Natural v synthetic ingredients – what’s better?

Published August 7, 2020

Say synthetic fragrances and and some may snicker. Natural simply sounds better. But is it true? What is natural and what is synthetic in your perfume?

Natural fragrances contain ingredients only from a natural origin and are basically a mixture of essential oils, which can be potent. However, many natural ingredients have gone through plenty of chemical processing, to the point where it’s hard to actually argue that they are “natural”. And both natural and synthetic ingredients are by definition chemicals.

Synthetic fragrances simply contain chemicals that are not of a natural origin. It’s also important to mention that synthetic fragrances do not necessarily cause more allergic reactions than natural fragrances. Both of them contain ingredients called allergens – substances that cause allergies. Naturals are far higher in allergenic compounds such as limonene, citral, cinnamyl alcohol, geraniol and eugenol, just to mention a few. In fact, almost all essential oils contain allergens. More than half of the allergens that need to be listed in the INCI, International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredient, list are naturals. If you’re not an expert, use essential oils with care and caution. Make sure you dilute them, they can cause irritation – and worse! – if used directly on skin. Citrus oils can cause a reaction when exposed to sunlight and some essential oils should not be used on pregnant women and babies.

Some perfumers choose to use only natural ingredients – and do so wonderfully. It’s a choice we at Sniph respect and we are proud to be able to offer these fragrances.

Often, it’s the combination of natural and synthetics that allows the perfumer to create longer lasting and more complex scents. Some of the fragrant masterpieces we know, such as Chanel No 5 wouldn’t exist without synthetic ingredients. In the case of No , it’s the sparkling (and synthetic) aldehyde that works its magic. The Society of Cosmetic Scientists, SCS, have stated that it would be impossible to create any of the top fragrances in the world without synthetics.

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Odorem Mundi

Citrus, Juniper, Tonka Bean

Odorem Mundi

Citrus, Iris, Vanilla

Legendary perfumer Jean Claude Ellena likened the synthetic raw materials in perfumes to the invention of synthetic pigments in the 19 century. Without them, there would be no impressionist works done in pastel crayons or bright abstract oil paintings, according to him. One of his own masterpieces, Bvlgari Eau de Thé Vert, was commissioned by the Italian jeweler as an all natural fragrance. Ellena replied “I will make you one all natural scent and then I will make on of my own, with synthetics blended into it. I know which one you’ll pick”. Of course, Bvlgari chose Ellenas version and the rest is scent history.

Synthetics can be more expensive than naturals, so just because a fragrance contains synthetic ingredients doesn’t mean it’s cheaper. Niche fragrance houses tend to use very high quality ingredients, natural or otherwise. Also, from asustainability angle, fragrance from rare or protected raw materials, such as sandalwood, can be reproduced without the risk of extinction.

Bottom line, the ingredients that go into the magic that is perfume are often a mix of natural and synthetics. Skilled perfumers choose their notes carefully, regardless of origins, to blend beautiful scents. No matter why you pick a perfume, do so without any worries. All the scents we sell at Sniph have been tested by toxicologists and are safe to use on the skin, where the raw ingredients – natural or synthetics – come to life!

Discover perfumes with synthetic ingredients