Saturday Question: All-natural or “All-artificial”?

This week is quite unusual for my blog: two posts were published already, which makes this one a third post in a week. If any of you were wondering, this will continue for a while: in addition to the weekly Saturday Question lead by me (mostly), two resident writers (after a while, I can’t call them “guests”), Narth and Portia, will be posting alternating every two weeks each. And I plan to do one additional post every second week.

Also, it happened just by chance that my previous post’s title was done in a question form. And while it was a rhetorical question, it sparked a conversation similar to how it happens with Saturday Question posts. So, it feels a little strange to do a second post with a question just two days later. But it’s already a tradition, right? So, let’s do it anyway. And the topic I chose was inspired by one of the dialogs in comments to that recent post.

 

Saturday Question on Undina's Looking Glass

 

Saturday Question #15:

All-natural or “All-artificial”?

From what I can get, most of my readers prefer “mixed-media” perfumes, so this part is clear. But what about the two extremes – perfumes that use only natural ingredients and those that are based on manufactured molecules? Which of the two would you choose if you had to?

My Answer

I tried a fair number of all-natural perfumes, and most of them didn’t work for me. At best, I thought they were pleasant scents but not perfumes that I’d like to wear. But most seemed straightforwardly unpleasant. Currently in my collection there are two all-natural perfumes that I like a lot – Hiram Green Arbolé Arbolé and April Aromatics Unter den Linden. On the other hand, there is just one perfume that certainly has no natural ingredients – Escentric Molecules Molecule 01. So, on the surface it would seem like a 2:1 ratio.

But then I consider that while all-natural brands make sure to point out that fact, most brands do not advertise “no flowers were harmed in the making of this perfume.” So, it is extremely likely that I’ve been enjoying many more “all-artificial” perfumes than I realized. Taking that into consideration, I’d say that for me man-made perfumes are a safer bet (though, I hope never to have to make that choice).

How about you?

 

Molecule 01 and Unter den Linden

 

All-natural or “All-artificial”?

 

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50 thoughts on “Saturday Question: All-natural or “All-artificial”?

  1. While I think it’s harder to make a really great all-natural perfume, those with exceptional talent, like Hiram Green, can make fragrances better than 99. 9% of the niche market. Otherwise they tend to be rather flat and muddled.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Oh lord. You *had* to mention Hiram, which is the house that’s CONVINCED me that all-natural can be so incredibly ridiculous (ridiculously incredible?) in quality that I’d give up having synthetics…. which means I’ll likely be *forced* into buying more Hiram offerings.

    Well, thanks.

    Also, I guess my answer is clear now. And my reason: Moon Bloom.

    (Also, a close second would be BPAL, Black Phoenix Alchemy Labs, who I shockingly only discovered many years after my entry into perfume. I would happily *drown* in some of their RPG series, especially CLERIC gahhhhhhh)

    Liked by 1 person

    • That was one passionate vote for the all-natural camp! :)

      I’m not too familiar with BPAL perfumes, but I haven’t seen them claiming to be 100% natural. Not that it mattered, just mentioning.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for your comment, as it sent me down quite the rabbithole. :D The website language is a little bit unclear. After a good hour of research and clarifications on some of the wording, I can confirm that the official confirmation from staff is that yes, they are majority all-natural (apparently they had a handful of synthetic offerings available for auction and it’s resulted in them not being able to claim all-natural – they had been meaning to update the FAQ but with a catalogue like theirs…. I’m sure a lot of tasks don’t get done for a while). Now, this is info from a thread from a few years ago, so it’s possible that Elizabeth has completely shifted her beliefs on this. From gut instinct and where the company stands on multiple things – and the fact that she regularly collaborates with Sphere & Sundry, which is run by my friend – I’d bet money on at least 95% of her wares being natural.

        If that is the case… if your next question was to stick with just one house, I’d pick BPAL. I’ve rarely seen such RANGE.

        Ok and then I’d pick SL. Orrrr PG.

        (I like that I’m answering a question you haven’t even asked)

        Liked by 1 person

      • I will also add… it is still so fascinating to me how little BPAL is spoken about in what I’d dub as the “serious” perfume community. When my friend sent me their website I did a hard eye roll and was admittedly a little bit snobbish, assuming it was just some pretty scented oils mixed together. I think there is a reason EB has been able to directly collaborate with people like Neil Gaiman, and I just often question why I hadn’t heard of her and the company in all my years of perfume testing. I wonder if it’s because of their massive catalogue, or because of their themed releases? Or, perhaps it’s their direct sales – since they aren’t available in stores? What are your thoughts on this? PS When my frags from London get to me I HAVE to send you a few drops of Cleric. It’s like wrapping yourself in a cloak of churchly magic? Ridiculous.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Out of respect to your passion, I would try it. Though, I’ll be beyond surprised if I like it: my success track with most indie lines, including everybody’s darlings, is negligibly tiny.

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        • Back in my Perfume of Life days, which was mostly older perfume devotees heavily into vintage Snake Oil was highly revered. (It’s a vanilla incense for those unfamiliar). I think people are put off by the vastness of the catalog which is tied to the business model of new releases. There are so many GC’s (general catalog, not limited edition) that are works of art. Someday I’m going to acquire a selection of definitive BPAL classics to send people as a sampler. Shipping is very pricey now to Aus so I haven’t ordered new in years but if I ever run out of Orc I will have to!

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    • Melisa de Blok the BPAL RPG scents are my FAVOURITES ! I love the whole line and I was really taken aback to read this as I had just sprayed a sample perfume on the back of my hand and thought “that smells like Dwarf” ! (But Dwarf is better). However I will add that BPAL doesn’t use all naturals. Periodically people accuse her of not being all natural to which she replies she never has been. She uses what makes beautiful perfumes.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey Undina,
    There are a couple of artificial perfume lines that I really like. AETHER by the Le Galion guys has three that I’m mad for: Rose Alcane, Methaldone and HYPÆR. Pierre Guillaume’s line had Fleur de Foudre and Metal Hurlant that stood out for me. I’m not 100% sure but Anyway by JHAG is another I love that may be artificial.
    On the natural side I have quite a few bottles from Aftelier Perfumes and Hiram Green.
    So I’m about 50/50.
    Portia xx

    Like

    • I know one perfume from JHAG that is 100% not natural – Not a Perfume :) Not sure about the rest but wouldn’t be surprised.

      Everything else that you’ve mentioned… I might have heard of some of them, if you posted about them before, but I cannot be positive.

      Like

      • You may have seen them on posts but the only stuff that stays with us after reading so much for so long is the stuff that tickles our fancy, right? Of course these wouldn’t register for a lot of readers, not just you Undina. The moment it says fully artificial and created we think Escentric Molecules and then switch off. I do that with a LOT of the “all natural” crews too.
        Portia xx

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Hiram Green is my favourite fully natural brand and I can’t wait to try Vivacious, a perfume Hiram just announced that will be launched on 11.06. It’s violet and iris scent so I have high hopes to love it. I also like several of April Aromatics.
    Most of the perfume I own is a combination of natural and scientifically developed ingredients.
    I’m not a fan of fully synthetic concepts like Escentric Molecules, Aether, Nomenclature.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, I saw the announcement. I will be curious to try it, but I doubt I’ll like it.

      In general, I’m not a fan of the one-molecule concert. But I suspect that with more complex perfumes we won’t know if it’s completely artificial (I mean “I and 90% of consumers,” I realize that you are a minority who is probably capable of smelling the difference).

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Another huge fan of Hiram Green, the only natural perfumer I ever really loved. :-). Unless some of them are under the radar, I don’t think I own anything all synthetic. Although Narciso Rodriguez stuff smells pretty synthetic to me and I have a couple of those.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh wait, I have another natural perfumer I really like: Annette Neuffer. Super small indie operation in Munich. Just discovered her last year thanks to a nice review by Luca Turin.

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  7. lol, “no flowers were harmed in the making of this perfume.” Love that! I’ll have to go with artificial, if it has to be all one or the other, as I don’t own many all-natural fragrances. However, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has some beauties in the natural category, including a “spritz” that I love called “Smudge Nebula.” I assume most of my fragrances are probably a mix of synthetic and natural ingredients, mostly the former.

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  8. I think there are manmade and manmade… the old fashioned isolates, which come from naturals are to me as good as natural ( I think these were what Olivia Giacobetti used in her ‘all natural series’ honore des pres.) However, when there’s an overweight of only synthetics I believe I can tell in 99% of the cases. There’s a lack of depth, and the synthetics used to make the perfume stay on the skin are usually a scent I don’t like.
    Funny that somebody in the thread should mention Aether, a brand where I find all ‘perfumes’ unworthy of skintime, which is a shame as I like the guy behind the two brands, and love many of the galion perfumes.
    Naturals are hit and miss, as many here mention, the ones who truly understand their naturals can make you feel there is no difference between the mixed media and the pure naturals. They are amazing perfumes, and they are long lasting. Absolutely second April Aromatics, Hiram Green, Annette Neuffer Duftmanufaktur and DSH naturals. I also actually own a bottle of that company with the awful name Richard Lüscher Britos ( I think), they did/ do all naturals with different perfumers, and most smelled muddy but the one done by the naturals expert a Gardenia coffee perfume is excellent.
    Naturals when they don’t work, to me smell like when you think mixing all colours in the palette would be a great idea – and then you get brown, or 1970s whole food store… oh and they disappear in half an hour.
    Ps you have me hooked on these Saturday questions :-) give Rusty a treat from me

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m glad there’s something that brings you back here :) I love to have old friends around.

      I do not discriminate, do I try almost anything that comes my way. But, as a rule, most of those perfumes that get a lot of love in Perfumeland don’t do anything for me.

      Loved your analogy with mixing colors. For me most not just all-natural but all indie perfumes smell “brown” :).

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  9. I will go all-natural as well: there is Hiram Green, as many have been saying, BPAL, and I also rate Ajne in Carmel – and some other natural brands I (as ever!) cannot quite bring to mind. I do agree that some naturals smell muddy and dank, but they have got a lot better lately.

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  10. What an interesting question Undina. I sure enjoy these Saturday questions and reading what other perfumistas have to say about things. I think in real life I would probably come right down the middle again. While drawn to the idea of natural I’ve noticed that I like how things smell and last period. I don’t think I know even what ratio of natural to manmade most of the perfumes I love are. I do have a few of Hiram’s but that is because I love them, not because they are natural. I have some SSS, and while blended I believe Laurie tried to use a lot of naturals if she could but again, in the end I have them because I love them. I don’t think I knowingly have any 100% manmade perfumes and there is a part of me that feels sort of ‘ick’ at the idea. I think if I found out that one of the perfumes I have and love was indeed completely manmade I would still love it based on the smell but again, until I actually have that experience I won’t know.
    Mind is an interesting part of the equation. I keep thinking it is about an olfactory process when I smell and decide if it is pleasurable or not, but it is my mind and it’s associations and context that are highly involved too. I love flowers and growing things and am not drawn to artificial flowers and arrangements. Once I was admiring a really beautiful orchid my mom had and examined it more closely when she asked me to water it for her and realized it was an incredibly done artificial plant. So well done that she had been watering it for months. I know, funny, but what was interesting to me was watching my mind decide the plant wasn’t nearly as wonderful as I had previously thought now that I had realized that it wasn’t ‘real’.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I know that our perception plays an important role. Of course, there are extremes, when we have no doubts as to what we’re smelling. But in many cases we can be swayed one way or the other… Tell us that what we smell (and kind of like) has the most precious Iris root absolute, and we’ll love it and think that $150+ for a 30 no bottle is a good price. For the same perfume, had we known that it was created in a laboratory, even half of the price would seem excessive.

      Like

  11. This is hard! I haven’t yet met an all-natural perfume that I love (but will try Hiram Green’s after reading everyone’s comments here!), but it’s the natural components that bring life to the mixed-media perfumes that I love, so would probably go for all natural as well.

    Like

    • I must say that out of all Hiram Green’s perfumes, only one works for me – and even then it won’t be probably even in the first 50 I would replace if I had to rebuild my collection. So, approach with caution. You might love them or be amazed at what others found to love

      Liked by 1 person

  12. This is a great question Undina. I will come down firmly on the side of synthetic. Not because I have a preference but because I have hardly any experience of all-naturals except for a couple of Hiram Green’s, though they’re really good. If a perfume performs well on me and I like it then that’s all that’ matters.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree. I would never hold against any perfume its pedigree (not talking here about animal cruelty or child labor – I don’t condone those, that’s given). This question was a theoretical one, as a choice between 2 extremes, if one had to make that choice.

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  13. I would have to say synthetics, because I’m not a fan of incense and given my hay fever would probably have more allergic reactions from all-natural than synthetic blends. That said, I have enjoyed Slowdive and some other natural perfumes. And it seems I’m more often partially anosmic to synthetic musks and wood notes than to anything natural. I guess I enjoy mixed media most of the time.

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    • Outside of this theoretical dilemma, my preferences are on the mixed ingredients perfumes. Your argument about allergies is an interesting one. If I think about it, it should be a higher chance of getting an allergic reaction to naturals.

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  14. Another great question, Undina. Keep ’em coming. I’ve tried a few natural perfumes and enjoyed them, but need to explore them more. Escentric Molecules is a great example of a synthetics brand. Another one is Nomenclature. I’m definitely a “mixed media” and synthetics boy.

    In the recent push to more natural ingredients in beauty, there seems to be a huge misunderstanding about the role of synthetics in perfumery. The problem is that if we used more natural ingredients, it wouldn’t be ecologically sustainable. Not to mention that we wouldn’t have many of the icons of perfumery.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Keep coming and answering my questions, and I’ll keep coming up with more twists on our mutual hobby :)

      I’m for a balanced approach when it comes to anything “not natural”: not everything artificial is bad, and not everything nature-created is good, in all senses of the terms.

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  15. My answer:honestly do not care. I’ve never had any interest in the natural=better camp when it comes to perfume. Hiram Green is wonderful because they are beautiful quality works of art. So are many perfumes that full of non-natural ingredients. Chemistry has brought us many good things :)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well, it wasn’t my goal to start an argument nature vs. nurture… I mean, man-maid. Same as when asking about 10 desert island perfumes, nobody expects that until the end of your days you’ll stick to using those that you’ve chosen, it was a theoretical question as to what you would have chosen if you had to. The only answer possible outside of the set parameters is “neither” – but you can’t choose “both” or “mixed” – just because those choices are not a part of the game ;)

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I have both all natural and all chemical and “not so natural” in my collection. My favorite all natural is Auphorie’s La Domna de la Rosa, which is gorgeous!! It’s a honeyed rose and the lasting power is amazing. I really appreciate what Eugene and Amarys Au have done with all natural ingredients. Hiram Green’s creations, however, are too overwhelming for me. I sniff them and I draw back and want to run away. Far too intense for me, and that has been my experience with a lot of natural perfumes. They tend to be uber strong.
    I like both, but if I had to choose, I’d go with some lab made chemicals. I couldn’t give up my Chanels or Guerlains or my Lutens either.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Until today I haven’t heard about Auphorie’s La Domna de la Rosa (or any other perfume from the brand). Interesting.
      Most Hiram Grin’s perfumes do not work for me. Arbole Arbole is the only one that I enjoy wearing. But I’d choose my Chanels or Lutens any day.

      Like

  17. Pingback: Frank Voelkl Interview: In Praise Of Synthetics In Modern Perfumery

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