The Quick Guide to Natural vs. Synthetic Fragrances

natural perfume guide

“A good fragrance should have a certain personality that makes people identify the scent with you - Isabel Mebarak

Is it possible for natural and synthetic fragrances to have a memorable personality? Absolutely. Many popular fragrances use one or the other (and sometimes a blend of both) to create iconic scents.

Even so, you may be wondering...

Why choose one type of fragrance over the other? Is one better or worse?

We’ve the answer to these questions. By the end of this article you’ll understand what natural and synthetic fragrances are, where essential oils fit in, and how to blend these scents to create a beloved fragrance.

What are Natural fragrances?

Natural fragrances are scents created from nature, including the trees, plants, and extracted from animals. Those flowery and musky scents you love? Often, these scents are often derived from natural properties. However, natural notes don’t last long. And recreating the same natural fragrances is difficult, even if you get the notes from the same sources. This is why much of the world of fragrances uses synthetic notes and bases; natural scents give inconsistent results.

Natural fragrances are beautiful, but they do take a toll on the environment. The process of harvesting scents from trees and plants has caused deforestation throughout the world. And extracting scents from animals isn’t much better — it’s a long, painful process.

Additionally, the state of natural scents fluctuates based on human interaction and climate change. If something affects the natural sources, such as a heatwave or pesticides, it may be impossible to recreate the fragrance. Synthetic fragrances aren’t susceptible to the same issues as natural notes.

What are Synthetic fragrances?

paraben free perfume line

Unlike natural fragrances, synthetic fragrances are developed in laboratories. Rather than sourcing the notes through forestry and animals, synthetic scents replicate natural accords, without harming the environment. It’s this man-made process that can allow for the repopulation of forestry and protection of popular animals (like deer) where the extracts are used in popular fragrance.

You should know that “synthetic fragrances” is a broad term. There’s three types:

  1. Full synthetics: Nearly the entire fragrance is derived from petroleum by-products
  2. Semi-synthetics: As the name suggests, the fragrance is only semi-synthetic; it can be created from some synthetic, natural, or artificially modified notes. Sometimes, it’s derived from all three
  3. Natural isolates: A fragrance developed from synthetic and natural byproducts

Besides protecting the environment and animal kingdom, synthetic notes are able to last longer thanks to fixatives. For instance, natural notes have an average shelf life of 1-2 years. However, synthetic perfumes can last up to five years.

The fixatives give fragrances increased vitality. The scents don’t sour as quickly as natural perfumes, and the scents remain richer and denser in comparison. At the moment, these are benefits that natural perfumes can’t achieve.

Blending Natural or Synthetic Fragrances with Fixatives and Alcohol

bespoke perfume creation

Fixatives prevent volatile perfumes from rapidly evaporating. If you want your scent to last, fixatives are the answer. Most are comprised of resins, mosses, and substances from animals. First, you need to blend the notes of your perfume together. There are three important ones to use: the top note; a modifier; and an endnote. Be aware that one perfume may require more than 100 different notes!

The notes will be blended to create a beautiful scent. The easiest way is to combine the scents and oils together in a bottle. Turn the bottle up and down (don’t share!). You may open the bottle, take in the scent, and then add more notes as you see fit. Scents do change as time passes; it may be strong after two minutes but more potent after twenty.

Once the scent is perfected, it needs to be diluted. Most fragrances use alcohol. It brings the blend to life. The scent and alcohol need to age together, otherwise your final result will just smell like alcohol.

Essential Oils: Where do they fit in?

Essential oils extract the “essence” from plants. These oils are used in aromatherapy, inhaled like a fragrance, or applied directly to the skin.

The process of developing essential oils involves extracting compounds from plants either mechanically (through methods like cold pressing) or distillation (using water or steam).

Then, the chemicals are extracted from these compounds, combined with carrier oil, and turned into a usable product. Many people think essential oils are all-natural, but this is only true when the compounds are extracted without chemicals.

perfume sample

Natural oils are used in cosmetics like lotions, soaps, and facial cleansing products. Not only are the oils known to be calming, they may have other stimulating benefits as well. The most popular scents — including coconut, almond, and lavender — are often blended with carrier oils and fragrances.

Final thoughts

Selecting natural or synthetic fragrances depends on your fragrance needs.

If you’re creating a fragrance, work with a company who doesn’t use harmful chemicals and ensures their fragrances are paraben free, free of animal cruelty, and uses natural oils derived from vegetal origins. You don’t have to look far since this is exactly what we do at Privé Label, contact us today to discuss your perfume line.