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Organic Perfume – a Green Holy Grail?

perfume bottleAs any collector of glass and bijoux can tell you, ladies used to carry a small perfume bottle around with them and reapply the scent throughout the day. The reason we can spritz ourselves with our favourite fragrance in the morning and not bother again until the evening is synthetic ingredients that stabilise a perfume. Without them, a scent lasts two hours or less. So when we talk about organic perfume, we’re talking about something that doesn’t have the shelf life, or the ‘spray-and-go’ life of standard perfumes.

But equally, how can a perfume be organic when it is based on alcohol? Well, there are several perfumes that now use organic rather than petroleum-based alcohols, but the problem of defining an organic perfume doesn’t stop there.

Natural ingredients are not always good ingredients

Many of the ingredients that were once used to make those old non-synthetic perfumes are now banned or restricted (not for use in skin preparations) or under investigation for adverse reactions – an example is limonene which is extracted from citrus oils and was the staple light, lemony fragrance used heavily in virtually every male cologne until the 1950s. It’s completely natural and can be extracted organically, but it’s also been found to be a sensitizer in studies into dermatitis. Bergamot is another oil with photo-toxic properties, which is dangerous for pregnant women, but its fragrance is unmatched and the synthetic version of bergamot is often used in sun preparations where the organic version could put users at risk.

Organic Certification can be confusing

So there are organic perfumes, but you have to be a pretty tricksy ingredient reader to find the genuine article in amongst those which simply use organic oils as one element of a largely non-organic mix. One that has cleared the hurdles of organic certification is L’Eau de Jatamansi – although its Ecocert approval is based on it being 100% natural and only 79.51% organic.

Other ‘certified’ perfumes include Patyka’s range of Organic perfumes (although you should note that it is their ingredients that are certified organic rather than the perfume as a whole) and their claim is that they ‘do not use any synthetic materials that are harmful to your skin or the environment’ which, to my way of thinking implies that they can use organic ingredients that do, and yes, limonene is listed as an ingredient in all their perfumes.

So perhaps the true organic perfume remains a green grail – and when we do find it, we’ll also have to find a pretty little bottle to carry it around in!

Perfume bottle courtesy of tanakwho at flickr under a Creative Commons Licence.

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