What is Natural Perfumery?

For the original, all-natural, pure essential oil fragrance blends that are used to scent this collection, Emma Fallon draws of the principles of both Natural Perfumery and Aromatherapy to influence her botanical fragrance creations. But, what is ‘Natural Perfumery’?

Natural perfumery has a rich history and can be traced back to ancient civilizations. It is an artisanal craft that uses fragrance ingredients that are derived from botanical sources such as flowers, leaves, fruits, and resins. Emma values natural perfumery for its connection to nature, authenticity, and potential therapeutic benefits. It is a beautiful art form that requires knowledge, skill, and a deep appreciation for botanical ingredients and their unique characteristics.

Read on for an overview of the history and art of natural perfumery.

Ancient Civilizations: The origins of natural perfumery can be found in ancient civilizations, such as Egypt, Mesopotamia, and ancient India. These cultures cultivated various aromatic plants and used aromatic substances for religious rituals, cosmetics, and medicinal purposes. In ancient Egypt, for example, perfumes were highly valued and often associated with the gods. They were used for both spiritual and practical purposes, such as in religious ceremonies and for personal adornment. Egyptians were skilled in extracting aromatic compounds from plants through methods like distillation and maceration.

Ancient Greece and Rome: Greek and Roman civilizations further advanced the art of natural perfumery. The Greeks refined perfume-making techniques and developed new aromatic blends. They introduced the concept of “notes” in perfumery, categorizing fragrances into top, middle, and base notes based on their evaporation rates. The use of fragrances became more widespread during festivals and social gatherings. In Rome, perfumery flourished, and perfumes were used as a sign of social status. It was common for wealthy individuals to bathe in scented oils and wear perfumes to enhance their personal scent.

Arabian Influence: The Arabian civilization made significant contributions to the art of natural perfumery. Arabian perfumers perfected the distillation technique, which allowed for the extraction of essential oils from aromatic plants. They also explored the use of various natural materials such as agarwood, myrrh, and frankincense in their perfume compositions. The Arabian influence on perfumery spread through trade routes and had a lasting impact on the development of fragrance traditions in Europe.

Medieval Europe: During the Middle Ages, the art of natural perfumery continued to evolve in Europe. Monastic gardens were established, cultivating aromatic plants for medicinal and perfumery purposes. Perfumes were considered therapeutic and were used as remedies for different ailments. Fragrance blending and experimentation were prevalent during this time, with the use of different aromatic herbs, flowers, and resins.

Modern Natural Perfumery: In the 19th and 20th centuries, with advancements in chemistry, synthetic fragrances gained popularity due to their affordability and availability. However, there has been a revival of natural perfumery in recent years, driven by an increased interest in natural and sustainable products. Modern natural perfumers draw inspiration from the ancient techniques and botanical ingredients used in traditional perfumery, combining them with contemporary knowledge and innovations.

Natural v’s Synthetic Fragrance

Natural perfumery and synthetic fragrancing are two distinct approaches to creating fragrance compositions.

The Natural Way

Blending fragrance ingredients that are derived from botanical sources such as flowers, leaves, fruits, and resins is referred to as Natural Perfumery. These ingredients are obtained through processes like steam distillation, solvent extraction, and enfleurage. Natural perfumes emphasize the use of essential oils, absolutes, and natural isolates, which are highly concentrated aromatic compounds extracted from natural sources.

The complexity and depth of natural ingredients can add a unique character to perfumes. Natural perfumers, like Emma, often blend these ingredients to create harmonious compositions that not only smell good but also offer potential therapeutic benefits due to the presence of natural compounds with aromatherapy properties.

The climate, poorer or more favourable weather conditions, disease and demand can all have an effect on the availability, quality and yield of any one plant and its resulting extracted essential oil. The strength of aroma, availability or price of one batch can vary greatly to the next over a few months. This can mean that scents can vary slightly over time, and can even render some oils too expensive to use causing some of our once popular fragrances to be discontinued.

Synthetic Fragrancing

Synthetic Fragrancing involves the creation of fragrances using synthetic compounds that are chemically synthesized in a laboratory. These compounds are designed to mimic the scent of natural ingredients and offer more control and versatility to perfumers in terms of the desired scent profile.

Synthetic fragrances can be created to achieve specific olfactory effects and are often used in commercial perfumes due to their affordability and stability. However, there have been debates regarding the safety of certain synthetic fragrance ingredients and their potential impact on human health and the environment. Some synthetic fragrance compounds have been associated with allergenic reactions and concerns about endocrine disruption.

The Choice

It is important to note that when choosing fragrances for your home, the choice between natural perfumery and synthetic fragrancing depends on various factors, including personal preferences, affordability, ethical considerations, and safety concerns. While natural perfumery offers a connection to nature, authenticity, and potential therapeutic benefits, synthetic fragrancing provides flexibility, uniformity and consistency, and affordability for manufacturers.

There is an abundance of off-the-shelf pre-mixed synthetic fragrances cheaply available to anyone creating scented products.

Emma set out in 2010 to create a natural alternative to the popular but synthetically fragranced candles that were widely available at the time. When she couldn’t find a suitable alternative in Ireland, she decided to develop her own! This means that Emma uses only Pure Essential Oils in her fragrance blends for the Emma’s So Naturals collection, along with Plant-Waxes & Oils, Cotton Wicks and Recyclable, Reusable or Refillable containers. No synthetic formulas or ingredients are used!

  • Sources:
    The Zoe Report. (2024). The Truth About Natural Vs. Synthetic Perfume & Fragrance Safety, https://www.thezoereport.com/beauty/natural-vs-synthetic-perfume
  • Highsnobiety. (2023). Natural Fragrance Is Trending — But Are Synthetics Actually Bad?, https://www.highsnobiety.com/p/synthetic-vs-natural-fragrance-perfume