We regularly receive e-mails to www.beautybible.com asking if we can recommend all-natural fragrances. Once upon a time, of course, all fragrances were entirely natural. But the bottom line is that without synthetic molecules, perfumery would never have become so sophisticated.
By ‘modern’, that really means after 1882, the year when coumarin – a natural isolate of tonka beans – was unveiled in Houbigant’s Fougère Royale, although of course it was Chanel No. 5 that really put synthetics on the map, which perfumer Ernst Beaux laced liberally with Aldehydes – ingredients which heighten natural essences and turbo-charge staying power.
What’s the real difference? ‘Synthetically enhanced scents are loud and tenacious; natural oils keep themselves to themselves,’ says Californian perfumer and author of Essence & Alchemy Mandy Aftel, who is leading a revival in sophisticated 100% natural perfumery in the US. (Hers is a truly wonderful, easy-to-read book, which you can find on www.amazon.co.uk.) ‘Synthetics leave their trail behind in rooms and elevators, while naturals evolve, mellow and age with the skin in a more intimate way. What you’re left with is the soft smell of the human body, not a tinny, chemical dry-down.’
At Beauty Bible, we rather like that – although one potential downside: without synthetics, a scent’s skin life is around two hours. Still, is that a bad thing…? According to Californian perfumer and fragrance author Mandy Aftel, her clients aren’t bothered by this. ‘They appreciate the true pleasure of perfume, the sensuality of re-applying it.’ (And so do we.)
On this side of the pond (see PS, below), truly 100% natural fragrances are few and far between. So what we often suggest is that women ‘confect’ their own, using essential oils. And to that end, we asked Glenda Taylor – leading aromatherapist, a talented perfumer (and the woman behind the BalmBalm range) – to create some aromatic, all-natural blends to share with you…
Warns Glenda: ‘Essential oils are not recommended to apply directly onto the skin, so the following blends would work best in jojoba oil, or a very high-grade alcohol such as Absolut vodka. Perfumes can be anything from 15% to 40% dilution. Eau de parfum is 7-15% and eau de toilette 3% to 10%. The blends below are for approximately 1 ml. of fragrance, so with 10 ml. of jojoba or alcohol, you’ll have a good strength eau de parfum.’ (10 ml. is approximately a dessertspoonful, if you don’t have a more precise measure.)
As Glenda continues, ‘This is much stronger than an aromatherapy blend as it’s not intended for massage – just for pulse-points. If you use jojoba oil, you will be creating what is known as a “perfumed oil”, and this is absorbed very efficiently – so again, use only on pulse-points.’
But here are some beautiful, fragrant suggestions, to try…
A romantic blend… 10 drops rose absolute, 10 drops neroli, 5 drops rose geranium
A sensual fusion… 3 drops ylang-ylang, 7 drops jasmine, 7 drops sandalwood, 3 drops clary sage
10 drops rose absolute, 10 drops frankincense, 5 drops black pepper
An uplifting blend… 10 drops grapefruit, 10 drops lemon, 3 drops rosemary, 4 drops verbena
Something breezy… 3 drops peppermint, 15 drops bergamot, 7 drops lime
To soothe you… 5 drops lavender, 10 drops mandarin, 5 drops petitgrain
10 drops frankincense, 5 drops cedarwood, 10 drops bergamot
A blend for the office (light enough for day-wear, and to help you concentrate)… 3 drops spearmint, 12 drops grapefruit, 10 drops bitter orange
Pregnancy perfume blend… 10 drops mandarin, 5 drops lime, 10 drops lavender
PS If you’re planning a visit to California you might want to check out Strange Invisible Perfumes, an amazing boutique on the so-trendy Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice (at No. 1138), where Jo whiled away a few happy hours on a recent trip, blissing out while discovering the couple of dozen scents in the range. Creator Alexandra Balahoutis is creating amazing aromas with certified organic, wild-crafted, biodynamic and hydro-distilled essences – so worth sniffing out…!