The term ‘natural’ is becoming increasingly sought after by hair and beauty shoppers during the decision-making process, as we have all become more aware of the environment and are thinking more about what we’re putting on our skin and on our hair.
However, when it comes to fragrance, ‘natural’ doesn’t necessarily hold all the benefits we might expect. Continue reading to learn everything you need to know about the difference between natural and synthetic fragrances including how they are made and the effects they have on the environment.
What are natural fragrances?
Natural fragrances are complex compounds derived from natural aromatics that are extracted from nature, including trees, flowers and plants. 100% natural fragrances are exclusively derived from natural-origin materials and ingredients include essential oils, oleoresins, distillates, fractions and isolates. While the aromas created from these are beautiful, the extraction process is likely to have a negative impact on the environment, compared to the process of creating synthetic fragrances.
What are synthetic fragrances?
Synthetic fragrances replicate the scent of natural fragrances and are made up of chemical compounds comprised of aromatic raw materials. They may contain a mix of both natural and synthetic raw materials, or they could be 100% synthetic, whereas 100% natural fragrances are composed of natural raw materials only. Synthetic fragrances can also be produced without disrupting nature or harming the environment.
What are the benefits of using synthetic fragrance?
A significant part of synthetic raw materials in the fragrance industry are developed following green chemistry principles and biotechnology: the design of chemical products that reduce the use of hazardous substances1.
These chemical processes not only maximizes efficiency, but also minimizes the impact on the environment. It also enables the creation of aromatic molecules that cannot be extracted from natural flowers and fruits such as Lily of the Valley and strawberries – scents that were unattainable before.
Fragrances that are 100% natural also have a higher allergen concentration than synthetic fragrances, and almost all essential oils that make up natural fragrances contain these allergens. A list of 26 allergen substances have also been named by the European Commission to be included on product labels to inform consumers2. Their usage and limit are monitored by the International Fragrance Association (IFRA).
Natural fragrances are also less stable and less pure than synthetic fragrances. As most of the raw materials are cultivated in very specific places and have low yield, they often require extensive exploration to attend the high demand, presenting a challenge to the supply chain as well as having a negative impact on the environment.
What are some of the common misconceptions often associated with using natural fragrance in hair and beauty?
A common misconception when it comes to fragrance is that ‘natural’ is always safer, however this is not necessarily the case. This is because 100% natural fragrances contain higher allergen content versus synthetic fragrances. Common natural fragrance allergens include Citral, Citronellol, Coumarin, Eugenol, Linalool, Geraniol and Limonene.
Another misconception is that the term ‘natural’ automatically means more sustainable, however this is not always true. The ingredients for a natural fragrance needs to be harvested, and as already mentioned this can be damaging to the environment. For example, to extract 1kg of rose oil to be used as a natural fragrance ingredient, 4000kg of rose petals are needed – these are usually harvested by hand.
Why do weDo/ use synthetic fragrance, despite being a ‘natural’ brand?
Cynthia Lerner, fragrance specialist at weDo/, explains that "To support weDo/’s clean brand concept we’ve developed a clean fragrance, where each raw material has a specific and necessary role to convey a true weDo/ sensorial experience. We developed a synthetic fragrance to minimize the content of fragrance allergens. The level of fragrance allergens is very low, and therefore they not visible in the INCI.”
This special weDo/ fragrance is in all of our products, except the fragrance-free Protect Balm.
Learn more about our products that are all approved by the Vegan Society and Cruelty-Free certified, and discover more tips and advice for all types of hair concerns on our weBlog.
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