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Naturals in Perfumery


It was not until the late 19th century that master perfumers began working with synthetic ingredients to enrich their creations. Until then, perfumery relied mostly on extracting and distilling natural raw materials and mixing them to make perfumes and essential oils.

Following what is commonly known as “modern perfumery” and the use of synthetic ingredients, a new crave for naturals is taking once again the sector to its origins.

Just a Trend?

It is well-known that millennials and generation X are looking for sustainable products in every area of their lives. Fragrances and cosmetics are no exception.

The fragrance industry has gone from an age of abstract concepts to a more primitive approach that calls back to the natural ingredients, such as honey, vanilla, jasmine or bamboo.

But what is it that appeals to the consumer about this trend? According to recent studies, the main reasons would be health and environment.

However, claiming that sustainability is a reason to buy more natural products shows a confusion between the terms. Natural does not necessarily mean sustainable. The good news is that the industry is working against the clock to respond to the sustainable demand, reducing their carbon footprint or developing sustainable methods for the farming of raw materials.

In what regards health, natural is often seen as a synonymous of healthy. However, we should keep in mind that natural ingredients tend to contain more allergens than synthetics. But rest assured:  in the European Union, ingredients used in end products are strictly controlled, with regulations such as REACH, which aim to protect human health and the environment from chemical substances in any form.

Certifying a Natural Product

It can be hard for consumers to be sure that the fragrance they’re buying is truly natural and not just using buzzwords for marketing use. In the European Union, COSMOS is the general certification stating the requirements for a product to be defined as natural and is granted by ECOCERT.

ECOCERT is an independent organisation that certifies that a product complies with European ecological standards. In average, ECOCERT certified products contain 99% ingredients of natural origin. All the products marketed with the ECOCERT logo have been verified from composition to processing and packaging.

Once the ECOCERT COSMOS certification has been granted, it must be renewed annually for each raw material.

The Future of Natural

From an industry perspective, according to Iberchem’s Head Perfumer Luz Vaquero, “an essential oil is already inherently a mixture as complex as a perfume; it contains balanced top, heart and base notes. Until now, fine perfumery has used natural ingredients to create more complex fragrances, adding them to formulas using synthetics. Creating fine fragrances using only natural ingredients presents a big challenge for modern perfumery.”

Given the upward trend, the demand for natural ingredients seems to be here to stay. However, the cosmetic and perfumery sectors being highly dynamic, with research constantly ongoing, it is likely that changes are to be expected over the coming months and years. It will be interesting to see how this “natural” trend will evolve.