Everyone has a natural scent

Natural fragrance: The organic trend has now also reached perfumes

The organic trend has also reached the fragrance collections. Delicate lavender fragrances, essences of jasmine and roses or sparkling compositions of grapefruit and orange are no longer produced synthetically. Intense scented oils are created from flower petals, tree bark or fruit peels. The organic production reflects on the traditional art of perfumery from the 16th and 17th centuries.

“The most important thing is the quality of the raw materials and their correct processing,” says perfumer Roland Tentunian. “For example, roses have to be picked early in the morning, shortly after they have risen,” explains the managing director of Florascent in Karlsruhe. The company has been making natural fragrances since the 1990s. The midday heat would evaporate the precious essential oil of the rose. And the raw materials have to be germ-free: "Otherwise it will lead to unpleasant smells."

Animal secretions in natural scents

Natural perfume manufacturers such as Florascent and L'Occitane, Korres or Aveda buy the natural essences all over the world. The spices, flowers and fruits come from India, North Africa and South America. Animal secretions such as musk or foods such as chocolate, honey or almond can also be part of natural fragrances. The precious odors are extracted from the raw materials by distillation, pressing or so-called extraction with the help of solvents such as ethanol.

In the perfumer Tentunian's “fragrance laboratory” there are around 3,000 flacons with natural essences. The perfumes are mixed from 50 to 100 of them - there are even more in some creations. Before the compositions are bottled, they need to mature. "It's like with wine," says Tentunian, "a storage time of up to three weeks is necessary for the aroma to fully develop."

Natural essences are more complex in their components than synthetic ones. Perfumers sometimes encounter particular problems. "One component of the naturally pressed lemon oil, for example, is phototoxic," says Frank Hahlbohm, managing director of the fragrance manufacturer Kurt Kitzing in Wallerstein. His company is a member of the German Association of Fragrance Manufacturers (DVRH). "It must therefore hardly be used in certain products such as sunscreens or body lotions."

Synthetic lemon oils dispense with the substance, which has a toxic effect on the skin when exposed to the sun. The aroma suffers as a result, as Hahlbohm says, but the synthetic lemon oil can also be used in skin products. "In principle, the production of natural essential oils involves more effort than the production of synthetic fragrances," adds Hahlbohm. In addition, the yield, for example with flowers and grasses, is very low. In addition, there are possible crop failures due to drought or pest infestation. All of this makes up the relatively high price of certain natural oils on the world market.

For this reason, too, according to the VKE cosmetics association in Berlin, natural fragrances have so far hardly played a role in the perfume market. That is different with care products - the subject of natural cosmetics is becoming increasingly important. “Pure organic fragrances remain niche products due to the enormously high raw material prices and the risk of allergies that should not be underestimated,” says VKE managing director Martin Ruppmann.

Try before you buy

The allergy risk associated with organic fragrances is often difficult to assess, says the dermatologist and allergist Johannes Geier, who is also the chairman of the German Contact Allergy Group based at the University of Göttingen. “In many cases, the exact composition of the natural perfumes is not exactly known.” The dermatologist Gertraud Kremer from Berlin therefore advises allergy sufferers: “Before buying the perfume, try it on the skin - preferably not on the face, but in the crook of the elbow . ”Because essential oils sometimes have irritating ingredients, they should only be applied to healthy skin. The fact that natural substances are better tolerated than synthetic ones or vice versa - but such a formula cannot be used either. "Certain chemical substances are more at risk of cancer, natural oils don't."

Trying out the natural fragrances is also worthwhile to see whether you like the smell. Lovers of unadulterated smells will appreciate the touch of a meadow of flowers or the smell of a summer orchard. However, certain compositions can hardly be created with purely natural resources. “Many fruit notes cannot be represented naturally. And the repertoire of floral notes is also limited, ”says Hahlbohm. Another point: organic perfumes seldom smell the same, as Tentunian explains: "It's again similar to wine: one vintage has this aroma, another vintage has something different."