Primavera Follow-Up, Synthetics or Not?

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Last week’s article on Primavera Life products brought some concern over their possible use of synthetics, namely “fragrance”. Because these products are made in Europe, I assumed they conformed to INCI labeling regulations and their fragrance was from a natural ingredient. INCI ( International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) is an ingredient labeling standard used in Europe and Canada – more on that in another post. I did check with Primavera on the fragrance issue and was assured that Primavera uses only natural fragrance in their products.

Fragrance is a tricky issue. In INCI standards, the word “fragrance” is used for essential oil and synthetic fragrance ingredients. Makers of nontoxic cosmetics often add a footnote explaining their fragrance is from essential oils, but not always.

Why the mystery over fragrance? It’s all about protecting a brand’s signature scents. A trade secret loophole allows cosmetic manufacturers to use the term “fragrance” on their ingredient listings so that they can keep their own unique fragrance recipe to themselves.

As for Primavera Life skin care and body care; many products also contain Benzyl Benzoate. This ingredient is a synthetic and used in cosmetics as a fragrance ingredient or, and more likely in this case, a preservative. You can read more on Benzyl Benzoate in this informative article by Stephanie Greenwood of Bubble & Bee.
Some green beauty experts are fine with a product containing a small amount of Benzyl Benzoate, others not so much. Even though the ingredient is way at the bottom of the ingredient listings for Primavera Life products, it is in there. And there are many good natural preservatives to choose from.

My opinion: Primavera Life produces some of the best essential oils on the market. If you are looking to purchase essential oils, you will not be disappointed with the purity of their oils. As for the products containing Benzyl Benzoate – since it makes up such a small part of the product, it is not the worst. Just know there are healthier alternatives.

[Woman with question mark image via Shutterstock]

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About the Author

I am an organic beauty expert, writer, and mom of two young environmentalists who can already spot a toxic product when they see one. Read more about me at Organic Beauty, and find me on , Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.
  • You are incorrect. Benzyl Benzoate is not a synthetic. It is a natural chemical constituent of several essential oils, including ylang ylang. It’s listed on the label because the EU has it classified as a possible skin irritant, must be named. As the President of the Natural Perfumers Guild, and a natural perfumer, I like to correct misinformation. I have no association with Primavera, but do not wish to see them labeled as having synths in their product. They do not.

  • Thanks for your comment, Anya. I will try to respond here but plan to write a post on Benzyl Benzoate itself in the near future with more precise info. Actually, their is Benzyl Benzoate from essential oils and Benzyl Benzoate in synthetic. If a product label does not clarify the fragrance is from essential oils and uses only “fragrance” on the label I can see how it would draw people to believe the product is made with synthetic ingredients. I’d also like to note that Primavera has always been one of the brands that I hold in high regard and was not sure whether there was some reformulation there until I spoke with someone from the company. This is what she told me: We should clarify that PRIMAVERA does not use Benzyl Benzoate in its isolated form in any of its products whatsoever. Benzyl Benzoate is a naturally occurring component in some of the 100% natural essential oils PRIMAVERA uses in its aromatherapeutic blends (the Fragrance/Parfum part of their ingredient list, to INCI standards). As a German company, PRIMAVERA follows EU regulations. EU Regulations require by law that Benzyl Benzoate must be listed on any product where it is at a concentration greater than 0.001%, whether it is used in its isolated form or is naturally occurring in essential oils. Benzyl Benzoate only has potentially allergenic properties in its isolated form, at a very high concentration. It does not have allergenic properties within the total essential oil, as it is found in PRIMAVERA products.

    The following information is straight from the Primavera LIfe website: WHAT IS THE “FRAGRANCE” OR “PARFUM” LISTED IN PRIMAVERA’S INGREDIENT LISTS?
    PRIMAVERA products rely on the highest quality pure, natural essential oils. We are a German company and subject to European regulations, which require that we list our essential oils as “Fragrance/Parfum.” Absolutely no synthetic fragrances or perfumes are used to scent any of our products. WHY DO SOME OF THE INGREDIENTS LISTED IN PRIMAVERA PRODUCTS SOUND LIKE CHEMICAL NAMES? PRIMAVERA formulas are completely pure and natural, free of any synthetics, parabens and genetically modified plants. Some of the natural ingredients in our products have scientific names that could be mistaken as chemical names. For more information, please see our Ingredient Glossary.
    Hope that clears up the issue with fragrance and Benzyl Benzoate in Primavera products.

    • Dear Liz:

      Thank you for your prompt and detailed reply. I realized that the Primavera label wasn’t quite informative enough that the benzyl benzoate was a part of the “whole” oil. In fact, this discussion is currently taking place on the private yahoo group for the Natural Perfumers Guild. We are updating our 2008 Position Paper ( that defines natural perfumery, right now focusing on (re)defining natural isolates. In the coming months we will also be updating our Code and Guidelines. Here’s what I posted in our discussion group today:

      I wrote that natural essential oils like cinammon and ylang ylang contain benzyl benzoate, and it’s listed because the EU has it designated a skin sensitizer, and not to think it was synthor isolate because it was listed. There were some good examples of labeling I found to illustrate my point, and I’m sure our EU members are way ahead of me here. Here’s a good example of where confusion starts on a label:
      lavandula angustifolia (lavender†) flower oil, linalool*, limonene*, citrus reticulata (mandarin) peel oil, pelargonium graveolens (geranium) leaf oil, cananga odorata (ylang ylang†) flower oil, cymbopogon martini (palmarosa) leaf oil, benzyl benzoate*, geraniol*. (*Natural constituents of essential oils, †Certified organic).

      The above label is incomplete, IMO, because the source of the benzyl benzoate isn’t listed/tied in with the source, e.g., the benzyl benzoate should be listed as from the ylang ylang, etc.), nor is it listed for the geranoil, so Robert’s earlier suggestion is well taken.” (Robert being a Guild member who was asking the question.)

      Limonene, geraniol, and other suspected sensitizers (allergens) are part of a “whole” essential oil, and can also be natural isolates. The Guild is addressing how to have a transparent, complete and informative label for its members, and part of our Mission is to educate the public. I thank your for this forum and for this exchange, it has been wonderful.

  • Thanks for this interesting post. I noticed sometime ago that you have to read and re-read the labels just to make sure what is in there. As you mentioned in your article, sometimes things aren’t what they seem. I’ve noticed a big improvement in my skin since I’ve started using only makeup only with natural ingredients. Thanks for the information