February 26, 2015 2 min read

Perfumes and scented products can be made using a variety of ingredients, some natural and others synthetic. Here's a guide to help you navigate the ambiguous world of fragrances so you can feel safe and smell good.

Fragrance Sources

There are a number of possible sources for scents that mainly fall into two camps: natural versus synthetic. Plants have been used for centuries to derive natural aromas. The scent can come from various parts of a plant such as the bark, roots, flower, fruit, seeds or leaves. For example, cinnamon comes from bark and jasmine comes from a flower. Aromas can also come from animal parts or bi-products like beeswax or musk which traditionally came from musk deer. Synthetic fragrances are not found in nature but synthesized in a lab and may sometimes try to mimic a natural scent. Often synthetic aromas are more pronounced, more consistent, and easier to produce than natural scents. The variety and complexity of scents that can result are greater but may produce compounds that are toxic for the human body.

Fragrance Formats

Aside from the source of the aroma, there are also different formats (think of science class - solid, liquid, gas) in which a fragrance exists. Absolutes and tinctures, for example, involve soaking the fragrant materials in ethanol to produce a stable liquid. The one we’d like to focus on is Essential Oils as it is our natural fragrance of choice at Rocky.

Essential Oils are oils that have been distilled or physically expressed from the flowers, leaves, stems or berries of plants and retain the therapeutic benefit of the mother plant. They are completely natural and un-meddled with by man. Most essential oils are delicate and have a limited shelf life (especially if left in the sun), and they also evaporate within 6 hours of application to the skin, which is often a reason why cosmetic companies opt for longer lasting, stronger synthetic alternatives.

Fragrance Oils can also be known as aromatic oils or flavour oils. These are usually a blend of synthetically scented oils and essential oils, but they can also be 100% synthesized in a lab. They are usually diluted with a carrier or a solvent such as propylene glycol or mineral oil, both of which are on our Red List of ingredients we will never use.

Companies use the word 'Fragrance', 'Parfum' or 'Perfume' as a 'catch-all' term to protect a proprietary blend. Perfume companies invest a lot in developing their scent blends and the government has given them the right to keep the ingredients of their fragrance blends a secret. The problem is that without full-disclosure, you can't be sure that their blends don't contain phthalates or other undesirable ingredients commonly found in artificial scents.

You can steer clear of the uncertainty by choosing perfumes and scented products that use 100% natural ingredients and essential oils.

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