Natural Perfumers Guild
Natural Perfumery FAQ
1:: What is Natural Perfumery?
Natural Perfumery (NP) is the creative art and science of using natural aromatic raw materials to produce aromatic products, including perfumes and body care and environmental fragrancing items. Rose, lotus, citrus, jasmine, spices, woods and hundreds of more botanically-sourced extracts are the palette of NP. The artisan natural perfumer, through meticulous and attentive processes, transforms these rare and costly materials into a beautiful formula that is then diluted in alcohol, or oils and waxes such as beeswax, coconut, and jojoba, resulting in a liquid or solid perfume. Others use the formula for lotions, soaps, candles, etc. This is the first time in the post 19th Century that consumers have such a wide choice of natural perfumes to complete their fragrance wardrobe.
2:: What are Natural Perfumes?
Natural perfumes are created and blended using the basic classic perfumery techniques and processes of "mainstream" perfumery – concept (a "brief" or theme or inspiration), blending, dilution, aging and bottling. If you love a particular type of scent classification found in mainstream perfumery, eg., floral, wood, green, Chypre, Oriental, or citrus, you will find those also in a natural perfume. They can be sophisticated, fresh, alluring or seductive, depending upon the aspirational goal.
NP does not have synthetic scents such as lilac, violet flower and fruit in the palette. To replicate these scents, which cannot typically be produced by distillation or extraction, some have creatively come up with a solution: the blending of various absolutes and essential oils to produce a doppelganger for the lilac, gardenia, violet, or other elusive flower or fruit to "trompe-nez" (to fool the nose). Some may also craft tinctures of the fresh flowers or fruit, and use that in a blend. Their "musk" is not from the animal, but ambrette seed or non-cruelty animal derivatives. If you see a natural perfume with those notes listed, and you believe they only can be achieved with synthetic chemicals, know that savvy natural perfumers have solved that problem - naturally.
3:: Why are Natural Perfumes becoming so popular?
There are several reasons that natural perfumes are gaining in popularity. The aesthetic difference between the natural perfume and one that contains synthetics defines the reason many are drawn to natural perfumes. Their evolution to dry down on the skin is unique to the materials chosen, and reveals the true nature of the aromatics. There is no "one note" linear scent from first application to dry down as is found in some perfumes that contain synthetics. Another reason is many people have become sensitized to ambient and ingested synthetic chemicals in the past few decades, and they wish to limit their exposure. Still others wish to keep their scent closer to their body, and not have their perfume enter the room before they do, or linger strongly after they have left.
4:: What’s the difference between Natural Perfumes, Mainstream Perfumes and Aromatherapy blends?
The biggest difference is that natural perfumers do not use synthetic aromatic chemicals. Natural aromatics are natural biological chemicals, and while some may be sensitive to some of them, there is the comfort in knowing their scents come from nature. Additionally, the need is greater than the mainstream perfumers in developing a fixative base for the perfume (so it is held onto the skin to last longer.) Mainstream perfumery has a huge number of synthetic fixatives at their disposal, and natural perfumers do not, and would not, use them.
The natural perfumer conducts the business at a very personal level, the artisan model. The bottles or compacts or body care containers are filled by hand, typically; the entire process is personal. The natural perfumer is also an artist that you may turn to to develop a personal, signature scent for yourself at an affordable cost. Such a service is not in the business plan of the big mainstream perfume houses unless perhaps you are a celebrity or have a small fortune to spend for such an individualized service.
Aromatherapy blends, pleasant and made from essential oils, are created to effect a therapeutic result. They are typically employed as massage oils, or for inhalation. The oils are selected for healing properties, not for base, middle and top notes, and they are generally used in a much lower dilution in oil for skin application, never alcohol. The typical aromatherapist does not study classical perfumery techniques.
5:: Who makes Natural Perfumes?
According to the membership on the Yahoo NP group, the natural perfumer is self-employed, with fewer than three employees. They are both scientists and artists, dedicated to the blending of materials for the alchemical beauty that arises from their experiments. NP requires that the perfumer be talented, artistic, demanding and rigorous in their pursuit of creating beautiful perfumes. It is hard for the hobbyist to make the leap to true artistry without a true "nose", i.e., an inherent talent. Feedback and continuing experimentation are necessary to determine if one is suited for the profession.
Most are self-taught, supplementing their knowledge with distance courses, weekend workshops, or the occasional summer course in France, where the historical and emotional heart of natural perfumery lies. Since the Yahoo group (see last paragraph) contains over 1500 members, that can be used as a baseline for those interested in all aspects of the development of NP. Some are "newbies", and some have extensive experience and well-conceived and developed lines. It is a heady blend, a true spectrum of skills and backgrounds.
6:: Where can I purchase Natural Perfumes?
Natural Perfumes can be purchased from the perfumers who are listed here on the Guild member list, or may be found via a web search. Rarely can they be found in a store in your neighborhood or city, since the industry is in the development stage, and both demand and distribution is limited at this time. The explosive growth in the number of perfumers in the past five years is now fueling a desire for better distribution and media and consumer recognition.
Projecting this trend into the future gives a picture of an industry that gains a foothold in the market. Natural perfumery may never compete on the scale of mainstream perfume, but will fill a niche market for those who demand individualized, gentler perfumes, created by an artisan.
7:: How can I learn how to create Natural Perfumes?
You have several avenues to explore in learning natural perfumery. There are several online courses, or distance courses. They involve workbooks or manuals and interaction with a teacher. You may wish to pursue a course of study, and this would involve either a short vacation (two weeks) in Grasse, or a more in-depth course at one of the schools there. You may read and experiment on your own, but progress will be slow. A natural perfumer has to be systematic, thorough, and challenge him/herself. The Yahoo NP group has a very good Files section of information gathered over the years to aid a natural perfumer. The archives on the group are also excellent for research.
If you are a budding natural perfumer, or an experienced "nose" and are interested in taking part in a friendly, active natural perfumery group, click here to join the private group on Yahoo.
Note: this group is not the Guild, but many Guild members participate there.