Not all synthetics are bad. People have decided that all synthetic fragrances are bad because some are made cheaply and use toxic chemicals. We are here to say that not all synthetics are bad and can be useful in making a more consistent and stable product. It all comes down to how the molecules are produced.
So, we have decided to put the issue to rest sharing some information about essential oils, absolutes and synthetics. We use premium quality with all of our ingredients. We use organic whenever we can, and sometimes availability can be an ongoing business issue that requires constant attention. Making the product is only part of the equation. There is a myriad of issues that need to be addressed when making products. It can be a little disturbing when people spruik on social media that all synthetics are bad. It comes down to the process used to create them and the type of chemicals used. We use natural molecules which are extracted by a chemist in NSW and the UK. We have them made and then carefully blend them with essential oils and absolutes.
You may be thinking, why use the molecules in the first place? Well, there are several reasons. If you were to buy pure musk, which is extracted from the male deer. It has been a major component in perfume for a long time, but the problem with this, illegal poaching and trading, has happened for a long time and continues today. Musk is also extracted from a cat with a musk civet. It is obtained from the musk pod, a gland under the abdomen from the gland in the pouch. It was common practice in the 19th Century, and the male deer were first killed and the musk extracted. The use of pure musk cannot be considered vegan, which is why we use synthetic musk, and for the most part, the majority of modern perfumers do not support animal cruelty or killing for an essence. Since the killing of deer for musk, it has led to wide spread low numbers and potential extinction of the species. The reason that pure musk was popular, because of it’s lasting power giving a perfume longevity on the skin. As years passed, it became necessary to synthesize musk, therefore, reducing the killing and extinction of musk deer. Some countries still allow the extraction and use, because they don’t think that the synthetic musk is good enough. It is a matter of ethics, law and customer expectations. At the end of the day, there are only two options for extracting animal secretions, either torture or death, there is no scent in the world worth that type of cruelty.
Other such molecules that are synthesized to eliminate animal cruelty and other potential issues are castoreum, which is from a beaver, the castor sac. Beavers secrete a yellowish substance anally, which they spray to mark their territory. It is used today as a synthetic. It smells like an animal, smoky leather and cannot be used pure; it adds a rich depth, giving a sensual and softness to perfume. Whale vomit, called Ambergris, is only allowed to be used in Australia as a synthetic. It is illegal to use pure Ambergris as it’s from whales. The Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) regulates its possession and movement, so it is not an ingredient that should be used unless synthetic.
So what can we do as perfumers? Learn to create perfumes through the alchemical process, using what we can from nature and some molecules to provide depth and a captivating scent. We tend to make complex scents with the wonders of nature from the plant kingdom, and where we do want to use musk and ambergris, we do use synthetic molecules. A lot of the cheaper synthetics made do contain a vast array of chemicals. However, there are the more expensive molecules that are used in smaller percentages and don’t tend to cause any problems.
Always bear in mind essential oils and absolutes are classified as chemicals and contain medicinal compounds and constituents, so overuse can lead to acute toxicity if used in large volumes over a long period. Our favourite saying at Malano is, “It’s all about the dose.” Everything you use needs to be in moderation, so perfume is not designed to be bathed in or drown yourself in. It is to enhance your day or night and can be used on an irregular basis. The use of essential oils and absolutes does not make your perfume more natural than synthetic molecules. The toxicity is in the fillers used to heighten profits, here at Malano, we do not use fillers. The term essential oil means that it contains “raw essence” not because it is essential to good health and well-being; this is the key to understanding that essential oils have been marketed as such, so the public will believe that they are better than anything else. In cheap perfume, a tiny bit of essential oil is used, with a small number of synthetic molecules, followed by a large volume of filler chemicals that stabilise and offer UV protection to the perfume. So, if you react to perfume, it may be the stabilising chemicals. Not all synthetics will cause a reaction; believe it or not, some people are allergic to the weirdest things in nature, like coconut oil, aloe vera and shea butter. Not all reactions are because of synthetics.
We hope that this has cleared up any misconceptions about synthetic molecules, and if you ever want to find out more, reach out to us.
The Malano Family