As head of the Natural Perfumers Guild, founder of the Natural Perfumery Institute, and a perfumer who only uses 100% natural aromatics in my perfumes, I am often asked about the differences between natural and mainstream (contain synthetics) perfumes. I created the following chart years ago for my textbook, and it’s a good, quick reference on the subject.

Natural perfume

The bottle may hold natural or mainstream perfume. It’s the customer’s decision based on preferences, scent, price, or lifestyle whether to purchase it – or not.

Chart for Quick Comparison Between Natural and Synthetic Perfumes

 NaturalMainstream (contains synthetics)
Perfumer’s Goal:Beauty and HealthBeauty
Aromatic Palette:Essential oils, concretes, absolutes, CO2s, tinctures, and infusionsPrimarily synthetic aromachemicals, minimal essential oils and absolutes
Number of Aromatics per Blend:10 – 3030 – 100+
Creative Process Goals:Blend to create unique classic artisan vision with top/mid/base notesFor corporate perfumers: meet market demands; can use top/mid/base structure, or linear
Diluent:Typically undenatured alcohol; sometimes oil, cream, or solid baseTypically synthetic denatured alcohol; solid, dry spray
Customer Experience:Perfume unfolds on skin, revealing layers of scentStrong aesthetic statement, trendy, or nod to vintage
Drydown time:1  – 8 hours;base may persist for 24 hours1 – 24+ hours
Cost per pound of undiluted compound:Extremely expensive; some aromatics are $10 – $100,000 per poundVery inexpensive; corporations insist on lowest cost; there are rumors of a $20 per pound limit
History:Link to ancient Egypt, historical figures, use naturals in both ancient and modern style blends.Link to ancient Egypt, historical figures, use of synthetics to replace naturals began in 19th century.
Diffusion of Scent:Arm’s length, slight sillage, unobtrusiveCan scent an entire room; strong sillage
Known respiratory issues:Little or none. If you are allergic to roses, rose oil in a natural perfume might trigger an allergic response.Well-documented; some municipalities have enacted no-fragrance laws

I hope this guide will clarify some issues on natural versus synthetic perfumes. If you have any questions on this issue, feel free to comment.

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