Natural versus synthetic fragrances

March 19 2018 3 Comments

Essential oil candles

Natural does not always mean it’s natural.

According to The World Flavors & Fragrances report (Freedonia, 2016) the demand for fragrances relating to essential oils is set to rise by nearly 5% in 2017. Over 40% of UK consumers were interested in purchasing products using naturally existing fragrances.

More and more people are seeking out natural, chemical free products not only for the body but also products within the home. From our inception we were clear we wanted to produce 100% natural products.

We are often asked such questions as ‘Do you have anything scented with fig or Lily of the valley?’ and when we explain that these scents are synthetic and not natural people are very often shocked and want to know more.

So we thought we would create a blog to help you understand the difference between natural and synthetic scents enabling you to make an informed decision when purchasing home fragrance.

Many candle companies are turning to soy wax as opposed to paraffin (a petroleum by-product) as evidence grows to the potential health risk associated with petroleum based products, however they continue to use synthetic fragrances to scent their products.

So what is the difference?

Natural fragrances:  are derived from natural raw materials. The International Organization for Standardization's refer to natural raw materials as ‘physically obtained from plants using distillation, expression and extraction’ known to most people as essential oils. At flo we work only with essential oils to fragrance our products.

There are limitations with natural fragrance, fragrance can be extracted from citrus fruits but as yet there is no natural process to extract scents from other fruits and many flowers, so beware of anything claiming to be natural that contains for example fig, freesia, strawberry or even orchid.

We believe the benefits of using only pure essential oils to scent our products enables us to create fabulous aromas but they also have the added benefit of their own unique aromatheraputic properties.

International Organization for Standardization's (ISO: 2.11)

Essential oil: A product obtained from a natural raw material (2.19) of plant origin, by steam distillation, by mechanical processes from the epicarp of citrus fruits, or by dry distillation, after separation of the aqueous phase — if any — by physical processes

Synthetic fragrance: the majority of home fragrance products are made partially or entirely from synthetics.

Today, roughly two-thirds of all fragrances used in perfumes and other scented products are made in the lab, not by Mother Nature, and the vast majority of top perfumes are made partially or entirely from synthetics.

Synthetics are man-made in a laboratory, often from petrochemicals in an attempt to duplicate the smell of a flowers, fruits and even chocolate and prosecco!  There are fully synthetic fragrances which are made in the main from petroleum by-products, there are then semi-synthetics, or natural fragrances that have been artificially modified.

Synthetic fragrances are controversial as evidence grows into their potential health hazards. Studies continue to report that synthetic fragrances have the potential to cause "possible mutagenic and genotoxic effects." Synthetic fragrances have also been found to contain possible hormone disruptors which have been linked abnormal cell reproduction. (Candles and Incense As Potential Sources of Indoor Air Pollution Environmental Protection Agency January 2001)

Companies are also starting to use natural isolates which blur the line between natural and man-made.

Why do companies use synthetic fragrances oils?

Well first of all it is cheaper and much less fragrance oil is needed to create a scent.  They are also easier to work with than their natural counterparts, but what they gain in profit margins is lost in the aromatheraputic properties

So how can you as consumer tell the difference?

This is a real challenge as currently there is no legal requirement on companies to declare the exact ingredients of their fragrances. Because fragrances often contain complex chemical formulas known as "proprietary" they are protected under the FDA’s "trade secret" law allowing them to withhold ingredients and simply state ‘perfume’. Within Europe however all products must now list potential allergens and carry warnings giving you some protection.

Campaigners in the US are pushing legislators to formally define what natural means and set standards for products which claim to be natural, let’s hope the UK follows suit soon.

Many producers use a combination of essential oils with synthetic fragrances, chemical enhancers and perervatives as a way of keeping costs down and appear to have longer lasting, stronger scents. This often translate in marketing and publicity as “Scented with essential oils” However what you will find this means in reality is a complex combination of ingredients with a small amount of essential oils.

Also beware of clever marketing, labelling and descriptions leading you to believe all is natural. Many companies use ‘Notes’ for example ‘beautiful notes of fresh lemon and bergamot combined with floral notes of rose and jasmine’ terminology used within aromatherapy and alluding to natural ingredients, but notes only means, what you can smell. You will also see beautifully shot adverts and packaging with natural flowers and fruits emblazoned, but don’t be fooled by the hype, learn how to read the labels and don’t be afraid to ask question for details of ingredients

Companies that use are really are natural and scent their products with nothing but pure essential oils happily disclose their ingredients and there are often very few, essential oils, natural alcohol or plant base oils, water, soy or bees wax for example. So unless producers declare 100% natural, as a consumer you are well within your rights to ask ‘what else does the product contain?’, as there may well be many hidden ingredients and chemicals included which could be potentially harmful to your health.

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At flo we are proud to be

chemical free products