Natural & Synthetic Fragrances: A Balance Between Nature, Art And Science

Perfumery is a combination of both art and science; the ancient skill of crafting a scent that evokes a particular memory or feeling in the wearer, and the science of organic chemistry.

A perfumer can craft diverse layers of scents by combining different extracts of carbon-based chemicals found in plants in a methodical and calculated way. Scents that evoke emotion and memories as well as embody natural fragrances and abstract concepts.

Natural fragrances include solely natural compounds – often a blend of plant extracts and essential oils  – while synthetic fragrances are developed in a laboratory. Let’s compare them:

Natural Fragrances 

The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) deems “natural” perfumes to include only fragrance compounds that adhere to the categories and classifications outlined by the International Organization for Standardization’s ISO 9235:1997 for aromatic natural raw materials.

According to ISO 9235,  natural aromatic raw materials are compounds physically derived from raw fruits, blossoms, herbs, leaves, seeds, mosses, roots and woods, separated by distillation, expression or extraction. 

When fixatives are applied, the natural fragrance’s long-lasting strength is still primarily due to the molecular structure of a particular extract.  This implies that even if a fragrance lasts only three hours, it may be detectable days after application. When it comes to scent, it’s like a bouquet of flowers: Certain fragrances are more prominent and persistent than others.

Examples Of Natural Top Fragrance Notes: Bergamot, eucalyptus, ginger, lemongrass, citrus marigold, peppermint, and sage.

Examples Of Middle Fragrance Notes: Spicy, floral or fruit scents extracted from black pepper, cassia, chamomile, cinnamon, cypress, juniper, marjoram, pine, rose, rosemary, and thyme.

Examples Of Base Fragrance Notes: Extracts of plant material such as anise, angelica root, fennel, geranium, lavender cedarwood, frankincense, jasmine, rosewood, sandalwood, and ylang-ylang.

Synthetic Fragrances 

Synthetic fragrances are aromatic compounds that have been chemically composed to replicate natural fragrances. The category also includes natural aromatic molecules that have been isolated and chemically restructured like a ‘fruity’ fragrance that would be difficult to obtain from solely natural raw materials.

Synthetic fragrances can also encapsulate aroma compounds that are not found in nature. They are essentially abstract concepts and creative expressions, like a ‘midnight dream’, ‘summer breeze’ or “birthday cupcake”.

A benefit of synthetic fragrances, as opposed to natural fragrances, is that they do not contain any allergens. Most synthetic compounds are derived from petrochemicals –  extracted from petroleum and natural gas.

Synthetic perfumes are often stronger, more complex and sophisticated. They usually cost less than natural fragrances and can last much longer.

A Balance Between Nature, Art And Science

Since its establishment in 1973, the International Fragrance Association has regulated the quantities of specific fragrance components to ensure that both natural and synthetic fragrances are safe for use by humans.

With the growing desire to push the envelope with creating scents and ‘bottling memories’ than ever before, most perfumers will use both natural and synthetic compounds to bottle a balance between nature, art and science.

We can all thank perfume science for making us smell great! Browse our shop to find your favourite scent for both him and her

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