Synthetic perfumes are fragrance ingredients created in a lab, often from byproducts of petroleum and natural gas. Though not all synthetic fragrance ingredients are ‘bad’, we mostly avoid using them due to their petrochemical origins and potential to contain chemicals of concern.
Synthetic perfumes are typically labelled under the encompassing term ‘Parfum’ on pack, with their ingredient composition not declared. We also use this term on our packaging but whenever possible on our website, we list each of these fragrance components individually for maximum transparency (due to the proprietary nature of many fragrance blends from our suppliers, we're not always able to disclose all fragrance components). We also offer many of our products in fragrance free (ultra sensitive) variants for those who have sensitivities.
Synthetic perfumes offer some advantages to manufacturers - many laboratory-developed synthetic fragrances are able to mimic the aroma and chemical constituents of natural, plant-based oils, at a fraction of the cost. While many fragrances (including natural essential oils) contain allergenic and/or skin-sensitising compounds that can make them unsuitable or unsafe for some people to use, some synthetics can offer a lower allergen profile. It's also important to note that natural fragrances require natural inputs, and when not managed responsibly, destructive large-scale harvesting of aromatic plants for commercial purposes can have negative impacts on biodiversity and species loss.
The disadvantages of using synthetic fragrances include their potential to contain many unlisted constituents, some of which may be cause for concern such as benzene derivatives and phthalates. Increased exposure to benzene is associated with a higher risk of cancer, and this ingredient is prohibited in products by the International Fragrance Association (IFRA). The IFRA is a self-regulatory representative body of the fragrance industry, dedicated to promoting the safe use of fragrances. Many synthetic fragrances are also known to include phthalates such as Diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and Diethyl phthalate (DEP). The presence of phthalates in fragrances have not yet been the target of EU regulators due to their perceived low risk at minor concentrations, however there is ongoing debate in the scientific community about their endocrine (hormonal) disrupting potential. Some synthetic fragrances have been shown to persist in the aquatic environment, with long term exposure having as yet unknown consequences on aquatic wildlife. We believe the combined evidence on synthetic fragrances supports our precautionary approach.
Other names: Aroma, Fragrance, Parfum
Al-Saleh, I., & Elkhatib, R. (2016). Screening of phthalate esters in 47 branded perfumes. Environmental science and pollution research international, 23(1), 455–468. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-015-5267-z
Sharmeen, J. B., Mahomoodally, F. M., Zengin, G., & Maggi, F. (2021). Essential Oils as Natural Sources of Fragrance Compounds for Cosmetics and Cosmeceuticals. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 26(3), 666. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules26030666
Marco Vecchiato, Simone Cremonese, Elena Gregoris, Elena Barbaro, Andrea Gambaro, Carlo Barbante. Fragrances as new contaminants in the Venice lagoon. Science of The Total Environment, 2016; 566-567: 1362 DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.05.198
International Fragrance Association Standard (2009). Benzene. Retrieved on December 29, 2021 from https://ifrafragrance.org/standards/IFRA_STD48_0008.pdf