Your Stylist: All-natural and organic perfumes

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I’ve met a few women recently who say they don’t wear perfume because of the chemicals and/or because of allergies or sensitivity to synthetic scents. They would like to wear perfume and have a signature scent that lingers subtly in a room even after they’ve left, but cannot stomach the potential headache.

There are several companies who make all-natural and organic fragrances, some without alcohol, some are vegan, all might be a good solution for anyone who’s always stayed away from the shelves at Sephora because of a sensitivity to traditional perfumes.


“Basically you have organics, naturals and botanicals,” explains Adam Eastwood; co-founder of online retailer, a website of hard-to-find and specialty scents and Scent Bar, its bricks and mortar equivalent. “Botanical perfume means it’s all-natural and vegan, so no animal products, beeswax, musk or ambergris is used. Natural fragrances are made from all-natural ingredients rather than synthesized ones.” But, he adds, if it’s not organic then presumably someone can still be exposed to pesticides and fertilizers that were used in the cultivation of the natural ingredients.

A French company called Honore Des Pres makes organic perfume that comes packaged in whimsical marmalade jars and to-go style coffee cups. The scents do not contain any petrochemicals or synthetic perfumes. They are also free of coloring agents and animal byproducts or any ingredient traditionally known to irritate sensitive skin.

The “nose” behind this line is famed perfumer Olivia Giacobetti, who has also created scents for L’Artisan, Costes, Penhaligon’s and Diptyque. Giacobetti’s creations for the company range from a creamy coconut scent called Coconut Love to a fresh green mix named Nu Green.

A recently launched line called Crow perfume is entirely water-based, eliminating alcohol, which can sometimes be drying or irritating on people’s skin, but also is a key ingredient in holding a scent’s staying power.

Creator Emily Lape wanted a healthful and natural perfume and she’s come up with six scents -- all water-based and void of parabens, oils and phthalates as well as being cruelty free.

“Today’s women are much more aware of the environment and the ingredients in their cosmetic bag, yet we still want our perfume to evoke sophistication and femininity,” says Lape. “When I went out to look for such a perfume I could not find it on the market.”

Natural scents may not all have the same amount of staying power as traditional scents (possibly a good thing for those who are sensitive or just anyone who prefers something light) so perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz created three botanical scents for online retailer with a focus on making natural perfumes that still carried some intensity.

There are 12 scents ranging from Vanille Bontanique, a rich, botanical vanilla, to a floral, green, citrus called Hand of Buddha.

“These seem to have a remarkable amount of staying power compared to some other natural lines I’ve seen,” says Eastman.

But he also goes on to say that sometimes synthetics used in fragrances are actually less harmful than naturals when it comes to a person’s sensitivity.

“By wearing a natural scent you are exposed to far more molecules than with synthetics. So in many ways synthetics are better and more benign than naturals,” Eastman says.

He adds that one of the benefits to synthetics is that the scent is more defined and tends not to change too much on the skin like a natural fragrance might.

It just depends on what you’re looking for in a fragrance. After all, scent should be totally personal.

-- Melissa Magsaysay


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Photos, from top: Love Coconut from Honore Des Pres/Honore Des Pres.

Crow Perfume Fruta + Lecha perfume/Crow Perfume.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz for Vanille Botanique/