The Natural Divide

There is much clamouring these days for "all natural" everything. And the commercial marketplace is only too happy to oblige. The only problem is that as with most things, loopholes are sought and what you get is not always what you think you are getting.

Let's look at a small demo formula for a jasmine type perfume:

500 Benzyl Acetate
100 Indole 10%
40 Ylang Ylang
1 Creosol
9 Vanillin
10 Benzaldehyde
300 Triethyl Citrate

Every material listed in this admittedly clunky formula can be extracted from a natural starting material. It is perfectly acceptable for a so-called natural perfumer to put that formula together and call it 100% natural. In fact, under current regulations, real jasmine is only allowed at a maximum of 0.6% of a finished perfume. Natural rose doesn't fare a lot better either as many of the natural chemicals in rose oil (geraniol, citronellol, and damascones) are also heavily restricted (due to fears of allergic reactions in a very small portion of the population).

When we buy all-natural products or products with "no artificial colours or flavours" we often don't realise that "natural" is not a regulated term in many countries.

The reality is that the majority of natural perfumes are either not what most people would consider "natural". And the natural perfumers who really do diligently use only essential oils and absolutes can struggle to make perfumes that are wearable or lasting.

At Frater Perfumes we use synthetics… we use them often in fact. Of course we also use a high amount of naturals (more than most perfume houses today) but the synthetics act as a skeleton upon which the flesh (so to speak) comprised of naturals is able to rest. The two synergise and harmonise with one another.

It is not by mistake that such great fragrances as Fougere Royale and Jicky launched the golden age of perfume. They were the first fragrances to exploit high doses of synthetic materials (namely coumarin and vanillin). And this is not a new thing. Fougere Royale launched in 1882 and Jicky in 1889. As soon as these marvellous synthetics emerged, the world of perfume became to develop and blossom.

So beware the salesman making claims of "all-natural" and "ethical" perfumes.

Now having said that, it is also important to note that in the world of synthetic perfume materials there are grades of quality. Frater Perfumes puts as much time and care in to the selection of synthetics as we do into the curation of our library of essential oils and absolutes. Above all else, beauty must reign.