Fragrance selection can be a confusing and complex world especially when we start to look at the debate between natural and synthetic fragrance. There is a common misconception that synthetic fragrances are worse than natural fragrances. This confusion occurs because people believe that materials from nature are better.  There is a belief that they are more sustainable and reduce the impact on the environment, however, that is not necessarily true.

So, here’s our quick guide to Natural vs. Synthetic Fragrances.

Firstly, what is a natural fragrance?

natural fragranceNatural fragrances are aromatic materials which have been physically obtained from natural sources by either distillation, extraction or expression. Many of these materials will be commonly referred to as essential oils, such as Lavender Oil.

However, chemical solvents are also used in natural fragrances to produce aromatic materials, called concretes or absolutes. Rose Absolute is a well-known example of this. This can cause confusion. Some of the materials are prohibited, despite being obtained from natural sources. Especially when a 100% natural fragrance is sought.

What are the issues with incorporating natural fragrances?

Perceived to be “green” and with additional health benefits, natural extractions do, however, have limitations. A natural material will contain in its structure multiple chemicals, many of which are classified as allergens or have the potential to cause harm in alternative ways.

Sustainability is also a concern, as demand increases there is an increase in deforestation, which has a negative toll on the environment. Additionally, natural materials are affected by changes to the climate which can cause availability issues, meaning supply and cost prices can be unstable.

Although there are naturals we fall in love with and are almost a perfume in their own right, the industry demands fragrances to live up to expectations of consistency, quality, strength and performance. This unfortunately poses a challenge to perfumers tasked with only using natural materials.

fragrance oil samples

Looking for a natural or synthetic fragrance?

Click here to request samples

What is a synthetic fragrance?

A synthetic fragrance contains aromatic materials which are created from chemical processes in a lab (often from petroleum).  They replicate the smell of natural oils. It is this chemical process which has a perception to be of harm to either ourselves or the environment.

Derived from a variety of sources, synthetic fragrances can be divided into the following groups:

  • Non-natural synthetic fragrance, produced from chemical processes to create a material which is not found in nature.
  • Nature-identical synthetic fragrance, created/extracted from chemical processes to obtain a material with an identical chemical structure to those found in natural sources.
  • Natural isolates, derived from a chemical process carried out on natural raw materials.

Therefore, synthetic fragrance does not necessarily mean artificial.  The industry is now evolving and using new processes, biochemistry and green chemistry to produce new aroma-chemicals (biosynthetics) which are considered more sustainable.

Autumn Winter 2023/ 2024 trends

What are the benefits of using a synthetic fragrance?

synthetic Fragrance

Using synthetic materials often has the benefit of consistent quality along with a scent that can be richer, longer lasting, and more intense than essential oils.

Easily mass-produced and with a greater shelf life in comparison to naturals, the availability and cost implications of synthetic materials are generally less volatile.

Some synthetics replace naturals which aren’t as readily available anymore. This is the situation where fragrance was previously derived from animal sources, such as musks.  Now banned in the industry.

For the perfumer, there is a vast amount of synthetics being produced in the industry compared to naturals. This allows for a much wider palette in which to create unique compositions. These come with the additional benefits of greater stability, which generally makes them easier to work with.

Without the use of synthetics, a perfumer’s ability to create varied, interesting and stable perfumes is severely restricted.

Why do we use and create synthetic fragrance?

At Carvansons, we use synthetic materials so we can offer a larger variety of scents to our customers. It ensures that we can deliver a fragrance befitting everyone’s preferences. This is important when replicating the fragrance in the future.

Ultimately, natural fragrances are not necessarily better than synthetic fragrances, both have benefits and drawbacks. As the industry continues to progress, Carvansons will be at the forefront to advise and provide high-quality fragrances.

For more information about the fragrance materials we use and how we create our scents click here.

About Carvansons

Carvansons is a world-leading manufacturer of mass-market and bespoke aroma compounds for the UK and international markets. Founded in 1941, Carvansons design, test and manufacture fragrance oil for a wide range of industries from industrial and home care products to fine fragrance, room scents and personal care. As an experienced and dedicated team of fragrance experts, Carvansons are well placed to support and advise on the latest trends and research and provide a bespoke and tailored service that supports your needs. Working in partnership with our customers, we help create the perfect fragrances for their products and build long-term relationships.

We work with many different companies throughout the world, which include both household names and smaller, niche industries. We advise and consult with you on the perfect scents for your product through market research and new product development.

To contact our team, please click here.