The Science Of Smell: Sustainable Fragrances

22 Jun 2022

 

What’s the difference between essential oils vs fragrance oils and synthetic fragrances? And why does it matter for the Earth… And for you?

What’s healthy for you is good for the earth, and what’s good for the earth is usually healthy for you.

And yes, this especially counts for fragrances!

You see, your lungs are super-absorbers – they take in the chemicals and compounds in your fragrances faster than any other method.1

As a result, all of the processed chemicals and petroleum-based products in your household skincare products and soaps will inevitably end up in your blood stream as well.

If that’s a scary thought, it might be time to take another look at your household products and find some that are healthy!

Not to mention, many of the most popular fragrances available today are TERRIBLE for the environment (and sometimes, it’s not the ones you expect!) Luckily, there’s a new class of sustainable fragrances available in today’s eco-friendly economy.

This article is meant to educate you about these alternatives, show you how they work, and entertain you along the way! So let’s get started – come with me!

First off, what are the different kinds of fragrance oils, exactly?

To make this easy, we’re going to categorize all fragrances into two main groups: synthetic fragrances and natural fragrances. Sometimes these are also referred to as “fragrance oil” instead of just “fragrances.” 

Let’s start by talking about synthetic fragrances.

Synthetic fragrance oils are extremely common in most of the products you find at the supermarket. Many of the ingredients are made cheaply in a lab to keep costs down, which makes them affordable for companies and customers alike.2

Synthetic aromas also often contain petroleum by-products, phthalates, and carcinogenic aldehydes.2 We’ll talk more about phthalates specifically in a moment.

So…what are natural fragrances?

Natural fragrances are oils that are derived from natural sources. Essential oils, by far the most common types of natural fragrance, have been used for over 5,000 years!3

These essential oils can be harvested from almost anything: lemons, oranges, tea leaves, herbs, and more. They contain the entire essence of the plant from which they are taken, so they are filled with numerous therapeutic natural chemicals, and it often takes hundreds of pounds of the plant to produce just a few pounds of essential oil.4

Then there are aromatic isolates. These are isolated even further from essential oils, often targeting a single aromatic molecule inside of a plant that produces desirable fragrance notes.

So…which ones are good for the environment? And which ones are good for you?

It’s actually not as simple as it seems.

While it would be easy to say that synthetic oils are bad, and natural oils are good – there are a few caveats.

It is true that natural oils are phthalate free and much healthier for you individually. However, due to their extremely concentrated nature, it takes the entire plant – and a lot of it – to produce only a small amount of oil.

For example, it takes 116 lavender plants to make just one pound of oil!5

And that’s not too bad for plants that are easy and fast to grow and can be replenished on a yearly basis. However, on more delicate or rare trees, it can become a problem. As an example, rosewood is an endangered tree, yet essential oils are still being made with it.6

Aromatic isolates use up less of the plant, since they are a single molecule and not the entire “essence” of the plant, so they can be less destructive.

Essential oils are naturally antimicrobial, antifungal, and antiseptic -- which means they can clean your air while you use them!7

That being said, natural oils are still much better than synthetic oils

The vast majority of synthetic oils are actually VERY bad for both you and the earth in the long term.

The health effects of commonly-used phthalates include cancer, human reproductive and developmental toxicity, endocrine disruption, birth defects and respiratory problems. Just to name a few.8

The chemicals inside synthetic fragrances are often petroleum byproducts, making them terrible for the environment, as well.2

However, there is some hope for a new kind of synthetic fragrance. Some companies are striving for more transparent ingredients and are making strides towards less-toxic versions of synthetic fragrances.2

The benefits of a potentially healthy synthetic oil would be a lower environmental impact and cheaper production. However, at the moment the technology has simply not fulfilled those promises, even though the efforts are encouraging.

Making a difference

Changing your lifestyle to enjoy a healthier, eco-friendly home is easier than it sounds. Making a difference in the world and repairing climate change comes down to making small positive choices daily.

Smoking used to be seen as healthy! Today, we’re witnessing a revolution in household products and even small decisions like how you wash you hands, or how you moisturize your skin can mean the difference between doing what’s good for yourself and good for the earth… 

And just continuing to “puff” away on those awful synthetic fragrances, day after day.

And if you are wondering where to buy sustainable products? Products without phthalates or synthetic fragrances… Then Adva is always here for you.

We sure hope you enjoyed this article! Check out our other articles here. Please share with any friends and family you care about!

Fragrances are important to your health – so let’s do what’s right for your body and for the world.

 

Citations:

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absorption_(pharmacology)#cite_note-5

2. https://cen.acs.org/business/consumer-products/perfumers-walk-fine-line-between/97/i16

3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5694587/

4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5456241/

5. https://doctorlib.info/herbal/essential-oils-aromatherapy/6.html

6. https://www.aromaweb.com/essential-oils/rosewood-oil.asp

7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12678685/#:~:text=Essential%20oils%20of%20spices%20and,antimicrobial%20properties%20among%20many%20tested

 

Written By
Adva

An education and action-oriented app designed to create a global environmental movement through collective individual action. Build sustainable living habits through daily activities and earn rewards!

Other Articles

Dive into the world of sustainability and learn more about what we can do as individuals.