Monday, January 09, 2017

Random musings about scents

April Long has an interesting story in ELLE on how synthetic scents are taking over the perfume industry.

This is not new, despite what you read about how many pounds of roses it takes to make how much attar of rose.

In 1889, Guerlain brought out "Jicky," combining synthetic and natural notes.

Jicky contained two synthetics--coumarin, found in tonka beans, and smelling of new-mown hay, and vanillin, derived from pine bark and smelling of vanilla.

Actually, synthetics made today's perfume industry possible. People tend to think, Long writes, that perfumes are made of 3-4 things such as rose, patchouli, and sandalwood, but today's scents contain 40-60 ingredients.

They are on average 70% synthetics and 30% natural.

Why the big secret? Are these synthetics safe? Are they necessary?

The majority of perfumes are made by a handful of companies, each with hordes of scientists disassembling and rebuilding chemical bonds, and breaking apart molecules, trying to get lucky results.

Synthetics can be (1) nature-identical, (2) one raw material manipulated into something else, (3) or man-made completely. The latter would be a new molecule--each company comes up with three or four a year.

One scientist said it was his job to give the feeling of nature without the presence of nature.

But people tend to suspect man-made--are they safe to inhale or put on the skin? Also--they have long chemical names---scary.

New molecules are rigorously tested. Synthetics are actually simplified...People can be allergic to natural ingredients, too.  Many synthetics are more eco-friendly. Musk is no longer extracted from a dead deer--easier on deer.

Still, it's the natural ingredients--those rose fields of the mind--that sell perfume. Nothing is as it seems, is it?

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