Natural Fragrance – The New Beauty Movement

Natural Fragrance – The New Beauty Movement


It’s hard to deny that scents can have a powerful impact on our everyday encounters and rituals. From the positive feelings evoked by smelling your favourite food to the memories attached to a fragrance that reminds you of someone you love, scent is an important sensory component of many experiences.

For this reason, cosmetic companies have been infusing beauty products with fragrance for centuries. However, modern science has begun to recognise that not all scented formulas are a good thing. These days more and more brands are taking a more natural approach to fragrance by using natural fragrances or even going fragrance-free, for the health of both consumers and our environment.

Here is what you need to know about this new movement and why it’s important:

Natural vs. Synthetic Fragrance: What is the difference?

In the first place, many people don’t realise that fragrance – particularly as it appears on many ingredient labels – can refer to a wide range of additives in a product that gives it its scent. Naturally scented products will use raw materials and ingredients of natural origin – such as essential oils and botanical extracts – whereas synthetically scented products may be using any one of thousands of lab-created chemicals.

Natural Fragrance

Natural fragrance refers to essential oils and plant extracts that are naturally occurring substances found in different parts of plants – the flower, fruit, leaf, stem, bark, wood or resin. Essential oils are derived from a single natural source and generally they are harvested sustainably.  While the scent profile of essential oils can be replicated, the range of physical and mental health benefits cannot. These oils, rich in all sorts of nutrients, can provide medicinal, moisturizing, antibacterial, and antiseptic properties, and can be used in aromatherapy. Natural fragrance is difficult to reproduce synthetically, so that’s where synthetic fragrance oils come in. 

Synthetic Fragrance

Synthetic fragrance oils are man-made in a laboratory in an attempt to replicate the smell of favourite foods, flowers, fruits, etc. These synthetically-made chemical scent compounds can use more than 200 unlabeled chemicals in a single scent, and they are found everywhere in modern life, such as personal care products, cleaning products, air fresheners, laundry soap, hand sanitisers, baby diapers, food, drinks, confectionery, and so much more. Synthetic fragrances are much cheaper to manufacture than essential oils, they have greater staying power, and there are endless possible scents that can be created, hence the reasons why most companies choose to use them over essential oils.

Alarmingly, more than 95 percent of the chemicals in synthetic fragrances are derived from petrochemicals! These chemicals include: benzene derivatives, phthalates, synthetic musks, and parabens. Apart from being toxic to our health, they are catastrophic to our environment!

According to the International Fragrance Association which oversees the fragrance industry, there are more than 3,000 different compounds which may legally be listed as fragrance, meaning if you see the term “fragrance” or “parfum” on your product packaging, it could be referencing any number of synthetic additives or ingredients.

Understanding product labels

Be aware that just because a label states “contains essential oils” it may also contain synthetic fragrance oils.

Cosmetic labeling requires that any added fragrance, whether natural or synthetic, is stated on the ingredient list as “parfum” or “fragrance”. If the fragrance contains any of the 26 current declarable fragrance allergens, these must be labeled when they occur at 0.001 % in a leave-on product or 0.01% in a rinse-off product.

Here is an example of how you may see essential oils listed on a product label:  “parfum (fragrance)*. *From natural essential oils: *linalool, *limonene, *a-pinene (*natural components of essential oils).”

The confusing part is that synthetic fragrances would also be listed in the same way on a product label if the product also contains essential oils. How then do you know if a product contains 100% essential oils and no synthetic fragrances?

To be certain that a product contains no synthetic fragrances it must state on the label and website that it “contains no synthetic fragrances,” and uses only “100% essential oils.”

Better Beauty: A few good reasons why you should avoid synthetic fragrances:

Reason 1: Synthetic fragrances can be harmful to your skin.

If you’ve ever applied a product and experienced an unpleasant outbreak of itching, redness, rash, or stinging sensation, a common conclusion may be that you have an allergy to that product. However, what many people don’t realise is that it may actually be the added fragrance that is causing your reaction. Because many skin types don’t tolerate synthetic additives well, inflammation, and other signs of irritation can be easily triggered by the perfume component of a product.

Reason 2: Synthetic fragrances may be harmful to your health.

Besides the immediate impact of applying synthetic fragrances on your skin, experts are also beginning to attribute certain chemical additives frequently found in perfumed products to some more serious health consequences. Understanding that anything applied topically eventually ends up in the bloodstream, breast milk, and fat stores of the body, it only makes sense that this could be concerning.

According to the Environmental Working Group, about 75% of beauty products containing synthetic fragrances have been found to also contain phthalates which have been linked to disrupting hormone balance, harming the endocrine system, and causing abnormal cell growth. And although we are still learning about the long-term effects of certain chemical ingredients in our products, many researchers say the safest formula is one that omits synthetic fragrance altogether.

Reason 3: Synthetic fragrances are harmful for those with sensitivities.

Recent research out of the U.S. and Australia indicates that at least 30% of people struggle with sensitivity to scent, associating exposure to overpowering fragrance with negative health symptoms ranging from severe migraines to cognitive and neurological problems, gastrointestinal issues, and even seizures in small children.

Due to these types of adverse effects, at least 40% of survey participants say they prefer a fragrance-free environment for their workplace and health care facilities, as well as while travelling and enjoying other public spaces.

Reason 4: Synthetic fragrances are harming our planet.

Just in case skin health and wellness aren’t enough of a significant concern, there’s also a lot to consider in terms of the impact of synthetic fragrance on the environment.

With regards to both air and water pollution, environmental agencies say synthetic fragrance compounds are problematic because they don’t break down easily and are often undetectable to the filtration systems that would typically prevent them from ending up in our waterways. Similarly, because they are often sprayed as perfume, deodorant, or in diffusers, some studies suggest that chemically-enhanced fragrances could be contributing to toxic levels of airborne pollution.

Further, it’s worth noting that many synthetic fragrances are derived from petrochemicals, via processes that are problematic on many levels. According to experts, pollution from petrochemical production is a major contributor to the climate crisis, affecting not only our air and water, but also our soil, to the detriment of our food supply, our health, our communities, and our ecosystems on a global scale.

Petrochemical refinery with smoke pollution.

A Scent to Remember: Scenturie’s natural fragrance philosophy.

If all of the above information seems discouraging, the good news is that you don’t have to give up fragrance completely. If you are someone who does enjoy a little scent in your products, then natural fragrance is a perfect option because it gives you all of the sensory experience of fragrance, without all of the risks.

Scenturie is a natural beauty brand founded with a mission to respect our planet, its resources and each other. So with this in mind, our approach to scent in our formulas is to never use synthetic chemicals or known irritants, steering clear of any unnatural fragrances.

In our experience, we find that using only premium, plant-based ingredients and a minimal amount of essential oils, results in a perfect combination of pure, subtle, natural fragrance. At Scenturie, we don’t see a need to intervene by adding anything additional. Our products are scented just the way nature intended.

natural fragrance

Other things to note:

If you are new to natural fragrance and have skin sensitivities, one more bit of advice is to always patch test products before using them. The best way to do so is by applying a very small amount to a discreet area, such as the inside of the forearm, and then waiting a full day to see if any reaction occurs.

Because some essential oils can still be too much for very sensitive skin, this is a great practice with any new formula that you are introducing, as it will help you troubleshoot any reactivity and find what really works best for you.

Choose products that use natural fragrances. 

The use of synthetic fragrance is so entrenched in our modern world, that manufacturers aren’t going to give up synthetics without a fight. To them, the advantages still outweigh the disadvantages: synthetic fragrances last longer and cost less to make, so there’s little motivation for them to be transparent about the chemicals they use right now.

However, as more information about the hazards of synthetic fragrances become known, numerous businesses and consumers are opting for naturally scented products, choosing to support brands that fragrance their products with the health of the customer, the environment, and the planet in mind.


Health and societal effects from exposure to fragranced consumer products by Anne Steinemann.

Five ‘Must-Knows’ on the Dangers of Synthetic Fragrance by Maria Rodale for Huffington Post.

Fragrance Sensitivity: When Scents Cause Symptoms by Diana Rodriguez, Medically Reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH.

8 Things to Know About Petrochemicals by EarthJustice.Org.

All Scenturie natural skincare products are hand-crafted in small batches using pure, sustainable, plant-derived ingredients, including 100% essential oils. All our products are proudly 100% vegan, cruelty-free, palm oil-free, eco-friendly, and backed by science. We never use synthetic fragrances – our products are scented just the way nature intended.

Member of Cosmetics New Zealand

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