What Does Natural Fragrance Mean?

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With the growing number of conscious consumers, many are now strictly inspecting any personal care products they apply to their skin. And with these consumer demands, brands and companies are responding by formulating products with natural fragrances. But what does natural fragrance mean, really?

Natural fragrances are complex aromatic formulas whose sources are naturally found in the environment. These natural and raw sources can be plants, wood, flowers, fruits, vegetables, and even animal extracts. What sets them apart is their chemical structures are not altered or manipulated before adding them to their respective formulas.

There is an ever-growing misconception that natural always equals safe and synthetic always equals dangerous. It isn’t at all that simple. Even natural fragrances can trigger reactions and allergies the same way synthetics do. There is also that lack of standard definitions of the word “natural” in the beauty industry.

In this article, we’ll discuss what natural fragrance actually means and whether it’s safe to assume they’re inherently better. We’ll also talk about the issues that come with the label and issues in the fragrance business as a whole.

What Does Natural Fragrance Mean?

Clean and green beauty is all the rage right now, and for good reasons.

As more and more people are becoming conscious of what they put on their skin, face, hair, and body, the more they want to only use safe and healthy personal care products.

This is why the green movement, even in these products, started and stuck until today. People don’t want to apply toxins and chemicals to their skin. Consumers are also now strictly monitoring brands based on their social responsibility.

And well, brands, are ready to answer these demands by coming out with natural products. From skincare, hair care, perfume, and fragrances – you can see these shelves are full of products promoting themselves as “natural”.

Naturally, natural fragrances have found their place in the industry. After all, almost all personal care products are formulated with some sort of fragrance.

Natural fragrances are natural aromatics and fragrances derived from natural sources. Unlike its synthesized counterpart, its chemical structure is not altered or manipulated. Natural fragrances are complex formulations of aromatic compounds.

These natural aromatic components can come in the form of essential oils, absolutes, distillates, fractions, isolates, and waxes.

Basically, there is a lack of synthetics and chemicals in natural fragrances. They can also be characterized as more subtle-smelling than their synthesized counterpart.

Where Do Natural Fragrances Come From and How are They Produced?

Natural fragrances come from natural raw materials that can naturally be found in the environment. These sources can be various plant materials including flowers, leaves, wood, herbs, seeds, fruits, vegetables, trees, and roots. Animal essence and extracts can also be a source of these natural fragrances.

The natural fragrances from these organic materials are extracted in a process called the separation process. This basically means separating the aromatic compounds from the raw materials. These methods include distillation, sieving, and enfleurage among many others.

Is Natural Fragrance Inherently Better?

Anything “natural” has enjoyed rising popularity over the past few years. As we’ve mentioned above, this is all thanks to the green and clean movement that extended to personal care products as well.

Over the past few years, there is an increasing belief that anything natural, including natural fragrance, is inherently better. But how true is this statement?

People tend to believe that natural is much safer than synthetic but it’s not as simple as that.

Natural fragrances don’t automatically mean it’s safer and you’re free from certain reactions. Natural or synthetic, reactions to their ingredients will differ from person to person.

Even with all-natural ingredients, one can still be allergic to certain compounds present in the formula.

Natural doesn’t actually mean you’re dodging allergic and skin reactions. It all depends on your skin and how it would react to certain fragrances, natural or synthetic.

Or Is Natural Fragrance Bad?

Now given everything we’ve presented above, you might be wondering and asking, “is natural fragrance actually bad?”

The answer is not really either.

The problem with the term “natural” in personal care products

The term “natural” has been constantly thrown around the cosmetics and personal care world rather carelessly in the past decade – especially with the growing number of consumers growing concerned over what they put on their skin.

The problem with the use of the term “natural” in these instances is there is no standard definition of what is truly “natural”. Without the standardization of what “natural” is, companies can abuse and misuse the term, misleading their consumers.

A company can label its product as natural or as having a natural fragrance when in reality only less than 5% of the formula is truly natural while the remaining 95% is made up of synthetic ingredients and chemicals.

Manufacturers are not required to list all ingredients in fragrances in cosmetics use

Natural or synthetic fragrance, companies and manufacturers are not required by law to disclose all ingredients that comprise their fragrance because this is considered a “trade secret”. You can read more about this from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) here.

This can only mean that a product can advertise itself as being formulated with a natural fragrance even if only a small percentage of the formula comes from actual natural sources.

And it’s worth noting that the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) listed more than 3,000 ingredients that manufacturers can use for their fragrance formulas. And they’re not required to disclose any of the ingredients used.

The buzzword “natural” is often used by companies as a marketing gimmick because they can get away with it and this is extremely misleading.

“Natural” fragrance only becomes bad if companies use it only as a marketing tactic to mislead consumers into thinking that what they’re buying has natural fragrance when in reality, it doesn’t.

Natural Fragrance: The Good and the Bad

Now to help you decide for yourself if you should make the switch to natural fragrances, we’ll list below all the good and the bad of natural fragrances.


Natural fragrances are known for having a lighter, more subtle, and more natural scent. This makes them a perfect choice for consumers who have more sensitive noses. It’s also a great choice for anyone who wants to smell good without loudly announcing their presence in the room.

Truly natural fragrances come from natural sources and aromatic raw materials. If you want to avoid unknown chemicals, this is the way to go. These unknown chemicals in synthetic fragrances can disrupt hormones and cause allergic reactions and skin irritations. Some are even known carcinogens.

And lastly, truly natural fragrances and brands including natural essential oil blends are transparent and disclose the ingredients they use in their formulas. With proper disclosure of said ingredients, you know you can trust these products better.


As we’ve mentioned above, there is a clear lack of standardization when it comes to natural fragrances and other natural products like natural fragrance oils. This makes it easy for manufacturers to exploit the term and use it only as a marketing tactic. To make sure you’re not being misled, buy products from companies you can trust are transparent.

Natural perfumes and fragrances require tedious processes. This, in turn, makes them pricier and more expensive than their synthetic counterparts. If you want to go all-natural for your fragrances, be ready to spend more on the price tag.

And lastly, as we’ve mentioned above, natural doesn’t always equal safer. Even natural ingredients and sources can still trigger allergies and reactions.

Natural Fragrance: Environmental Impact

One would think it would be better for all companies to switch to natural fragrances and natural sources, right? But is it really the best choice for sustainability and the environment?

If all companies were to switch to natural fragrances in their products, this could lead to the abuse of these natural sources for raw materials. Unless these companies find a truly sustainable way to harvest these raw materials, then a lot of things could go wrong.

Companies can lead the way to over-harvesting these plant sources and the ecosystem will eventually suffer. There is the risk of extinction due to growing demands if all companies were to go natural.

Some amount of synthesizing and synthetics could help ease these burdens on the environment and on its natural sources.

Natural Fragrance vs Synthetic Fragrance

We’ve talked a great deal about natural fragrances while throwing synthetic fragrances along in the mix. But, what exactly are synthetic fragrances and how do natural and synthetic fragrances differ?

Synthetic fragrances are aromatic compounds that were either chemically created in labs or natural fragrances whose chemical structures were modified to get them to smell a certain way.

Synthetic fragrances are typically created from petroleum. They are made up of hundreds to thousands of chemical compositions before they can smell a certain way.

They can either mimic a naturally occurring scent or make an entirely new scent that doesn’t naturally exist in nature.

Which is best for you?

The answer to the question of which is best for you between natural or synthetic fragrances would depend entirely on you and your personal preference.

If you want peace of mind that you’re only using natural ingredients on your skin and you wouldn’t mind the heftier price tag, you can go for natural fragrances.

If you don’t mind synthetics in formulas, you can choose synthetic fragrances. A huge plus for them is they’re relatively cheaper as well.

Most modern-day fragrances mix both natural and synthetic sources for the best commercial scents.


Everyone wants to do their best for their well-being and for the environment. And with the driving force behind clean and green beauty, everyone is growing conscious of the products they use. More and more consumers are choosing natural fragrances but what does it mean, exactly?

Natural fragrances are aromatic compounds derived from sources naturally found in the environment. These can be plants, wood, flowers, fruits, vegetables, and even animal extracts. Their chemical structure is in no way altered or manipulated to make them smell the way they do.

And that has been our detailed guide on the question, “what does natural fragrance mean?”. You can reach out to us below if you have more questions you’d like us to answer here!

Michelle Jackson
Michelle Jackson