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  1. #1

    Question natural vs synthetic

    I've noticed that many of the newer fragrances I enjoy contain more synthetic notes than older perfumes. Some seem to think that synthetic is bad. What is the advantage of an all natural fragrance (do they even exist anymore?) verses frags with synthetic notes. If you like the scent, what's the difference. And can you even get some of the fresh scents in natural form?

  2. #2
    Quiet Innocence
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    Default Re: natural vs synthetic

    There are advantages to synthetic notes in perfumes. They tend to be less expensive to produce and they are more consistent from batch to batch. The natural ingredients are not always of identical quality and they can result in a "reformulation" or inconsistencies over time due to supply and cost. It is kinda sad that manufacturers can legally copy a popular and expensive fragrance, and then sell it cheaper. Some of the cheap copies are very good or even better than the original.

  3. #3

    Default Re: natural vs synthetic

    I'm sorry if this seems completely ignorant, but can someone PLEASE explain to me in simple terms, what are the different types/sources of scent? Ie, what is the difference between Synthetic, Essential Oils, Natural, etc... How do all these terms fit together. Where do they come from, how are they used, etc...

    Example, I'm under the impression that 99% of the frags out there are basically just synthesized chemicals from a lab. Then there are some houses or better quality frags with a tiny percentage, or just a note or two that are from the actual real source? In that case, are there millions of molecules or do they just extract a few?
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  4. #4

    Default Re: natural vs synthetic

    I like more natural scents , my nose can pick up the synthetics all day. Even though I really like Thierry Mugler's colognes.

  5. #5
    Quiet Innocence
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    Default Re: natural vs synthetic

    Scents can be distilled or extracted from natural sources (i.e., deer musk) or synthesized from chemicals that resemble the natural sources (i.e. muscone). A natural scent is very complex, because it contains many different types of chemicals and impurities. The synthetic scent is made from a few selected chemicals in the lab and has almost no impurities. A banana essence is an impression of a real banana. You can differentiate between the two because the real thing smells more complex and unpredictable depending on temperature, humidity, etc. Don't know if this makes sense. Have you eaten chicken soup made from chicken bones and meat versus the soup from Top Ramen Chicken Flavor?

  6. #6

    Default Re: natural vs synthetic

    I don't care if it's 100% synthetic and if it is, that's great because it means that all the bottles should smell the same. The problem is when you think you are smelling something like metal or plastic. I don't want that, but if others do, more power to them.

  7. #7

    Default Re: natural vs synthetic

    Quote Originally Posted by Master-Classter View Post
    I'm sorry if this seems completely ignorant, but can someone PLEASE explain to me in simple terms, what are the different types/sources of scent? Ie, what is the difference between Synthetic, Essential Oils, Natural, etc... How do all these terms fit together. Where do they come from, how are they used, etc...

    Example, I'm under the impression that 99% of the frags out there are basically just synthesized chemicals from a lab. Then there are some houses or better quality frags with a tiny percentage, or just a note or two that are from the actual real source? In that case, are there millions of molecules or do they just extract a few?
    I'm trying to understand this too. I recently went on a tour of a perfume store that claimed to only sell products that were natural. There were hundreds there, most of the main houses of fragrance. I was told how it takes years and centuries to create certain fragrances. He dismissed synthetics as lifeless and inauthentic. But then I began looking at some of the newer frags that I like eg, Acqua di Gio, Mugler...and apparently they have some? all? synthetics. I'm also not sure how you can tell. And I am now thinking that most have at least some synthetics. I'm surprised there isn't more on this topic somewhere.

  8. #8
    Quiet Innocence
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    Default Re: natural vs synthetic

    A synthetic fragrance is very consistent over time. What you sprayed on 3 minutes later is very similar to what you will smell 19 hours later. A fragrance from natural sources changes over time and temperature. A synthetic note from a chemical is very pure and distinct. You can also tell with certainty by using gas chromatography. I used to do this in my Physical Chemistry Lab. The test result of the fragrance is compared to a known synthetic standard. This is also the same technique that they used to figure out what drugs are in your system.

    Nowadays, they even have a technique called the cold-trapping gas chromatography that is capable of detecting sub-nanogram quantities of chemicals. They use this to reverse engineer famous fragrances and make cheap copies.

    I like synthetics because the end product is easy to control. A "natural" scent depends on so many factors, and it never quite smell the same each time I wear it.

  9. #9

    Default Re: natural vs synthetic

    Quote Originally Posted by squatter View Post
    A synthetic fragrance is very consistent over time. What you sprayed on 3 minutes later is very similar to what you will smell 19 hours later. A fragrance from natural sources changes over time and temperature. A synthetic note from a chemical is very pure and distinct. You can also tell with certainty by using gas chromatography. I used to do this in my Physical Chemistry Lab. The test result of the fragrance is compared to a known synthetic standard. This is also the same technique that they used to figure out what drugs are in your system.

    Nowadays, they even have a technique called the cold-trapping gas chromatography that is capable of detecting sub-nanogram quantities of chemicals. They use this to reverse engineer famous fragrances and make cheap copies.

    I like synthetics because the end product is easy to control. A "natural" scent depends on so many factors, and it never quite smell the same each time I wear it.
    This is interesting. I wonder if a synthetic reacts to one's skin differently from a natural. So would a synthetic sandalwood tend to smell the same on everyone? Or would it vary just like a natural. And is there a way to tell if a product is natural or not. As an experiment I thought of buying a natural sandalwood and a synthetic and compare. I suppose this makes sense. A rose flower will smell differently at different times of the day and at different temperatures. I think my liquid detergent (obviously synthetic) smells the same 24/7.

  10. #10
    Quiet Innocence
    Guest

    Default Re: natural vs synthetic

    I am using this new detergent with an amazing synthetic fragrance. The fragrance survives the heat of the dryer intact! Is that amazing or what? I bet you that the "natural" sandalwood will be complex and not as sharp and distinct as the "synthetic" one.

  11. #11

    Default Re: natural vs synthetic

    There has always been an misconception that synthetics are bad or somehow inferior, but aromas created through bioduplication have a massive (positive) impact on the environment.
    Only ONE rose is needed in order to extract the carbon fingerprint of its scent molecules through "head space" technology. This molecule can them be duplicated MILLIONS of times in a laboratory without the destruction of one single more rose. Compare this to the natural extraction of oils through distillation, in which 1000 kgs (1 ton) of roses are required to produce 1kg of essential oil.

    Seriously, would we rather be scraping the glans of 10,000 civet cats, or bioduplicating the true civet odour in a laboratory?

  12. #12

    Default Re: natural vs synthetic

    All fragrances use some synthetic ingredients, even Creed. Whether or not they smell synthetic is up to your nose.

    It's important not to think of the word synthetic as a deterrent, if it weren't for such man-made ingredients, we wouldn't have the amazing selection of fragrances and genres to choose from.

  13. #13

    Default Re: natural vs synthetic

    I adore synthetics. I can't speak from the producer side of ease of production and batch-to-catch consistency, but I can speak from the consumer side of enormous improvements on longevity and sillage and sheer variety when it comes to the fragrances.

    I'm wearing a beautiful lily-of-the-valley fragrance tonight, something I simply could have if I limited myself to all-natural fragrances; the flowers themselves don't give up their scent.

    Many natural ingredients smell beautiful all on their own, it's true, but for complex fragrances I realize more and more that I prefer the modern perfumer's full vocabulary rather than just what we can squeeze from living things.

  14. #14

    Default Re: natural vs synthetic

    A frag may smell natural, but may contain loads of synthetics. A mostly natural perfume may smell synthetic through the addition of one additional component. Synthetic is a mostly meaningless term.

  15. #15

    Default Re: natural vs synthetic

    As one who has worked with a lot of naturals (200+) I can safely say that a lot of naturals smell off putting (I don't mean this in a strictly negative sense, but I just mean that most people find the smells challenging and less than pleasant). It's rare to find a real patchouli, vetiver, jasmine, artemisia, etc. note in commercial perfumes. They almost always "clean up" the note in question which makes it much more pleasing to most noses. People who think Encre Noire is dark, smoky, and challenging, need only try some real indonesian vetiver to see just how 'cleaned up' Encre Noire really is.
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  16. #16
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    Default Re: natural vs synthetic

    Plus the fact that natural EOs shelf life is not as that of synthetic EO (1), many of them have a very marked indolic / fecal notes (2) and their longevity is quite limited (3).

    I had / have four "all natural" scents in my wardrobe:

    1. The content of a bottle of Lavander water got spoiled after five years of storage in the right conditions. As a result, you could see the EO and the alcohol the same way water does not mix with oil. A stronger and putrid indolic note remotely similar to that of raw lavender was the sole note present in what was left in the bottle.

    2. A lavender water made in a lavender destillery in Córdoba (Argentina) is well known for its disgusting top note, and as the manufacturer claims, it is because of its natural properties. I have two fragrances made by local aromatherapy companies claiming to use 100 % natural EOs, they all share the same characterstic - offputting top and middle notes, nice base notes. They are sold to be worn for their healing properties. A third one, which is actually a scent for men, has very harsh and pungent top notes, to the extent that the descriptor "aromatic" seems lame in comparisson.

    3. Except for one of these blends contanining patchouly, they are all fleeting, detectable to my nose for no more than one hour.

    Now, IMHO there is such thing as "synthetic smelling"; unfortunately, I cannot describe it clearly. Still, up this point I can detect synthetic feels very pungent to the nose, notes are unbelievable long lasting and they feel exagerated. Take Ferre's Bergamoto Marino, it has the structure of an Eau, but the blend feels like the notes of an eau that have been taken to their limit. Same with the "green" template in style during the 1990's, which is originally bergamot (CK's Eternity) or the fruit and gourmand accords present in Rabanne's 1 Million.

    I might be confusing harshness with synthetic, but as far as my nose-training goes, the intensity of certain notes makes it feel like it.

  17. #17

    Default Re: natural vs synthetic

    i like the combination. to put it a bit simplistic: naturals for complexity, synthetics for power and projection.
    i think over 90% synthetics is a bit much, but i guess that is what's common these days. it gets a bit flat and boring, and can be rather harsh. i am not a big fan of the 'all naturals because synthetics are bad' idea either. as far as i know, there is not one big company that produces an all natural, if someone in a shop tells you otherwise, they are very likely lying to you.

  18. #18

    Default Re: natural vs synthetic

    I agree with allt the synthetic ftw notions.

    when used in a derogatory way, I translate synthetic as harsh/alcoholic/burning.
    I'm sure certain lavender essential oils could be regarded as very synthetic in this context.

  19. #19

    Default Re: natural vs synthetic

    Quote Originally Posted by sarıpatates View Post
    when used in a derogatory way, I translate synthetic as harsh/alcoholic/burning.
    I'm sure certain lavender essential oils could be regarded as very synthetic in this context.
    why do you think that? maybe you are confusing essential oil with perfume oil?
    all the oils i have smelled (from trustworthy suppliers) smell very natural. first fresh, then warm and soft. adulterated oils might be another matter, but hey, these are not real essential oils.

  20. #20

    Default Re: natural vs synthetic

    Quote Originally Posted by sarıpatates View Post
    I agree with allt the synthetic ftw notions.

    when used in a derogatory way, I translate synthetic as harsh/alcoholic/burning..
    I know what you mean, a lot interpret it like this when used in that sense. So to differentiate I use what I think is the correct term "chemical smelling". Synthetic = good. Chemical = the bad that comes out of synthetic smells, when you can smell plastics, metals, circuits, cleaning solutions, old onions, etc.

  21. #21

    Default Re: natural vs synthetic

    Almost all fragrances out there today have a percentage of synthetic ingredients in them. The few that don't are probably really bad and made of cheap easy-to-find ingredients, or really expensive. It's really hard to generalize what is better, some synthetic notes are better, some are not. But as most people have mentioned, natural ingredients are very complex, they develop over top, are very hard to pin-point, and have really complex reactions with body chemistry. Sure synthetic materials can react to body chemistry, but not as much as naturals would do. But we're just talking in general here, it all comes down to the particular ingredient I suppose. Personally, as long as something smells good to me, it's worth buying. I do tend to enjoy more natural fragrances though due to their complexity.

    And don't be fooled, I doubt there are many perfumes out there that are made from %100 natural materials that don't stink on most of people or last very short or whatever. I have tried many of those natural organic perfumes and they just smell bad. A completely natural perfume made from high quality generally good smelling ingredients would be very, very expensive. Probably middle eastern oils (such as amouage or al-qurashi) are a good place to look into good completely natural fragrances, there are less restrictions on ingredients in the middle east, and also people are willing to pay the price.

  22. #22
    oliverandco
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    Default Re: natural vs synthetic

    i love both, synthetic and natural. i think is like a painter palette, it takes deep and abstraction when you add synthetic notes

  23. #23

    Default Re: natural vs synthetic

    Quote Originally Posted by gido View Post
    i like the combination. to put it a bit simplistic: naturals for complexity, synthetics for power and projection.
    i think over 90% synthetics is a bit much, but i guess that is what's common these days. it gets a bit flat and boring, and can be rather harsh. i am not a big fan of the 'all naturals because synthetics are bad' idea either. as far as i know, there is not one big company that produces an all natural, if someone in a shop tells you otherwise, they are very likely lying to you.
    Well, there are three that I know of. L'Artisan offers two 100% natural fragrances, Cote d'Amour and L'eau de Jatamansi. Also, Six Scents SEries 2, #2 End/Beginning is an all natural offering.
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  24. #24
    oliverandco
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    Default Re: natural vs synthetic

    is possible to sell 100% natural parfums, but you have to choose very carefully the ingredients, cause it can change prices, essence, and it depends of harvest, region, ...

    the last thing i see about 100% eco and natural parfums is a collection of ecological parfums create by Olivia Giacobetti for the brand Honore des Pres. I have smelled and for me it´s very simply, is more the concept and the idea of introduce this kind of ECO-EASY SELLING-PRODUCTS that the final product itself. I have a sample of one of these which is Vetiver and Smoke (Birch tar) and fixation in my skin is only 2 hours, and is not lineal parfum, it appears some notes in one hour that you couldn´t recognize in the first smell.

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