Few things can transport the memory like perfume can. It is the sole luxury dedicated to our sense of smell, a sense deeply tied to emotion and memory. Sadly, most perfumes and colognes these days are made of synthetic ingredients that are made from petroleum and have been proven to be harmful to your health.
It’s also nearly impossible to find out exactly which perfumes have toxins in them and which ones don’t thanks to some tricky FDA loopholes that protect companies from disclosing their full list of ingredients.
That means whenever you see an ingredient listed as “fragrance” or “parfum,” it could be any combination of over 3,100 different ingredients. Yikes!
The good news? There are more and more brands these days dedicated to making 100% natural perfumes that are beautiful and safe.
But how do you find these perfumes if ingredient labels don’t offer much transparency? Here are some tips.
1. Don’t buy a product just because the label (or the sales associate) claims it’s “natural.”
You’ve probably heard of greenwashing, which is when companies label their products “natural” or “clean” in ways that are misleading or not always accurate. The same happens in the perfume industry. That’s why it’s important not to immediately buy into perfume brands that say they’re “natural” since those terms aren’t regulated and don’t really mean much. If you’re looking for truly safe perfumes without any synthetics, you’re best bet is to look for products that say they’re 100% natural, meaning they don’t include any synthetics. While this isn’t a perfect solution, it’s far more likely that brands that advertise themselves as “100% natural” will be more committed to transparency and safety than your typical brand.
2. Don’t just look at the notes.
Perfume notes are the components of a perfume that represent different scents, like rose, bergamot, or patchouli. But just because the notes listed on the package or website sound like real ingredients, it doesn’t always mean they are. In fact, certain notes don’t even really have nature-derived counterparts (like amber, which isn’t a scent ingredient that can be found in nature but is instead an accord often made combining vanilla and labdanum)
3. Look out for certain notes or ingredients that can’t actually be made naturally.
…or are extremely difficult to capture as an essence. These include freesia, honeysuckle, violet, tulip, lily of the valley, heliotrope, orchid, and lilac. If you see these flowers listed in the notes of a perfume, it’s likely the note is made of synthetic ingredients (though sometimes different natural essences can be combined to create an “accord,” or a scent capturing one smell but made of components that have different smells).
4. Give it a (literal) sniff test.
Natural perfumes are usually a lot more gentle and less harsh than synthetic perfumes. That’s not to say they can’t last long or project strongly—but if you’re getting headaches or feeling a little nauseous from a few sniffs of a someone’s overly enthusiastic sprays, it’s a good sign their perfume is synthetic so a sniff test can help guide you in a pinch. Keep in mind, however, that your nose can more easily discern what’s mostly synthetic since perfumes made of mostly natural ingredients aren’t always easy to tell apart from 100% natural perfumes.
5. Ask the brand directly.
Asking a sales associate can sometimes give you inaccurate information if the brand doesn’t provide strong training for their SA’s, but if you email the company and ask them directly you may have better luck. Usually, they won’t share their complete ingredients but they may still disclose whether or not their product is truly natural or just a combination of natural and synthetic ingredients. Make sure you don’t ask, “Is this natural?” (since most companies, if there are *any* real essential oils in their product, will say yes) but instead try asking, “Are there are any synthetic ingredients in this?”
Find Truly Natural Scents from Potion
If you keep these tips in mind, you’ll have a much easier time finding your great perfumes with no compromise on safety.
Still need help finding a safe new signature scent? Try one of our perfumes at Potion, the first and only store dedicated to the finest 100% natural perfumes from artisan perfumeries around the world. Enter the promo code ORGANICALLYBECCA for a free sample pack with any full-size purchase.
If you have any questions about natural perfume, don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy sniffing!
This post was written by Dulma from Potion:
Dulma Altan is the founder of Potion, the only store for discovering the finest all-natural fragrances from perfumeries around the world. She got her B.A. in international development from Brown University, worked at Google, and left Silicon Valley to start her own brand. Her mission is to make people feel beautiful with safe, quality perfumes made of real ingredients to bring a little bit of extra joy into their lives.