As head of the Natural Perfumers Guild, founder of the Natural Perfumery Institute, and a perfumer who only uses 100% natural aromatics in my perfumes, I am often asked about the differences between natural and mainstream (contain synthetics) perfumes. I created the following chart years ago for my textbook, and it’s a good, quick reference on the subject.
Chart for Quick Comparison Between Natural and Synthetic Perfumes
|Natural||Mainstream (contains synthetics)|
|Perfumer’s Goal:||Beauty and Health||Beauty|
|Aromatic Palette:||Essential oils, concretes, absolutes, CO2s, tinctures, and infusions||Primarily synthetic aromachemicals, minimal essential oils, and absolutes|
|Number of Aromatics per Blend:||10 – 30||30 – 100+|
|Creative Process Goals:||Blend to create unique classic artisan vision with top/mid/base notes||For corporate perfumers: meet market demands; can use top/mid/base structure, or linear|
|Diluent:||Typically undenatured alcohol; sometimes oil, cream, or solid base||Typically synthetic denatured alcohol; solid, dry spray|
|Customer Experience:||Perfume unfolds on skin, revealing layers of scent||Strong aesthetic statement, trendy, or nod to vintage|
|Drydown time:||1 – 8 hours;base may persist for 24 hours||1 – 24+ hours|
|Cost per pound of undiluted compound:||Extremely expensive; some aromatics are $10 – $100,000 per pound||Very inexpensive; corporations insist on lowest cost; there are rumors of a $20 per pound limit|
|History:||Link to ancient Egypt, historical figures, use naturals in both ancient and modern style blends.||Link to ancient Egypt, historical figures, use of synthetics to replace naturals began in 19th century.|
|Diffusion of Scent:||Arm’s length, slight sillage, unobtrusive||Can scent an entire room; strong sillage|
|Known respiratory issues:||Little or none. If you are allergic to roses, rose oil in a natural perfume might trigger an allergic response.||Well-documented; some municipalities have enacted no-fragrance laws|
I hope this guide will clarify some issues on natural versus synthetic perfumes. If you have any questions on this issue, feel free to comment.
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