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Scent Sleuth: Natural Fragrances—Creating Balance

By: Nancy C. Hayden
Posted: April 7, 2009

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She notes that Colipa, the European cosmetics association, stipulates that baby products must be hypoallergenic—meaning that the raw materials, including fragrance, cannot contain naturals due to potential allergens.

In her own work, Wilberding says she always likes to use at least a trace of natural materials to create warmth and beauty on the skin. But it is likely consumers would be less then enthusiastic about fragrance if perfumery reverted back to an almost total use of natural materials. Fragrances created this way would have little lift and diffusion. They would be rich, heavy and long-lasting on the skin, but they would lack the enveloping quality of modern fragrances. Tastes have changed, and fragrance does not exist in a bubble. Modern perfumery has evolved to suit the needs and tastes of consumers, who also want something new all of the time.

Steve DeMercado, perfumer and vice president of Fragrance Resources, feels that limiting raw materials to fit a natural product seal is far too limiting for the expansive world of raw materials that’s been developed in perfumery. “There are few pluses to a totally natural fragrance,” he says. “They tend to be mostly psychological for the consumer.”

He, too, notes both the limitations in natural materials and the benefits of judicious use, particularly in covering bases in functional products and candles. “Few naturals would hold up in stability to achieve the aroma or diffusion we are looking for,” he says. The best blends, may include a small inclusion of naturals, he says. Where cost permits, DeMercado uses a small amount of natural bergamot, tuberose or iris to enhance a synthetic formula.

For now, as various arguments for the reduction of synthetics are also weighed by those marketing to consumers, it is clear that answers to natural vs. synthetic material questions will hinge on the level of use that (either singularly or in combination) produce salable results. To the question: Can we improve upon Mother Nature? In scent, absolutely—when we partner with her to complement innovative technology, and use temperance and caution with some of our chemical advancements.