Uncommon scents: The Best Natural Fragrances
They're associated with words like 'sensual', 'seductive', 'luxurious' and 'uplifting', but perfumes lose some of that romance when you discover what's actually inside the bottle. Most are a cocktail of synthetic chemicals, many of which have been linked to a range of serious health effects, including skin problems, hormone disruption and cancer.
Some of the worst ingredients to watch out for include the solvent and fixative diethyl phthalate (DEP) and fake fragrances known as synthetic 'musks'. Both DEP and its derivative monoethyl phthalate (MEP) have been linked to breast cancer and sperm DNA damage, and perfume wearers have been found to have more than twice the levels of MEP in their urine than non-wearers. Synthetic musks, which have oestrogenic actions, are also associated with breast cancer, and have actions that can make the effects of other toxic chemicals even worse.
But not all perfumes are bad. An increasing number of alternative brands (see right) have developed fragrance ranges made exclusively with natural, often organic, ingredients like pure essential oils, plant extracts and flower waters.
Be aware, though, that 'natural' doesn't always mean totally safe for everyone. Pure essential oils, for example, are widely used by natural-perfume makers, yet can cause allergic reactions in some.
Aqua Floralis 1er Mai, £32.50 (60 mL)
www.pravera.co.uk; tel: 01557 332 498
German-based perfume brand Florascent has a beautifully packaged range of fine natural and organic fragrances for both men and women—all handmade (from plants, spices and gums), hand-bottled and hand-packaged. This feminine 1er Mai scent delivers a spritz of springtime with its aromas of jasmine, tuberose and green tangerine, and comes in a Valentine-worthy vintage-inspired bottle and box.
Les Essences d'Amelie
Zeus Eau de Toilette, £30 (30 mL)
www.lovelula.com; tel: 0800 731 1256
Despite the French name, Les Essences d'Amelie is a Romanian brand entirely dedicated to natural perfumes—all handmade in small batches using grain alcohol, organic essential oils and natural extracts. Zeus is the only men's fragrance in the brand's range: it's a heady blend of mint, cinnamon (top notes), lavender, myrrh, pine (middle notes), vetiver, patchouli and benzoin (base notes).
White Vetiver Eau de Parfum, £45 (15 mL) or £98 (50 mL)
Founded in Amsterdam by New Zealander Frances Shoemack, a former winemaker, high-end perfume brand Abel offers five 100 per cent natural 'living fragrances' made from essential oils as well as concretes, absolutes and isolates (more concentrated fragrance extracts) and organically certified food-grade alcohol. The whole collection is gender-neutral, although the cool oriental scent of Grey Labdanum is more traditionally masculine, while Golden Neroli has a sweet, floral feminine fragrance. The minty fresh White Vetiver (pictured) is our favourite and the perfect perfume to share.
Rose Jardin de Vie, £19.95 (50 mL)
www.weleda.co.uk; tel: 0115 944 8200
Inspired by the scents of its much-loved Pomegranate, Wild Rose, Evening Primrose and Sea Buckthorn skincare ranges, natural skincare brand Weleda launched a fragrance collection in 2015. Coined 'Eaux Naturelles Parfumées' by Weleda, they're a new type of fragrance that's "slightly lighter than Eau de Toilette and more akin to the strength of Eau de Cologne". The Jardin de Vie (garden of life) collection includes four floral and fruity scents made with natural essential oils and no synthetic ingredients. 'Rose' (pictured) is a sensual and romantic fragrance courtesy of its rose geranium and ylang-ylang aromas.
Perfume vs eau de parfum
Fragrances—whether they're natural or not—can be labelled 'perfume' (or 'parfum'), 'eau de parfum', 'eau de toilette' or 'eau de cologne'. So what's the difference?
These labels simply refer to the concentration of essences or aromatic oils they contain, which is also usually reflected in the price tag. The highest concentrations are found in perfume—the most expensive form of fragrance—whereas smaller amounts are used in eau de parfum, eau de toilette and eau de cologne in that order, although the latter two names are often used interchangeably, particularly with men's fragrances.
In general, the greater the concentration of oils or essence, the longer your fragrance will last, and the less you'll need to apply.