This is war! With the groundswell of organic and natural products sweeping through the world of nutrition and cosmetics, any product made from chemicals is now being confronted by consumer mistrust. In fact, today we tend to rhyme chemistry with enemy, and natural with healthy. In perfumery, the battle is between natural and synthetic ingredients. But does synthetic necessarily mean dangerous? Does natural = 100% safe? Where is the truth in all this? We will tell you everything 😉
What’s the difference between natural and synthetic ingredients?
To begin with, let’s go over the basics.
How do you go from a natural plant, flower, or wood…to a perfume?
You extract its fragrant molecules using different methods that are the secret of perfume making. For citrus fruits, we make a cold expression of the zest, and obtain an essential oil. Jasmine, rose, and many other flowers are extracted with a volatile solvent to produce an absolute. There is also hydrodistillation that is used to make orange blossom. It takes 1000 kg of flowers to obtain one kg of orange blossom essence (more commonly known as Neroli)!
Unfortunately, not all of these methods apply to every ingredient in perfumery. Some flowers, such as lily of the valley or lilac, are too fragile and can’t withstand extraction. So perfumers recreate the scent by using synthetic raw materials!
Synthetic molecules appeared in perfumery with the development of organic chemistry in the mid-19th century. They allowed perfumers to expand their creative palette (a bit like adding new colors to a painter’s palette!). While they are often chemically produced, these molecules exist in a natural state. This is the case with vanillin, an essential component of vanilla. They are also completely artificial and can evoke a completely abstract feeling, providing new and unexplored dimensions… like the aldehydes in the famous Chanel N°5!
Why do we use synthetic ingredients and not ONLY natural ingredients?
To broaden the perfumer’s palette, of course! Synthetic molecules have
allowed perfumers to reinvent themselves.
“If nature is generous, synthesis is infinitely more so, and from its horn of plenty, it has brought thousands of products to perfumers.”
– EDMOND ROUDNITSKA (great 20th-century perfumer)
Synthesis has made it possible to reproduce notes that cannot be extracted
This is the case for “silent” flowers (we were previously talking about lily of the valley and lilac; there is also lily and carnation) and fruits or nuts! In perfumery, there are only two natural fruity notes: blackcurrant and osmanthus. Osmanthus is a very small and cute flower, but it smells like horse dung and apricot! In small doses, this ingredient gives off fruity and slightly sweet notes. Surprising!
Most importantly, synthesis makes it possible to replace the animal notes that are now banned to protect animals. Animal musk is replaced by white musks, ambergris by ambroxan, etc. If you want to switch to vegan cosmetics, synthesis is a solution that allows you to keep a wide selection of scents, while remaining respectful of animals.
And this is where the perfumer’s artistry really comes into play! They can reproduce a scent using a palette of molecules, and even interpret it in their own way 🙂.
Synthetic ingredients also bring down the price of making perfume, of course!
This is because synthetic molecules generally cost less than natural ingredients! Unfortunately, some brands misuse synthetic ingredients to reduce the production costs of their perfumes. And the result is often cheap and doesn’t hold up well on the skin! This is what makes the difference between a quality perfume and a cheap perfume. However, this isn’t always the case! Ambrinol, for example, is a synthetic molecule that is used to replace ambergris and it typically costs around €1700 per kg 😉.
So, what’s in the perfume?
These days, perfumers are accustomed to perfumes that contain both natural and synthetic ingredients. If you were to smell a fragrance made of 100% natural ingredients, you’d find it smells very “vintage”! It reminds us of the fragrances of the past, when there were no synthetic products to balance perfumes.
Still, there are differences in the scents of natural and synthetic ingredients. Naturals evolve more on the skin because they are composed of thousands of molecules that can come out at the top, the heart, or the bottom! Synthetic ingredients will tend to be more consistent and linear. This is why a perfume containing a rich concentration of natural ingredients will be more complex and richer than a perfume made primarily of synthetic ingredients. It will reflect more facets, and leave your skin with a scent that is 100% yours.
The right balance between natural and synthetic ingredients is needed for a Haute Parfumerie result: harmonious and creative!
Okay, but what about the toxicity of the synthetic ingredients?
These days, synthetic molecules are strictly controlled and are far from being enemies of perfumery! And contrary to popular belief, many natural ingredients contain allergens. For example, Lavender is largely made up of Linalol, which can cause allergies in some people (in larger doses than those present in your Sillage)!
People today have a real concern about their health and safety (and rightly so!). It is important to know that the cosmetic regulations (CE) in Europe are much stricter than the American equivalent (FDA). Thus, the regulatory framework eliminates a large number of ingredients (natural and synthetic) because they are known to be toxic.
Sillages Paris’s NO-LIST
At Sillages Paris, we are very serious about quality and safety. All our perfumes are handmade in Paris. They are eau de parfums that are highly concentrated in natural ingredients, and whenever possible, we source sustainably produced ingredients. The alcohol in our formulas is a natural beet alcohol. All our formulas are dye and vegan free and guaranteed to be free of animal testing.
Below, you will find our NO-LIST (ingredients that are prohibited in our company):
SLS and SLES sulphates: skin irritants
parabens: allergenic, endocrine disruptor, dermatological risks
phthalates: CMRs (carcinogenic, mutagenic, reprotoxic substances) type 1 or 2
mineral oils: comedogenic, skin irritants and pollutants
retinyl palmitate: skin irritant
coal tar: toxic and carcinogenic
hydroquinone: toxic, carcinogenic and allergenic
triclosan: endocrine disruptor and depressant
triclocarban: endocrine disruptor
BHT (threshold <0.1%): toxic and allergenic
acetaldehyde: irritant and carcinogenic
acetonitrile: skin and eye irritant
methylene chloride: risk of acute or chronic intoxication by inhalation
animal oils: because we are a Vegan brand
benzalkonium chloride: irritant and allergenic
toluene: skin and eye irritant
resorcinol: endocrine disruptor
animal fats: because we are a Vegan brand
acetone: toxic by inhalation and irritant
ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid: highly polluting and toxic
methyl cellosolve: toxic
methylisothiazolinone/ methylchloroisothiazolinone: allergen and carcinogen
mercury and mercury compounds (thimerosal): toxic
bisphenol A(BPA): endocrine disruptor
animal musks: forbidden because the animal has to be killed to collect the musk.
We hope that this will have answered your questions about perfumes and their ingredients!
So, are you ready to take the plunge?
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