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Natural vs. Synthetic Perfumes: What You Need to Know

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We love all perfume—but obviously, we’re a little biased towards natural perfume for its beauty, safety, and complexity. But we know that when you’re used to normal (read: synthetic) perfume, it’s hard to know if the natural stuff can live up to what makes your go-to perfume special. So we’ve created this list to help you to understand what makes natural perfume different—and why you should care.

It’s made of safe & real ingredients.

Did you know that most regular fragrances are made either mostly or exclusively of synthetic ingredients derived from petroleum? And that many of these synthetics have been proven to be harmful or even dangerous to our health? There’s usually no easy way to find out which products contain them, since the FDA protects companies from disclosing their full ingredients when it comes to fragrance. (That’s why you’ll often see an ingredient that just reads “fragrance” on the label of a perfume, cologne, household cleaning item, or beauty product.)

The easiest way to know for sure that you’re avoiding these toxins is to go all-natural. This is one of our promises at Potion. We do our best to make sure every perfume we carry is made of 100% natural ingredients that are safe, real, and nontoxic. Additionally, many fragrance brands claim to be natural but are really just free of specific toxins like parabens or phthalates. We like to stay on the safe side, so we make it our mission to carry only 100% natural products.

Each ingredient is more complex.

Natural perfumers work with a much smaller palette of ingredients (a few hundred compared to the thousands of synthetic chemicals regular perfumes use today) but each individual ingredient is much more complex than its synthetic counterpart. 

Take, for example, artificial vanilla extract: chances are, you’ve found the smell comes close to real vanilla but the real thing is a lot more nuanced, rich, and deep. Just like a pastry chef wouldn't use imitation vanilla for a fancy cake, so do perfumes benefit from having high quality real ingredients, many of which are composed of dozens of compounds that produce a complex and rich scent compared to their artificial versions, which are usually made of just a single compound.

It's less likely to give you headaches or nausea.

Everyone knows someone who’s sensitive to perfume—whether they get migraines, nausea, or other unpleasant symptoms. In extreme cases, this can be part of a condition that's incredibly uncomfortable for people who have to deal with a variety of harsh chemicals in their daily life. But when it comes to perfume, this occurs most commonly as a reaction to the harsh synthetics found in most fragrance products. That’s why usually the cheaper the perfume, the more “screeching” the effects can be.

The beauty of natural perfume is that it smells great without those unpleasant side effects, since the ingredients that come directly from nature are usually a lot more gentle than what’s made in a lab. Natural perfume also doesn’t have the fixatives or preservatives that give synthetics their big projection, or sillage. The resulting effect is that your natural perfume is a lot more subtle, inoffensive, and (we think) seductive.

You pay for the ingredients (not the flashy advertising).

Most big brand perfumes on the market are marked up a lot compared to the cost of the actual ingredients. In fact, that’s part of the reason why synthetics are most commonly used in perfume: for the cheaper price and easy supply. What this means is that when you buy a perfume or cologne from a mall or from your favorite designer brand, you’re paying mostly for the cost of advertising campaigns and store space. On average, just $0.03 on each dollar of your purchase goes towards the ingredients.

While the pricing of natural perfumes can vary, the markups usually aren’t quite so high. Natural perfumeries are small, artisan businesses without the overhead of big companies, so while the ingredients are much more expensive, the operations are smaller so you end up paying for the actual product instead of mostly for the brand name or marketing costs.

It’s unique and creative.

Perfume is a huge business. In the U.S. alone, it’s an $8 billion industry so the companies that make perfume are usually armed with teams of experts, market research groups and profitability metrics to consider. This means that typically, the smaller the perfumery, the more it can be creative, bold and unique. 

Natural perfumeries are small and therefore are more towards the “niche” side of the industry. Natural perfume isn't developed through focus groups to optimize earnings. It’s not crafted by a team of experts. And it’s not made with the objective of profits to sustain a costly global brand. All of the perfumes we carry were chosen especially because they were made with love by an authentic creative vision. 

Want to make the switch to natural perfume?
Try a sample pack to get started.