If you read our blog about the effects of the pandemic on the fragrance industry (You missed it? Find it here) then you’ll know there’s a strong trend this year amongst consumers circling around sustainability and self-care. People want to smell amazing, but also feel like they’re doing their bit at the same time. We’re more environmentally aware than ever, and off the back of that we’re also more aware of what we’re putting into our bodies, and onto our skin

This idea of connecting with what we’re consuming has forged a thread of ethical buying, which means people want to know how their scents are created and with what ingredients, rather than accepting the shroud of mystery that has traditionally covered the fragrance industry

To understand the significance of this shift, it’s important to revisit the very history of fragrance. There’s evidence of people relying on plants to produce their perfumes dating back 4000 years, and even the word perfume or ‘per fumum’ is Latin for ‘through smoke’, which is exactly how the good ol’ Romans used to extract their essences. Throw flowers onto burning coals and you’ve got yourself an early version of a room diffuser

But over time, and as the conveniences of contemporary life escalated, these natural processes became more scientific and began producing synthetic scents, a majority of which weren’t altogether safe for our bodies or our planet. Although perhaps kinder to certain animals in the short term, like the musk deer, it went full circle once the synthetic musk ended up in the waterways, intoxicating the land and wildlife

It’s no secret the pandemic has affected us all in many ways, but a sturdy and increasing awareness for how we treat the Earth is one thing that stands out. There’s now a global demand for safe, natural ingredients and the industry is making exciting radical changes in response. More and more brands, particularly niche fragrance brands, are emerging with an eco-friendly ethos, or making conscious efforts to include more natural percentages in their compositions, and we’re loving it

The shift towards ‘green’ fragrances is happening and it’s happening now. The ancient ways of creating scent are being rekindled and brands are making sure to be more transparent with their ingredients too. The EU and US lists of fragrance allergens are increasing, and laws state you must declare if your scent carries even 1 allergen on the list. The consumer is being heard and these changes are all for them

Of course, with anything in this world there needs to be a balance and it’s critical we don’t lose sight of that. It begs the question ‘Is sustainability actually achievable?’. ‘Green’ fragrance doesn’t necessarily mean sustainable fragrance. Take ‘vegan-friendly’ as an example. It’s a word we’re hearing a lot more than in previous years past, and it’s now being attributed to perfume as well. It’s a wonderfully inclusive notion, but plant-based ingredients still need to be processed and consumed, and likely in much larger quantities than before too. There’s a lot more people around these days!

So, although 100% natural fragrances are the safest option for our bodies and our personal imprint on the environment, perhaps there can, and should, be a balance between natural and non-toxic synthetics, while still maintaining the safety and sustainability as much as is physically possible

Definitely (plant-based) food for thought, wouldn’t you say?

Images sourced from Abel, Creative Commons and Unsplash

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