The perfume industry has been undergoing a subtle revolution for some time now. It was initiated by the desire on the part of some to reduce or even remove chemicals from their personal environments thus living healthier lives. Still, many do not understand what is different between natural perfumes and their synthetic counterparts.
The question is what differentiates the two types of fragrances that most of us wear every day. To answer that question effectively, one must understand that scents can be derived from botanicals such as flowers and other plants. They can also be created synthetically in a laboratory setting using chemicals.
The majority of perfumes that are commercially available today contain a large percentage, about 95% in fact, of ingredients derived through chemical synthesis. Of course, there are some niche products on the market that include a higher percentage of natural botanical ingredients, but they still use synthetic chemical compounds in them.
Perfumers prior to the mid-1800s used extracts derived from steam-distilled essential oils, enfleurages and tinctures as their source for pleasing aromas. Included in these natural sources for scents were leaves, resins, roots, seeds, flowers and buds along with deer musk, ambergris and civet. It was not until a method was found to derive aroma molecules synthetically that chemicals began being used for this purpose.
This process gave perfume makers the ability to add fixatives that allowed fragrances to last longer. Although many consider this a major benefit to chemically created scents, others enjoy changing the fragrance they use as the day progresses. Since natural perfumes contain no fixatives they cannot be expected to last as long and therefore wearers can change or layer fragrances to match wardrobe changes as they occur.
To demonstrate why someone would want to change fragrances as the day wears on, it is important to point out that just as our bodies become fatigues so do our senses. In the morning, our olfactory system is more sensitive to aromas in the morning than in the evening. That means most prefer lighter fragrances to begin their day, but in the evening it is necessary to use stronger scents to engage the senses.
Today’s fragrance industry has more options than ever before because independent perfume makers have created a revolution in how scents are made today. Natural perfumes are considered artisan by nature since they are made using enfleurages, tinctures and essential oils that have been revived from traditional methods that were all but lost when the commercial world took over the creation of fragrances. Natural perfumes may not always smell exactly the same with each batch, but that is part of their charm.