice, synthetic or natural.
I may be in the minority here (or maybe not), but I am a huge fan of synthetics! I went to perfumery school at Givaudan for a week, and I emerged having a a lot of respect for them. Give me some captive molecules – some Iso E Super, Hedion, Calone, Geraniol – and I am a happy girl. What beautiful smells the chemists & perfumers can create, what amazing possibilities!
I haven't had a lot of luck with 'naturals', lasting power has been poor for me. Many turn to a head-shoppey version of linseed oil on my skin, or to something strangely fecal. And I'm always suspicipus when they say it's 'all natural'. Manke me think it will turn rancid in a few days!
None of my naturals have gone rancid, in fact, I've had much worse problems w/ spoilage w/ synthetic scents. Still, I'm a fan of any fragrances, synthetic or natural.
I don't have strong feelings either way. But I am interested in the health aspects of it all. I don't want something that is going to mess with my endocrine system, or trigger an allergic reaction. . .
You're as likely to have an allergic (skin) reaction from naturals, maybe even more likely, so that part shouldn't be an issue. As to other health-related risks from synthetics, I'm not knowledgeable enough to say — in fact, I avoid learning more about it, for obvious reasons
I just started reading Turin's book The Secret of Scent and he addresses this a bit. Synthetic ingredients tend to be tested for human tolerance more than naturals, which can be irritants or even toxins. The Cosmetic Cop, Paula Begoun, rails all the time at companies who list all these natural ingredients but they are things like mint, which is a skin irritant (basically anything that gives you that “it's working” tingle is actually irritating your skin). So in perfume I think it is a toss-up. You wouldn't have half the scents you have without synthetic molecules, but with the naturals you may get a different complexity. Plus, some pretty benign ingredients can sound pretty scary when you give them their “official” chemical name.
It's not the natural fragrances that are of concern. It's the constant, toxic chemical exposure through the fragrance preservatives in your shampoo, soaps & conditioners, and the flame retardants in your carpet, sofas etc….. that really gum up our endocrine systems…
Agree it's a toss-up. Most of my favorite perfumes have both natural & synthetic ingredients, but I've also been very impressed with some of the all-natural scents that have come out in the past few years.