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Have you been contemplating on going all-natural when it comes to your signature scent? If it's natural, it's probably the safest thing for your skin, right? Maybe, maybe not. We asked the experts to weigh in, and here's what we uncovered...
Reasons to Invest
All-natural perfumes claim to use the purest ingredients. So it's a safe bet that if you smell a note of lavender, it really was made from the essence of that purple flower. Fans of natural scents say perfumes that use naturally made ingredients can be more complicated and reminiscent of what really exists in nature. Some scents like gardenia, peach and plum are only made using synthetic materials and can have a less complex scent, points out Mandy Aftel, natural perfumer and author of Essence and Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume. "The essences for natural perfumes really come from plants, and they are really connected to the natural world -- they are where perfumery began," says Aftel who points out that synthetic scents are much cheaper than their natural counterparts.
Fans are also drawn to these perfumes for their subtlety. "Natural perfumes have an arc on the human body," says Aftel who sells perfumes like Fig, Amber and Trevert. To get the staying power of a synthetic natural perfume, wearers need to reapply several times per day. In other words, you'll also never be the most pungent person in an elevator or trigger the allergies of your coworkers.
Most alarming for the case of natural perfume is a 2005 study conducted by Greenpeace, which helped highlight the hazardous chemicals found in perfumes that are not the all-natural kind. The study tested 36 brands of the world's most popular perfumes for synthetic musks and phthalates -- both known carcinogens. Some studies show exposure to phthalates and synthetic musks can also affect reproductive functions and alter hormones. Unlike food recipes, companies are not required to reveal all ingredients that are in the perfume bottle. Using those shield laws it's possible for perfume manufacturers to replace costlier natural ingredients with cheaper synthetic ingredients, a perfect reason to go natural.
Don't Buy the Hype
Not everyone agrees on the dangers of synthetic perfumes, and there's credible information against overreacting over the risks. Pthalates and synthetic musks in small doses (such as those found in perfume) are not harmful to health, say some experts. According to a study by the Food and Drug Administration that was updated in 2008, "At the present time, FDA does not have compelling evidence that phthalates, as used in cosmetics, pose a safety risk."
Just Because It's Natural...
Additionally, just because it's natural doesn't mean there's less risk for allergies or toxicity, says Perry Romanowski, a cosmetic scientist and founder of the Beauty Brains blog. "In fact, a large percentage of the population has allergic reactions to ingredients in natural perfumes," he says. "It is easier to produce synthetic compounds that do not have the sensitizing chemicals that natural ingredients have," he says and explains that both synthetic and natural perfumes can be irritating to people prone to allergies.
More importantly, synthetic perfumes tend to be more affordable per ounce and last longer making them a better investment. If you're looking for the most cost efficient way to smell good, opt for a brand that doesn’t boast all-natural ingredients.
The Bottom Line
With so many different sources, there's no real evidence that all-natural perfumes are the way to go (or that synthetic perfumes harm health). Investing in a natural perfume, however, means everything you're putting on your body can be found in nature –- maybe you'll even find that one intoxicating scent. On the other hand, the cost of synthetic perfume found at your favorite beauty shops can be exactly the scent you need.
Would you splurge on an all-natural perfume? Chiime in below!
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