Home Cosmetic Science Talk Formulating Can we discuss natural vs synthetic fragrance in personal care?

  • Can we discuss natural vs synthetic fragrance in personal care?

    Posted by domicanica on February 7, 2021 at 3:51 pm

    Hello all. I’ve recently decided to venture into making personal care products to sell on a small scale. I’m not really an “all natural” person and it was never my intent to have my business be an “all natural/clean beauty” brand. My original vision was to use ingredients that were mostly natural/naturally derived as well as “safe synthetics” and generally non controversial ingredients, just because that’s what a great majority of the people in the country where I live and plan to sell my products really like.

    Since I’ve started actually playing around with ingredients, I’m beginning to see how difficult it is not using synthetics, especially when it comes to scenting/fragrance in body wash. My original plan was to use essential oils in my products for the scent, in very small amounts to decrease risk of irritation/sensitizing (under 1%), but I really hate how the products smell, I don’t find the scent of essential oils to be attractive or comforting. I’m now considering synthetic fragrances but I’m wary because 1. most body washes that include synthetic fragrances irritate MY skin and 2. I wanted to do a bit of story telling with those essential oils with a bit of an aromatherapy aspect and I feel like with all the greenwashing in the industry most people may not be comfortable seeing synthetic fragrance on a product label.

    So my questions are: Could I possibly make my own fragrance blends using essential oils AND other “natural/naturally derived” scented ingredients like maybe tonka or benzoin resinoid? Could I maybe just go ahead and use synthetic fragrances but instead of just listing ‘fragrance’ I could list out all the components in it for full transparency so people may feel better? How would I even go about getting an original custom synthetic scent made, especially being outside the bigger countries like US & UK and not being able to travel? And finally, I’d really love to hear how do you all feel about natural vs synthetic fragrances.

    domicanica replied 3 years, 3 months ago 10 Members · 26 Replies
  • 26 Replies
  • Graillotion

    Member
    February 7, 2021 at 8:52 pm

    I am in a similar situation.

    I kept dreaming I could create a good scent with essential oils….to this day…I have not been able to create a scent I would pay money for.

    With artificial scents…there can literally be 100’s of ingredients in a single fragrance….and you have little idea what is in there.  Other than getting a few tags of:  _______ FREE…that is all you know.

    In my latest project, I finally found a natural scent that I, and so far, all my testers have appreciated:

    Rose Bulgarian 3% Dilution at Wholesale prices (newdirectionsaromatics.com)

    First of all….let me say…50% of testers will be repulsed by artificial rose… Those same testers…will usually like real rose.  This is a pricey option, and this product will take every bit of .5% to be effective.  I use phenethyl alcohol as part of my preservative system, and this really helps to enhance this scent.

  • OldPerry

    Member
    February 7, 2021 at 8:56 pm

    Yes, you could make your own fragrance blends with essential oils & other scented ingredients.  Check IFRA standards for limitations for ingredient types and levels.

    You can get a custom fragrance made by employee a “fragrance house.” Since you’re a small manufacturer you’ll likely have to work with a smaller fragrance house.

    Generally, I think synthetic fragrances are better to use. They are less likely to cause skin reactions and they are more consistent in quality. 

  • domicanica

    Member
    February 7, 2021 at 10:21 pm

    Hmmm @Graillotion are all those 3% oils on the NDA website basically plant extracts/essential oils just diluted in carrier oils? For instance from my research lotus essential oil doesn’t seem to be a thing but it seems like they’ve maybe extracted an aromatic part of the lotus flower and added it to an oil…seems like a great way to keep the ingredient list natural while still incorporating an attractive scent… Thank you for that, I’m going to look into those.

  • domicanica

    Member
    February 7, 2021 at 10:28 pm

    @Perry Thank you for confirming. Are there any resources or recommendations for small fragrance houses on here?

    Also, you say you generally think synthetic fragrances is better to use, I guess because they can be formulated to be as non-reactive as possible whereas you can’t quite easily make modifications to natural fragrances while keeping them natural? Do you think people with sensitive skin and skin conditions can ever safely use products with synthetic fragrance with no issues? Maybe if it’s very lightly scented and the fragrance is included at a very small percentage?

  • Graillotion

    Member
    February 7, 2021 at 11:01 pm

    Hmmm @Graillotion are all those 3% oils on the NDA website basically plant extracts/essential oils just diluted in carrier oils? For instance from my research lotus essential oil doesn’t seem to be a thing but it seems like they’ve maybe extracted an aromatic part of the lotus flower and added it to an oil…seems like a great way to keep the ingredient list natural while still incorporating an attractive scent… Thank you for that, I’m going to look into those.

    Yes….the link I sent…was 3% absolute mixed with 97% Jojoba.  If you have the money…they offer the same thing…in 100% absolutes.

    Rose Absolute - Bulgaria - Exotic Scent of Rose - Wholesale Prices (newdirectionsaromatics.com)

    Then you can mix them however you deem fit.

  • Graillotion

    Member
    February 7, 2021 at 11:13 pm

    Hmmm @Graillotion are all those 3% oils on the NDA website basically plant extracts/essential oils just diluted in carrier oils?

    No…they are not essential oils (albeit, I guess it depends on your definition of ‘essential oil’).  You can search the process, they actually distill from the flowers…hence so expensive.

  • OldPerry

    Member
    February 8, 2021 at 2:33 pm

    @domicanica

    “Are there any resources or recommendations for small fragrance houses on here?”

    Not really but it depends on where you live. Check out the Buyer’s Guide at happi.com  You can find fragrance houses near you. I haven’t investigated all of them so I don’t know who would be best to work with.

    “Also, you say you generally think synthetic fragrances is better to use, I guess because they can be formulated to be as non-reactive as possible whereas you can’t quite easily make modifications to natural fragrances while keeping them natural? Do you think people with sensitive skin and skin conditions can ever safely use products with synthetic fragrance with no issues? Maybe if it’s very lightly scented and the fragrance is included at a very small percentage?”

    I think synthetic fragrances are superior for the following reasons.

    1.  They contain less allergens. Plants evolved to produce molecules that would attract or repel animals (like humans). That’s why most of the sensitizing ingredients are natural molecules. Since our bodies have not been exposed to most synthetic molecules over the centuries, we generally don’t have any reaction to them. 

    2.  They are more consistent. Synthetic fragrances can be made exactly the same way every time. The composition of natural based fragrances depends on a myriad of uncontrolled things like soil conditions, environment, sunlight, insect exposure, etc. The plant you used last year might have a significantly different composition than the plant you get this year. So, your products may smell & react completely differently even using the same named natural extract.

    3.  People with sensitive skin should probably use synthetic fragrances over natural ones. Natural ingredients contain more allergens.  But it also depends on what you are sensitive too. Fragrances whether based on natural ingredients or synthetics are all different. Something that smells like vanilla is made up of different chemicals than something that smells like bananas. If a person is sensitive to the chemical in one they can still use the other without incident. No one is sensitive to “synthetic fragrances” vs “natural fragrances”. If you’re sensitive to a fragrance whether it is natural or synthetic doesn’t matter. What matters is what chemical is in either the natural or synthetic fragrance.

  • domicanica

    Member
    February 9, 2021 at 10:25 pm

    Hmm thanks @Perry your last point was especially helpful and sparked an idea in my head. I was mostly worried about buyer perception but I will go ahead and explore synthetic fragrances as an option. Maybe if I’m transparent enough and make sure to write enough educational material on my website and social media channels people won’t mind.

  • Graillotion

    Member
    February 10, 2021 at 3:56 am

    Hmm thanks @Perry your last point was especially helpful and sparked an idea in my head. I was mostly worried about buyer perception but I will go ahead and explore synthetic fragrances as an option. Maybe if I’m transparent enough and make sure to write enough educational material on my website and social media channels people won’t mind.

    Hehehe….educating social media?  Many of them operate on ignorance and fear mongering, and don’t dare contradict the blogger they worship. ::wink:
    (Don’t leave it open for debate…or that is what you’ll spend your time doing.)  Whatever route you take, do it with confidence.  You can not be all things to all people.

    I also use some synthetic fragrances…as long as you can list them as paraben-free and phthalate-free, you will draw in all but the wacko’s.

    If there is one thing I have discovered in developing, and especially when I create trials (that I do myself) with people….the absolute first thing they do…even before they allow it to touch their skin….SNIFF SNIFF…  Win the sniff test…you have all but won the battle.

    I even do crazy things like give them 3 of the same thing…only scent is different….and they will rave about how superior all aspects of the cream they like the scent of, and how it is superior to the other two products….which only the fragrance is different.

  • mikethair

    Member
    February 10, 2021 at 4:34 am
    My business partner and I have allergies to synthetic fragrances, so in our skin & hair care product business we stick with essential oils only. And we only buy from trusted sources… one I have used for around 30 years, and the newest, 10 years. All batches supplied with CoAs.
    We have found that many consumers have similar issues with synthetic fragrances. And many have gravitated to our brand because we don’t use synthetics. Same applies to our Private Label/OEM clients, which is now the largest income generator. None of this was planned or calculated. And when we started I was only aware that we could not work with synthetic fragrances due to our own allergic reactions.
    In summary then, there is probably space in the marketplace for both synthetic and essential oil fragrances. Most important I think is transparency.
  • Graillotion

    Member
    February 10, 2021 at 4:47 am

    mikethair said:

    My business partner and I have allergies to synthetic fragrances, so in our skin & hair care product business we stick with essential oils only. And we only buy from trusted sources… one I have used for around 30 years, and the newest, 10 years. All batches supplied with CoAs. 

    Are you willing to share your trusted sources?  Do they sell small pack?

    Of all the small pack resellers I have tried, I like New Directions the best.  But always open to a good supplier!  Can never have enough of those.  (Also shipping from Canada to Hawaii….adds up!)

  • Cafe33

    Member
    February 12, 2021 at 8:47 pm

    I don’t think trying to educate the masses on social media is a good use of your time or potentially successful in any way unless you have multi million dollar budget for it.

    You simply have to decide what marketing angle you are taking and stay within that range. Most people buy products based on fragrance. You simply cannot please everybody, so you have to formulate and promote products in an almost political manner. You can be to one extreme where everything is bad and dangerous and lean on those “ideals” and you will pick up the fringe clientele. We chose to be somewhere in the middle with our brand. No parabens, no SLS, sustainable packaging…  Yet we have been attacked so far for using cetyl alcohol in our products and more recently sodium chloride. We will always be attacked about something, it is just the nature of the business and social media. 

    I find the “fragrance-free” claim absolutely hilarious. In many products, fragrance is the most expensive component and in many cases it is the most difficult to formulate into a product.

  • mikethair

    Member
    February 12, 2021 at 10:53 pm

    mikethair said:

    My business partner and I have allergies to synthetic fragrances, so in our skin & hair care product business we stick with essential oils only. And we only buy from trusted sources… one I have used for around 30 years, and the newest, 10 years. All batches supplied with CoAs. 

    Are you willing to share your trusted sources?  Do they sell small pack?

    Of all the small pack resellers I have tried, I like New Directions the best.  But always open to a good supplier!  Can never have enough of those.  (Also shipping from Canada to Hawaii….adds up!)

    We are usually buying in around 30 Kg lots, so not “small pack.” Plus in our part of the world SE Asia, the suppliers are not the same as Cananda - Hawaii. Yes, we sometimes use New Directions (Australia) but you need to be careful in your specs…. we have fund they can sometimes tend towards things like “nature identical oils” which are in fact synthetic.

  • Graillotion

    Member
    February 13, 2021 at 1:27 am

    Cafe33 said:

    .

      Yet we have been attacked so far for using cetyl alcohol in our products 

    I had not heard of cetyl alcohol being on any ‘naughty lists’.  Are these the people that think anything with the word ‘alcohol’….is drying?

  • Graillotion

    Member
    February 13, 2021 at 1:33 am

    mikethair said:

    mikethair said:

    We are usually buying in around 30 Kg lots, so not “small pack.” Plus in our part of the world SE Asia, the suppliers are not the same as Cananda - Hawaii. Yes, we sometimes use New Directions (Australia) but you need to be careful in your specs…. we have fund they can sometimes tend towards things like “nature identical oils” which are in fact synthetic.

    Yes…I am aware they have some ‘nature identicals’… but have always found them to be well marked / documented…so no issues.

    I was looking for thymol for a mosquito lotion….and so tried a ‘natural identical’ Thyme….and is was pretty nasty.   Will not be using it.  Later purchased the real Thyme…and it was delightful.

    Thanks for the heads up…and maybe someone read this thread someday will be saved some grief.

  • Cafe33

    Member
    February 13, 2021 at 10:27 pm

    Cafe33 said:

    .

      Yet we have been attacked so far for using cetyl alcohol in our products 

    I had not heard of cetyl alcohol being on any ‘naughty lists’.  Are these the people that think anything with the word ‘alcohol’….is drying?

    It makes the list with some because of it’s association with palm.

  • abierose

    Member
    February 14, 2021 at 4:47 am

    Like my dad always told me, you can never please all the people all the time and probably not even some of the people all the time but you may be able to please some of the people some of the time 🙂
    @domicanica I too started out wanting to use only natural essential oils to scent my products but quickly learned that there is only a select few essential oils that are appealing, at least to myself and my network of product testers. And like @Graillotion said, scent is the very first thing about your product that people care about and they care about it more than product functionality even a lot of the time! Anyway, I found that most people who are all about the “natural” products seem to be happy with a product that is mostly natural if the only thing synthetic is the fragrance.
    But I think that anything can appeal to people if it’s marketed properly 😉

  • ngarayeva001

    Member
    February 15, 2021 at 5:28 pm

    There is an artisan perfumery in west London https://www.4160tuesdays.com/ I think you can try
    to reach out, as everything is online now. I have been in their workshop and they have an impressive range of both natural and chemical ingredients.

  • Benz3ne

    Member
    February 16, 2021 at 9:25 am

    There is an artisan perfumery in west London https://www.4160tuesdays.com/ I think you can try
    to reach out, as everything is online now. I have been in their workshop and they have an impressive range of both natural and chemical ingredients.

    Another one to note is Rogue Perfumery on Etsy. Manny is very knowledgeable and seems to have time for all I know whom have approached him.
    Funny question, reverting back to OP’s initial post - is it the synthetic ingredients that are causing you issues in the body washes you use or something else in there that disagrees with you? Have you had a patch test to find out which is the case?
    I’m a big lover of fragrances and have fortunately had no issues with reactions regardless of whether it’s natural or synthetic aromachemicals/essential oils/fractions used, but I know more people who have had negative reactions from naturals than synthetic ingredients in the same circles.

  • domicanica

    Member
    February 16, 2021 at 12:36 pm

    @Benz3ne, seems to be synthetic fragrance, i haven’t had the same issue using body wash that’s scented with essential oils. it very well may be that the percentage of fragrance in the product was just very high or too high for me but from experience, synthetic fragrances in body wash causes irritation and other uncomfortable issues for me.

  • Benz3ne

    Member
    February 17, 2021 at 10:41 am

    @Benz3ne, seems to be synthetic fragrance, i haven’t had the same issue using body wash that’s scented with essential oils. it very well may be that the percentage of fragrance in the product was just very high or too high for me but from experience, synthetic fragrances in body wash causes irritation and other uncomfortable issues for me.

    I’d still say it’s valuable to have some patch testing done. You’ll be able to see what exactly is causing you issues rather than assuming that it’s ‘synthetic chemicals’ which is a significant and broad class of chemicals.
    There may be other differences in the essential oil-containing body wash that could cause/have caused you issues.

  • OldPerry

    Member
    February 17, 2021 at 1:03 pm

    Yeah, saying you’re allergic to “synthetic fragrances” is similar to saying you are allergic to “all animals.”  No one is allergic to all animals. You may be allergic to cats or dogs or ferrets but not all animals.  Similarly, you may be allergic to one or two of the components found in some synthetic fragrances but you are not allergic to all synthetic fragrances because they are not chemically the same.

    The only way you can really know is having patch tests done.

  • Benz3ne

    Member
    February 18, 2021 at 11:03 am

    Perry said:

    Yeah, saying you’re allergic to “synthetic fragrances” is similar to saying you are allergic to “all animals.”  No one is allergic to all animals. You may be allergic to cats or dogs or ferrets but not all animals.  Similarly, you may be allergic to one or two of the components found in some synthetic fragrances but you are not allergic to all synthetic fragrances because they are not chemically the same.

    The only way you can really know is having patch tests done.

    Or, you may be allergic to all animals but the classes of animal you’re allergic to are still separate/individual. You could be allergic to cats + allergic to dogs + allergic to [insert animal name here] but it doesn’t mean that there’s a common denominator between them, or that it could be umbrella’d as “allergic to all”.
    Excellent point made about chemicals both from natural and synthetic origin.

  • Pattsi

    Member
    February 19, 2021 at 1:17 pm

    Should we define allergy vs irritation?

  • nicki121

    Member
    February 20, 2021 at 10:46 pm

    Why do people like to sensationalise and say they are allergic to something when what they really are is sensitive to it!

    If you are Allergic to something you must have had prior exposure to the ingredient to become Allergic to it. The reaction can occur or spread to any part of the body and the severity is not dose dependent. Can occur immediately or sometime after application and last in some cases for extended periods of time several weeks. 

    A Sensitisation reaction is localised and severity is dose dependent. Usually Manifests immediately on contact. Unusual to last more than 48 hours after application generally subsides after removing(rinsing) the ingredient. 

    The only products I use with fragrance are body wash don’t really care if it’s synthetic or natural as long as it smells good to “Me”  and doesn’t irritate. Funnily enough I haven’t used fragranced facial cosmetics in over 10 years. but I still can’t help to give it a sniff test before using! We really do rely on our olfactory senses more than we realise. 

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