Natural and Synthetic Fragrances part one – what is the true cost of each?

Natural and Synthetic Fragrances part one – what is the true cost of each?

A rose maybe a rose by any other name but a rose fragrance can actually have very little to do with the flower which inspired the scent.

Since true rose essential oil is both rare and expensive, many manufacturers and suppliers will sell nature-identical oils or synthetic fragrances in place of essential oils. Chemicals like geraniol, geranyl and citronellol which are found in rose are taken from less expensive oils and put together to create an entirely new oil which mimics that familiar fragrance but costs a great deal less.

In a true rose essential oil the chemical β-damascenone is contained in less than 0.14% of the plant but responsible for up to 70% of the characteristic rose aroma and, most importantly, critical to the physiological effect of rose essential oil on our brain. It’s a chemical given for free from the plant but is nearly impossible to synthesize, therefore, it is rarely found in manufactured fragrances and ‘nature-identical’ oils.

Rose is not alone. This problem extends to other oils which are traditionally expensive due to chronic high demand and low yield i.e. neroli, jasmine, and chamomile. It also occurs when oils become expensive due to swings in crop yield and market forces to name a couple factors; a case in point, the current high price of geranium and frankincense.

As an example of the price difference, pure rose oil can cost between $10,000 and $20,000 a kilogram while most synthetic fragrances are under $100 a kilogram, so do the math.

The cosmetic industry has good reason to use synthetic fragrances or aroma chemicals because they are stable, inexpensive and easier on the supply chain.

Essential oils from a whole plant, while more expensive, are easily recognized by our bodies and produce many positive physiological effects which can improve our mood and health. The senses of taste and smell are primal and affect us from birth.

The aroma of an essential oil blend will change over time, and will also dissipate much faster. Just like the flavor of grapes, the aroma from each new crop will change from season to season and country of origin.

The actual cost is more than just the price of the finished product. What must also be considered is how the finished products may be affecting our health.

There is a price to pay for our apparent need for everything to have a fragrance. One product alone is not particularly an issue but when everything is scented the result becomes something like chemical warfare with different scented products on almost everything we use including cleaning products for home and body, plug in scents, spray, lotions, perfumes and oils.

The casualties are the burgeoning cases of people with smell sensitivities, a condition that was once almost unknown. Fragrance-free areas have become a common sight particularly in hospitals, doctor’s offices, businesses etc.

The natural fragrance industry gets panned along with the synthetic fragrances when in fact it is largely innocent of the assault on our noses.

The brain must deal with every scent the nose encounters, and due to primal responses, it has a reference point for naturally occurring scents. For synthetic fragrances the brain has no reference point and must decide what to do with them. Some of the time it will decide this foreign substance needs to be blocked. A lot of smell sensitivities are attributed to this.

People with smell sensitivities tend to experience headaches, irritability, watery eyes, and runny nose. While these are similar to the effects of allergies, they are also the result of the brain swelling your olfactory bulb to try and protect against the outside foreign substance. The two are often confused.

As consumers we must acknowledge the power of our choices: Is it more important for the scent of whatever it is – be it perfume, cleaning product, or aftershave – to smell consistent, lingering and sell at the lowest possible cost or do we want a natural product with health benefits at a higher price?

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