Natural vs. Synthetic Fragrance: What's the Difference?

Fragrances… they’re in absolutely everything

Body lotion, deodorant, washing powder, shampoos, sunscreen, hairspray, even lipstick. At first glance, this might not seem like a big deal. A pleasant smell enhances the experience of using a product, right. So, what’s the problem?

As many consumers have come to realize, just because a fragrance or product smells good, it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily safe. That’s why there’s a huge consumer movement in the personal care and fragrance industry to push for natural fragrances.

The skin is the largest organ in the body, and over 60% of what you put on it is absorbed into your bloodstream, other organs and cells. Don’t be fooled into thinking that what you spray or use on your skin won’t have an impact on your health.

But we first & foremost must understand that all fragrances, whether they are man-made or natural, are all chemicals. A natural fragrance doesn’t necessarily always mean the safer option for you. Some people can be allergic to natural fragrances so it’s always wise to read & understand labels on your products & what you personally may react to.

AMPERNA® Natural vs Man Made Fragrance

A Simple Break Down

Natural fragrances

Natural fragrances contain ingredients only from a natural origin – typically a mixture of essential oils and botanical extracts.

Synthetic Fragrances

Synthetic fragrances are lab created. Synthetic fragrances are not necessarily all bad, but research in recent years has linked these to parabens and phthalates.

Even brands that claim to use essential oils or natural scent often contain synthetic fragrance. The only way to know for sure is to look for the word “fragrance” on the ingredient list as that indicates that synthetic fragrance was used.

AMPERNA® Natural vs Man Made Fragrance

The word “fragrance” on packaging can be used to hide up 3,000 chemicals in beauty products

The FDA and TGA regulate that all beauty and personal care products list their ingredients on the back of the package. While this is a good step to ensure you know what you are putting on your body, sometimes those ingredient labels can be confusing and not completely transparent. The word “fragrance” has been protected in the industry for many years as a “trade secret,” meaning that companies do not have to disclose all the raw materials that make up a fragrance. They can instead list just “fragrance” or “parfum” as an umbrella overarching term. The International Fragrance Association, the global representative body for the fragrance industry, has published a list of over 3000+ ingredients that could be used to make up “fragrance”, which means that any of these ingredients could be used in your products and not disclosed.

What is really in synthetic fragrances?

Typically, a conventional perfume fragrance formula may include 20-200 different fragrant materials to make up the aroma, plus the base ingredient and any other additives that might be included (such as UV filters, colours etc). They can either be original aromas that don’t exist in nature or may be created to be nature identical.

Synthetic aromas are known to have many side effects on health such as common allergies like asthma, hives, dermatitis and wheezing, to hormone disruption, metabolic disease and thyroid problems.

AMPERNA® Natural vs Man Made Fragrance

Phthalates

Phthalates are essentially liquid plastics and perform a few functions in synthetic perfumes. They can be included as part of a preservative system and can be used to extend the fragrance, so it lasts longer on the skin. Phthalates are very strong endocrine disruptors have been implicated in several wide-ranging health issues.

Parabens

In order to maintain a very long shelf life, synthetic preservatives are often included in commercial perfumes. The most common of these are parabens which effectively help stop bacteria and other contaminants from growing in your bottle of scent. It sounds like a good thing, but the impact of parabens on the human body is now well-documented. Parabens interfere with hormone function, especially oestrogen, and are a common skin sensitiser and may cause other allergic reactions.

With perfume for example, reading the label on your bottle is always a good idea and will give you a good indicator of how it might affect your health. It is important to know that most commercial fragrances will only list around 50% of the total ingredients on their labels due to loopholes in the labelling laws. So, if you read a label and it sounds like a list of chemicals you’d rather not be exposed to, either contact the company to find out exactly what’s in that bottle or look for a new fragrance that won't potentially have negative consequences for your health.

For natural perfume, the ingredient list is simple: a combination of natural extracts for scent, natural alcohol or plant oil, water, possibly a natural antioxidant to maintain shelf life, and occasionally vegetable glycerine

Is Natural Always Natural?

Here are some tips on what to look for, and how to avoid the use of synthetic fragrance ingredients when choosing a natural product:

  • Read the actual ingredient label, not just the packaging or the booklet. Most of what you see there is simply marketing. The manufacturers know what you are looking for, so they put the buzz words like ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ or ‘paraben free’ right where you’re bound to see them.
  • Get in touch with the company. Most natural product companies are all too happy to give you extra information and answer any of your questions. Don’t expect them to give away their formulae or supplier details, but you can ask them how their ingredients are derived, which countries they source from or if there is anything not included on the ingredient label (there shouldn’t be).
  • Don’t fall for marketing hype. Just because a product has a beautiful photo of a rose on it, doesn’t mean it contains natural rose extract. Use google to do your research on products listed on packaging.

The synthetic ingredients we leave out of AMPERNA® include sulphates, parabens, petrochemicals, vinyl’s and synthetic fragrance because we are concerned about their potential environmental and health effects and our focus is on using gentle ingredients for the most sensitive skin.

AMPERNA® founder Kiri personally experienced skin flare-ups when using products that contained these ingredients and knows first-hand how irritating they can be to some skin types.

If you’d like to find out more information on the ingredients used in AMPERNA® products, Kiri is here to help. She offers skin coaching calls you can find on the website.

 

References

Natural Vs. Synthetic Fragrances: How Safe Are Your Cosmetics? | Ingredients | Jupiter (hellojupiter.com)

Natural vs. Synthetic Fragrance - What's the Big Deal? – Each & Every Company (eachandevery.com)

Written By Alison Butijer

Alison Butijer has a background in Visual Merchandising but in 2020 started on her own health & wellness journey, helping other people on theirs too. Alison is passionate about holistic living, encouraging others to create healthy lifestyle habits & feeling confident in their own skin. Everything that AMPERNA® embodies.