Lately I have been immersed in the wonderful world of natural fragrances – a logical transition for those looking for a lock, stock and barrel approach to their cosmetics. However, while I take this world for granted it seems that many of you are completely bamboozled by the whole thing.  So, what on earth ARE natural fragrances?

They can be one of two things.

 The most common way to make a natural fragrance is to blend pure essential oils together using perfumery skills to balance the top, middle and base characteristics of each oil. This approach is a little different to that taken by an aromatherapist who is mostly interested in blending oils for maximum therapeutic effect.  This is no easy feat to acomplish as each individual essential oil contains a plethora of naturally occuring aroma chemicals, each with their own distinctive smells. However, with careful blending based and selection it is possible to form a series of fragrance accords (like a smelly bouquet) that compliment rather than contradict each other. Beautiful!

These ‘fragrances’ are technically still only essential oils and as such would be listed as essential oils on the back of the product. The word ‘fragrance’ is not legally required!

The other way to make natural fragrances  is to do the above but then build on certain smell characteristics by adding in selected aroma chemicals that have been naturally extracted.  This technique can be used to make the fragrances more complex, longer lasting or just a little fuller and it gives the perfumer endless opportunities for creativity and play!

As you would be aware essential oils are complex mixtures containing what can be hundreds of naturally occuring aroma chemicals, some examples of which are Linalool and Linalyl Acetate – the key components in Lavender and Citral – the key component in Lemon, Lemon Myrtle, Orange and Lime.  The aroma chemicals listed above are known irritants and so a good perfumer will understand which aroma chemicals should be added into the mix to ‘neutralise’ or ‘minimise’ the irritant effect. This ‘formulating down the risk’ activity takes place all over the cosmetics industry and is an effective way of creating safe formulations without compromising on creative freedom.

So where do we get these aroma chemicals from then?

A number of places!  As I mentioned above, essential oils are full of aroma chemicals and it is possible to deconstruct these pure oils via further distillation and extraction to split out some of these independent notes.  This is not a new thing for the fragrance industry but it is more usual for perfumes to contain synthetically produced aroma chemicals due to costs and availability.

This second family of natural fragrance would be listed as ‘perfume’ on the label as that is what has been created however, providing that all of the ‘ingredients’ are ‘natural’ (this information would be on the ingredient specifications) then it would be OK to market products utilising this technology as ‘contains natural fragrance’

Capturing Natures Joy in a Bottle

As you can imagine this is an exciting area to be working in as the possibilities for further development are endless.  However, it is worth pointing out that this is one area where natural does not always mean better!  Natural fragrances can still irritate,   be less substantive (so they don’t last as long) and can also be more highly coloured making them harder to hide in a formulation.  But on the good side they smell glorious as they are inspired by nature. I know what I’m opting for!

For more information on where to find these little lovelies contact Risdon International at their Sydney office on :   02 9681 3473