Some Differences Between Natural and Synthetic Fragrance
June 8, 2013 by beautyrevolution
We received this email recently with a very interesting question about our products that contain neroli (orange blossom) essential oil.
“I realized that the neroli essential oil contains two components that I’m not too sure about:
I know that these compounds are naturally present in just about any neroli oil, but I have some reservations about using a products with these components.”
Good question, and I can see the why the confusion exists. If you visit the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetic Database
, you will notice that neroli essential oil
is rated a 0 (safe) but, as stated above, two of its components are rated 5 and 6 (not safe) due to being allergens. There are a few things that can explain the difference in safety.
1. When aroma chemicals such as limonene and linalool are listed on labels, it usually means they were produced synthetically from petroleum rather than extracted from a plant (but this can get super-confusing since the European Union requires companies to list these chemicals even if they are within an essential oil). Many times they aren’t listed at all because they get grouped into the ingredient ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’. Contrary to what most people seem to believe, there ARE variances in synthetic versions of aroma chemicals vs. their natural counterpart. This is proven by the fact that there are several tests used in the essential oil community to determine if a product has been adulterated by ‘nature-identical’ synthetics, which are easily disguised as natural components. They can find synthetic markers such as dihydrolinalool and variances in isomers.
2. Essential oils are synergies of many aroma chemicals that can offset each other. For instance, citral can create a reaction on the skin on its own but when limonene is added, it does not. Methyleugenol, which is considered carcinogenic on its own, is safe within rose and citronella essential oils because there are enough anti-cancer chemicals to balance it out.
3. The dose is often much smaller in an essential oil than when added to a perfume as an isolated ingredient.
This doesn’t mean that some people won’t be allergic to certain essential oils such as lavender, neroli and rose but I believe that the chances of reaction are much higher in the high dose, synthetic version of chemicals used by the fragrance industry than by natural, unadulterated plant extracts.