“CLEAN” FRAGRANCES: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PERFUME
by Catherine Spinley
There is no doubt about it, “clean beauty” is the buzziest buzzword in the beauty industry. While increased transparency when it comes to ingredients and ethical practices in the products we use is a giant step forward, there are still misconceptions swirling about what “clean” constitutes. This is even more apparent when discussing fragrance, something we at Sunday Forever are very passionate about.
We love getting questions from customers (keep ‘em coming) and about a year ago we noticed a recurring question appearing in our inbox: “Is Sunday Forever Coconuts perfume natural?” After being asked a time or two, we updated our A B O U T page to answer the frequently asked question, “Are fragrances safe?” We can’t speak for all fragrances but we can speak for Coconuts perfume (it is ABSOLUTELY SAFE) and provide some clarity that will help you on your fragrance shopping journey.
Most of the time we see the misinformation begin around two words, “natural” and “synthetic,” so let’s talk about it.
THE “NATURAL” PROBLEM
Natural is a term commonly used in the beauty industry and it means nothing. Currently in the United States, there is zero regulation around the use of the word “natural” in beauty marketing and packaging. Sometimes consumers may think something is good for them if it is deemed “natural” but that simply isn’t true. There are plenty of naturally-occurring ingredients one would never dream of putting on their skin. For instance, mercury is a naturally occurring element that may have toxic effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, and on our lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes, yet it is “natural.” So, when someone asks if a fragrance is made of natural ingredients or if it is free of synthetic ingredients, we like to stop and explain. Synthetics are not bad. Most likely a fragrance made with synthetic ingredients rather than natural ingredients is a good thing. Why? Read on.
SYNTHETIC INGREDIENTS ARE NOT THE ENEMY
A synthetic ingredient simply means an ingredient is not found in nature. It has either been created in a lab or is derived from a natural ingredient but altered. In many cases (especially in skincare and fragrance) synthetic ingredients are safer and more efficacious than natural ingredients because of what we said about “natural” ingredients above. In fact, fragrance and perfume would not exist without the use of synthetic fragrance molecules which are not a new or futuristic technology or chemistry. Synthetic molecules have been used in the perfume industry since the late 1800s - it’s the only way to capture some of the most iconic and complex scent notes we’ve all come to love (Chanel No 5, Thierry Mugler’s Angel, CK One). The use of synthetic molecules has also provided major victories in many ethical and environmental battles. For instance, synthetic musk and civet has enabled fragrance houses to create alluring, deep and intriguing fragrances without hurting animals historically harmed in the making of a natural musk or civet scent note. By using synthetic sandalwood, conservation of forests previously decimated by the fragrance industry has begun.
But what does this mean to us when we’re shopping for a new scent? Well, when you walk into any of the “clean” beauty boutiques like Credo Beauty or CAP Beauty you will see a myriad of “clean” fragrance brands in stock, most of which are formulated with the use of synthetic fragrances. Don’t believe us? Go to your favorite site for clean beauty, choose a fragrance and look at the ingredient list. You’ll find a pretty long list of synthetic scent molecules and that is OKAY. The Green or Clean Beauty trend has compelled many brands to focus their marketing efforts on the clean or “natural” message, which is not an unethical act, but can certainly be a bit misleading since most fragrances sold in authorized retail channels (not just clean beauty boutiques) are safe for use by the consumer. This is because the fragrance industry is highly regulated and all U.S. Fragrance houses must adhere to European Union (EU) standards, which are known to be some of the strictest and most consumer-centric in the world.
At Sunday Forever we are passionate about quality ingredients, ethical practices and making sure our customers make informed purchasing decisions. We answer every single question you have and are extremely happy to continue the conversation! Email us ANYTIME at email@example.com!
If you want to learn more, here are some informative articles we’ve sent to people asking us to learn more about fragrance:
Catherine Spinley is the Editorial Director at The Sunday Issue as well as a freelance writer and sometimes-photographer. When not stalking other people’s dogs or yelling at people who refuse to walk up the left side of the escalator, she works in the beauty industry and practices yoga. You can read about her at worepaint.com and @spinderella1110.