Fragrance is the last frontier in clean beauty. There has been much resistance to share ingredients in natural perfumes and fragrances but in recent years brands are starting to ease up and reveal what’s lurking in their formulations. Transparency is everything when it comes to fragrance and I am going to share everything you need know plus my favorite natural perfume brands that don’t use toxic chemicals.
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Check out all you need to know about the fragrance industry and what natural fragrance is in my Natural Fragrance Perfume Blog Post here!
What is a natural perfume?
A natural perfume can be attained in a few different ways. Here is a breakdown of what to look for to determine if a perfume is in fact natural:
Essential Oils- Fragrance that uses just pure essential oils that have either been steam extracted or distilled and not altered in any way. (1)
Natural Fragrances – Aromatic raw materials. These chemicals are physically isolated and derived from natural ingredients and are then put together to create a scent. To put it simply, a natural fragrance is derived from a natural ingredient but then it’s altered because the fragrance is assimilated in a lab. Natural fragrances can have a combination of essential oils, resins, distillates, fractions and isolates. (1)
Synthetic Fragrances – These are made in a laboratory and typically are made using petroleum byproducts, unfortunately. However, many are made now not using petroleum byproducts and therefore are deemed a safe synthetic. (1)
A natural perfume or fragrance can include isolates, waxes, essential oil blends, resins and absolutes. When you smell natural perfume or fragrance you often don’t feel that initial “bam” in your face scent like you might get from a synthetic fragrance. Natural perfume and fragrance is more subtle overall.
Why wear a natural perfume?
Like I just said above, a natural perfume is more subtle and has a shorter wear time, so why would you even want to wear one?!
To first understand natural perfume and fragrance one must understand the fragrance industry in general. This is an industry that isn’t regulated by the government like one might think. Here is a direct quote from the FDA’s website:
“If a cosmetic is marketed on a retail basis to consumers, such as in stores, on the Internet, or person-to-person, it must have a list of ingredients. In most cases, each ingredient must be listed individually. But under U.S. regulations, fragrance and flavor ingredients can be listed simply as “Fragrance” or “Flavor.” (2)
So in essence when you see the word “fragrance” on a label of personal care products (or really any product) there could be dozens and dozens of other ingredients in it as well- and more like hundreds to be exact. A company does not have to disclose the exact ingredients in its fragrance since it is looked at as a trade secret by the Food and Drug Administration.
And to make it worse, these ingredients that don’t have to be disclosed have been linked to things like cancer, endocrine disruption, respiratory irritation, and so much more! For you and your family’s long-term health, fragrance is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly and must be investigated.
What to look For in a Natural and Non-Toxic Perfume
Obviously, you want to look at the ingredient label for what exactly is in the perfume. If the brand isn’t transparent about the ingredients, then I wouldn’t purchase from them as I consider it a red flag.
Depending on how deep you want to dive you may also consider the following: 3rd party certifications, where they source their ingredients, if sustainable packaging is used, and if they use natural and/or safe synthetic ingredients.
I share above the difference in natural versus synthetic ingredients that can be found in perfumes. Here is a (short list) of ingredients to avoid if you are searching for clean perfumes that still contain synthetic ingredients:
- Phthalates(DEP-Diethyl Phthalate)- They have been shown to have a negative impact on the human body. Phthalates have been linked to endocrine disruption, reproductive problems and asthma and allergies. (3)
- Styrene- This has been documented as a human carcinogen. (1)
- Benzaldehyde- A known narcotic, lung and eye irritant. Can cause nausea, kidney damage and abdominal pain.
- Camphor- Known to cause dizziness, nausea, muscle twitching and convulsions.
- Ethyl acetate- Known to cause eye and respiratory irritation.
- Benzyl acetate- Known carcinogen, causes lung and eye irritation and coughing.
- Musk Ketone- A skin irritant and hormone disruptor. (1)
But remember, there are safe synthetic ingredients, so you must really look for transparency by the fragrance companies!
Why doesn’t a natural perfume last as long as conventional perfumes?
A natural perfume won’t last as long as a conventional perfume because it doesn’t have any phthalates in it. Phthalates are used as a solvent and a fixative, which allows the scent to last longer. However, this ingredient can come with potential health risks that include being endocrine disruptors that have not been yet proven to be safe for any use, including cosmetics. (4)
Natural Fragrance Favorites
I am sharing my top picks for my favorite perfume brands. Just a reminder that fragrance is a very personal thing. What might work for one person, might not work for another person. There are so many factors that can affect how a person responds to fragrance and if they can handle it. We all have different sensitivities. Sometimes I’ve found I like a scent when I smell it in a bottle, but then the minute I spray it on myself I don’t love how it smells. Our own body chemistry can often change what a scent smells like once we apply it. I’ve also noticed I don’t like a scent on myself but on someone else it may smell great. Strange but true! So keep an open mind when picking out your own perfume, you never know what you might like and the good news is that there are many natural fragrance brands to pick from.
by\ Rosie Jane- (Vegan/Cruelty Free)
Perfume Type- These come in Eau De Parfum(spray perfume), perfume oils(rollerball) and she even offers body oils. The scents are the same in the Eau De Parfum, but the application is different. In the Eau De Parfum there is organic sugar cane alcohol and the perfume oils use organic fractionated coconut oil. You can get travel size perfumes, larger sizes and even sample sizes. I love how easy she makes it to sample natural perfume and fragrance. You can literally try every scent she offers for $25! Check it out here.
Packaging- You can get the larger 1.7 oz. size in large glass spray bottles, or the smaller travel sprays .25 size in long glass bottles. The packaging is 100% recyclable, using wind power, vegetable based inks and sustainable paper. No single use plastics.
How Does It Wear- It wears SO well! It’s not overwhelming at all. It’s stronger at first but not pungent or annoying. Then it slowly fades throughout the day. At night I can still smell it on me but very mild. It’s the perfect worn in natural fragrance scent.
Scents- She offers 7 natural scents and they are all beautiful! I was struck by how many I truly loved. There were other natural perfumes and fragrances that I didn’t love that much, but by Rosie Jane kept me coming back because all her scents are so lovely! If I had to choose a favorite I would say I can’t get enough of Lake- a blend of vanilla sandalwood and neroli, described by Rosie Jane as sleeping under the stars. I also love Madie- a jasmine sea spray vanilla, described as a beach in a bottle. But I have to say Dylan-cedar frankincense white musk scent and Angie- a fig amber gardenia are close behind- they’re all so good!
Review- I don’t know what it is about by\ Rosie Jane scents but they are just so good! They had to be in my natural fragrance favorites blog post! I’m not a person that loves scents in general. Whether they are natural or not but by\ Rosie Jane has definitely changed my whole outlook. These aren’t too strong and are more complex than just one fragrance note. I’ve already gifted her 7 Day Detox Fragrance Discovery Kit! It’s the perfect gift for someone branching into natural perfume and trying to find their natural fragrance favorites. It’s only $25 and you get all 7 of her scents in the cutest box! Then once you’ve tried them you can purchase the larger size. I can’t recommend her fragrances enough. Get the 7 Day Detox Fragrance Discovery Kit here. Check out all of by\Rosie Jane fragrances here!
Ellis Brooklyn- (Vegan/Cruelty Free)
Perfume Type- They come in Eau De Parfum and in smaller sprays, as well as rollerballs.
Packaging- You can get the Eau De Parfum in a 1.7 oz. spray or in a .33 oz spray and 6ml rollerballs. They also offer recyclable packaging.
How Does It Wear- I love this natural fragrance! I want to try more from Ellis Brooklyn. It isn’t overpowering but more complex. I could still faintly smell it at the end of the day but not overwhelming.
Scents- Ellis Brooklyn has 11 scents. I sampled SALT and I love it! It’s a salty sensual fragrance as the name suggests, with hints of sandalwood, vegan ambergris, Tahitian tiare and musk. I’m a fan and want to try all of their scents!
Review- I was so impressed with Ellis Brooklyn. I knew I had to add them to my natural fragrance favorites post. They really have gone the extra mile from formula to packaging and ethos. I love how thoughtful they are in their process. They feel very modern and current. I love their packaging and overall vibe. They offer so many discovery sets where you can easily sample the perfumes. This is one brand that is making waves! Check out their scents here.
Abbott NYC- (Vegan/Cruelty Free)
Perfume Type- They come in Eau De Parfum and in smaller sprays.
Packaging- You can get the Eau De Parfum in a 1.7 oz. spray or in a .27 oz spray. They also offer recyclable packaging. No single use packaging.
How Does It Wear– Wears so well. Not an overwhelming scent. It slowly evaporates the more you wear it.
Scents- They offer 8 scents. All inspired by nature. I found myself being drawn to them, they were enticing and sensual. These are hands down my favorite scents that my husband wears. He tried all their scents and his favorites are Mojave and Big Sky. Big Sky reminds us both of Giorgio Armani Acqua Di Gio…that was my hub’s fave back in the day.
Review- Although these are unisex perfumes I didn’t love any for me personally. But that’s me! I’m drawn more to sweet, musky, and hints of floral. But my hub’s loved them and I love them on him. They offer an exploration set of all 8 of their scents. Such a great deal and a way to try them all. That’s what we did and I highly recommend it. It’s an easy way to really get to know the whole fragrance line without committing to just one scent at the beginning. Check out the discovery set and their full size here!
Los Feliz Eau de Parfum- (Vegan/Cruelty Free)
Perfume Type- They come in Eau De Parfum and in smaller sprays, as well as perfume sprays and balms.
Packaging- You can get the Eau De Parfum in a 1 oz. spray or in a 10ml oz spray. They also offer smaller sample sets as well.
How Does It Wear- These do fade after a couple of hours. You can still have a subtle hint of the scent at the end of the day but it’s very mild overall.
Scents- They offer 5 scents. They’re all essential oil perfumes, with no synthetics at all. The scents are reminiscent of California. My favorite scents are Huntington and Yucca Valley. They both offer a more complex scent even though they contain just essential oils. I feel like I’m not just wearing straight essential oils which is refreshing!
Review- These are a great option for anyone who wants the most natural approach to fragrance and still wants something that offers a bit more complexity. Check them out here!
Maison Louis Marie- (Vegan/Cruelty Free)
Perfume Type- They come in Eau De Parfum and in smaller sprays, as well as perfume oils.
Packaging- You can get the Eau De Parfum in a 1.7 oz. spray or in a 6ml oz spray. They also offer smaller perfume oils in 15 ml or a discovery set of 4 bottles in 3ml bottles. They use 100% recycled fiberboard and FSC certified paper in all of their gift boxes. They don’t use any toxic coating on their papers and utilize soy ink. Their boxes are completely recyclable. They also are very aware of plastic consumption and limit it wherever possible.
How Does It Wear- It’s a good wear. It’s stronger at first, a little too much for me but my hubs loves it, then it slowly fades as you wear it and evens out. I prefer lighter scents overall.
Scents- They offer 5 Eau De Parfum scents and then 5 perfume oils. My husband’s favorite scent is the Antidris Cassis Perfume Oil. It has a blend of black pepper, bergamot, and cassis. It also has notes of white rose, oakmoss, tonka and musk. He also likes the Vallee de Farney scent. This has notes of grapefruit, black pepper, orange, cedarwood, patchouli, and geranium. It also have base notes of amber, musk and vetiver. I preferred the bois de balincourt perfume oil and the kandilli perfume oil. They seemed more feminine in my opinion and a little softer overall.
Review- These are more earthy scents in my opinion. A little stronger at first but then fade. It you like earthy raw scents these would be perfect. I love that these come in sample sets as well. Makes it so easy to try the products and really see what you will love. Check them out here!
Perfume Type- They come in Eau De Parfum and in smaller sprays, as well as roll on perfume, hair and body mist, solid perfume, and travel size perfume.
Packaging- You can get the Eau De Parfum in a 1 oz. spray. Their hair and body mist comes in a 6.5 oz bottle and their roll on perfume comes in .33 fl oz. Their solid perfume comes in .25 oz.
How Does It Wear- It’s a good wear. It definitely is stronger at first but then fades quicker than other natural fragrances I’ve tried. It’s not as long lasting like some of the others.
Scents- They offer so many scents! The largest selection. Their newest scents are more complex and feel more like a sophisticated fragrance compared to their older more simple scents. Their Island Vanilla is a true vanilla perfume- if you love vanilla you will love this scent. If you’re wanting something more complex I would opt for one of their new fragrances like Blue Moon, or Dream Moon.
Review- The beauty of Pacifica is that you can find their fragrances almost anywhere! From Target, to Whole Foods and other healthy retailers. They’re also less expensive. While they do have a more teenage vibe to them, I think they can also work as a budget friendly option when swapping out your beauty products. I love that they are accessible and affordable! Two huge wins for natural fragrance. I also love how quick they were to respond to my enquiries and transparent. Check out Pacific here!
SIGIL- (Vegan/Cruelty Free)
Perfume Type- These come in Eau De Parfum sprays.
Packaging- You can get the Eau De Parfum in a 1 oz. spray. You can also get a sample fragrance flight and try all four of their scents.
How Does It Wear- It’s definitely a long wear. This stays on you forever. A little robust at first and then stays very steady throughout.
Scents- They offer 4 scents. I wasn’t drawn to any of the fragrances for myself personally but my hub’s liked them. He said he thought they were average. Not his absolute favorite. They smelled more woodsy to him and not as complex. His favorite scent is Amor Fati. I agree. They seem less full bodied. However, I wanted to include them because I know some people really love scents like that. Scent is so personal!
Review- These aren’t my favorite but I wanted to include them because I think they do a great job of really being transparent with ingredients and while their scents didn’t speak to us, they may speak to you. They are a more sophisticated fragrance overall and a little on the pricier side. Check out all their fragrances here!
PHLUR- (Vegan/Cruelty Free)
Perfume Type- These come in Eau De Parfum sprays.
Packaging- You can get the Eau De Parfum in a 1.7 oz. spray. You can also get a sample fragrance in 2 ml. They even have a travel size called the wanderer that is 5 ml. They also use vegetable based paint, FSC-certified boxes that are made from 100% post consumer cardboard and an opaque glass jar that helps protect their fragrances that is made from 20% recyclable glass.
How Does It Wear- These wear longer for sure- almost too long for my hubs and I. The scent was really strong for us both. So much so that my hubs ended up changing his shirt because it was too much. He said it’s one of those perfumes you spray in front of you and then walk through!
Scents- They offer 10 scents. Everything from a minimalistic scent to a more bright and poppy scent. I love that they offer a large selection. They also offer fragrance discovery sets as well. We did the fragrance discovery. I didn’t love any of the scents for myself but for my hubs I loved Ameline and Hanami. But even then he didn’t love them. We need to try more scents to see what we think.
Review- These are a great swap from conventional fragrance to a natural fragrance. They have the same feel as a traditional fragrance but without the added harmful ingredients. I like that they offer a travel size as well so it makes taking your fragrance with you wherever you go so easy. Check out all of PHLUR here!
FLORESCENT- (Vegan/Cruelty Free)
Perfume Type- These come in glass spray bottles or rollerball.
Packaging- You can get the spray in a 15 ml spray. You can get the rollerball in 5 ml.
How Does It Wear- These don’t last as long since they are compromised of only essential oils and no natural fragrance or synthetic components. However, the bottles are small enough to take with you wherever you go to quickly re-apply.
Scents- They offer 3 scents. My favorite is Sundays. It’s a blend of Jasmine Grandiflorum, Jasmine Sambac, Ginger Lily, Sandalwood, Frankincense. I’m a sucker for frankincense and sandalwood always! This scent is light but soothing.
Review- I have been a fan of these scents for 5 years. They are simple and clean. With the ingredients being only organic grape alcohol, organic and wildcrafted essential oils, absolutes and C02 extracts, this blend is as basic and minimal as you get in clean beauty. If you like to stick with essential oils, this is a great option. Check them out here!
***A couple brands that weren’t my favorite, but might be yours***
Josh Rosebrook Enfleuria- (Vegan/Cruelty Free)
*I love Josh Rosebrook products but his Enfleuria perfume (he only has one perfume) wasn’t something I jived with. It was too strong for me overall. It’s made entirely of essential oils, so no synthetics in it all but it still was too much overall and not something I loved wearing. But you may love it and I know some people who do! Check it out here.
Leahlani Bless- (Vegan/Cruelty Free)
*I love Leahlani products but the Leahlani Bless fragrance oil is too strong for me and too floral. The scent is very much reminiscent of being in Hawaii with notes of citrus blossoms and sweet tansy. I like florals but this is an overwhelming floral scent. I prefer something a little lighter when it comes to floral scents. But again, you may love it! I know people who do. She just uses essential oils- no synthetics. Check it out here!
SKYLAR- (Vegan/Cruelty Free)
*I wanted to include Skylar in my review because I get asked about them so often. While they are clean, I didn’t love any of the scents I tried and neither did my hubs and we tried them all. They didn’t seem very complex and more flat. I wasn’t impressed. However, as I’ve mentioned over and over again in this post fragrance is such a personal preference and what one person may not like, you may love and vice versa. Check them out here!
What is your favorite natural fragrance?
If you liked this post on natural fragrance favorites, check out past posts below:
- Johnston, R., (2020, February 11). Personal Interview. Founder Natural Perfume by Rosie Jane.
- U.S. Food And Drug Administration, 2020, August 24, FDA.gov, https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-ingredients/fragrances-cosmetics#labeling
- Environmental Working Group. Cheatsheet: Phthalates. 2008, May 5. egg.org, https://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2008/05/cheatsheet-phthalates
- “Screening of Phthalate Esters in 47 Branded Perfumes – PubMed.” PubMed, 1 Jan. 2016, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26310707.
Hi, I’m trying to find 100% all natural perfume (no synthetic ingredients at all!), but it’s been so difficult. I have found only a couple of brands, and sampled from them, but they are not at all what I expected. If you’re familiar with the “clean” brands at Target, for example, like Pacifica perfumes, some smell so pretty, Berry/vanilla/sugary –and light, making them very feminine, which is what I’m seeking, but unfortunately those are not 100% clean (100% free of all synthetics). Do you know of any all natural brands that I could potentially find these types of fragrances from?
byRosie Jane is a great option. She does still include synthetics in her formulations but they are safe synthetics. It is near impossible to have a full bodied perfume as you describe without synthetics, I’ve spoken to chemists and scientists when writing my natural fragrance post and they all said this. You just want to make sure the synthetics you are using aren’t harmful. That’s why more companies are using safe synthetics. I did an interview with Rosie- the found of byRosie Jane, I think you’ll find it helpful. https://gurlgonegreen.com/2021/02/23/natural-perfume-and-fragrance/
I like Ellis Brooklyn but the ones I like from them aren’t rated well with EWG, what do you think? Thank you for all of the info in this blog post very helpful.
It depends…the ones I looked up that are rated higher have fragrance, which EWG looks down upon no matter if it’s a clean synthetic or not since it can’t distinguish the difference between them. Personally, I’m ok using if it’s clean synthetic, however, there was one that had Lilial in it which has been shown to cause reproductive and fetal harm. That I would avoid. The other’s like dyes, I wish they didn’t have in them, but as long as you spray on clothes for me it’s better. There is always a give and take with natural perfume. 😉