Sunday, June 25, 2006

Natural versus synthetic

I always was fascinated by the way some plants could heal us. When I was a child we had a woman living next to us that knew a lot about the way plants could heal you, walking together trough the garden she showed me all those plants, even some plants growing on the side of the road she told me could heal us. Like the Plantain (Plantago major spp. major L.) she told me that this plant could help even when you are bitten by a snake, it's very helpful when you use the sap of it on your skin when you touched a Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) and the funny thing is they mostly grow next to eighother. It could help by a gnat-bite as well. I read all the books I could find about healing herbs and when I had my own garden I planted some useful herbs in my garden and learned their Latin names, there was no use for that but reading so much about them made me remember their Latin names as well. I started to read other garden books as well and loved the idea to make a smelling garden, so I planted all kinds of wonderful smelling flowers and plants in my (little) garden. Because I loved to know everything about the healing side of plants, I started to read the books about aromatherapy and essential oils as well.

And there it started.....I was interested in the healing site of the oils but read about the aromas as well. In some books I could read about some simple recipe's to make a blend of some oils. I started to buy a lot of the essential oils and started to blend. To blend 5 different oils was not that difficult but I tried to make the recipe's more complicated, and that was not easy. I thought when I mix really nice smelling things together the outcome must be wonderful too, well it wasn't like that at all, some blends of wonderful smelling things turned out to be awful. I was fascinated by that, how do the oils react with eighother. I read about all the components of the oils and saw that some oils did have almost the same components but smell totally different. I had to find out how that worked. I did endless experiments and started to read books about perfume. Wow that was touching me, this was what I wanted, creating perfume. It's like creating your own dreamworld full of wonderful smells. I tried to find people that had the same hobby but I couldn't find them, I did find people that did aromatherapy and made some blends but that was not the same, I wanted to create perfume real perfume, not just a simple blend. Hungry as I was for all the information about how to create perfume I read everything I could find and read all the things about this craft on the internet.

I found a company that sell perfume materials right here in the Netherlands. I phoned and talked like an hour with this really friendly man, he explained to me that the smell of perfumes made of essential oils is different than the smell of other perfumes. I wanted to make a real perfume that would stay long on my skin and could be smelled by others as well. Until then the perfumes I made with the essential oils could be only detected when I put my nose close to my skin and the perfume didn't stay long enough. But using synthetics was not my dream, because I read all those books about essential oils and aromatherapy and wanted to create an all natural perfume to me it felt kind of a romantic idea. But yes it was true, I wanted to let them smell real 'perfumy' but I had to admit they didn't smell like perfume, more like a nice blend. The man explained to me that it is real difficult to use only essential oils because all those oils are perfumes on their own, they contain all kind of components and mixing them together it could be a mix of all kind of smelling components with no structure at all, it would be to much. A simple mix would work, but that was not what I had in mind, but a complex mix could be turned out as a muddy mix of all kinds of smelling components. Every essential oils has different smelling components like the rose has something like 300(that's what they found until now but there are more) the orange have his own components, the jasmin etc. In all those essential oils are some same components as well. But blending them together without control about all those smelling components is really difficult, you will have all kind of smelling components. Sometimes I want to let one component play the dominant role in a perfume but adding an essential oil that has that component will ad the other components of the oil as well, even if I don't need the other components. So talking to that man made me think, it felt really strange to let my "natural romantic" dream go. I didn't phone him again and followed my dream and did go on with my natural perfume making.

But after a while I had to admit to myself that this wasn't what I wanted, I wanted to make real perfume that smells good. So I became true to myself and let lose the boundaries I created in my head by only wanting to use naturals and started to use synthetics as well. A world opened for me, this was the real thing! It was wonderful to have control over the components and I was even be able to use scents that couldn't be found in essential oils. I tried all kind of formulas that I found in books and the Internet and learned how components react with eighother. I never give up my love for essential oils and absolutes though, I use them in my perfumes because of their complexity but in a different way. I will use the essentials in a controlled way so I can add the aromacomponents that I think is needed. The smell of a rose absolute for example is wonderful you can smell all kinds of components mixed in a perfect way but the smell of the absolute isn't the same as smelling a fresh rose. The distillation process makes that some essential components get lost. A real important component of rose that gets lost in the distillation process is Phenylethyl alcohol so I can add that component manually. Another problem with natural oils is that some oils are skin sensitive like oakmoss, the IFRA (International Fragrance Association) allow just a little amount of oakmoss in perfumes so I can use a oakmoss substitute. Using substitutes for the naturals is also necessary for keeping the nature as it is and not disturb the ecosystem by using for example the natural rosewood or sandalwood. And by using synthetic substitutes for natural animal scents like musk and civet we don't need to hurt the animals. So to me the chemicals are necessary for perfume making.


Celest Khoo said...

I am Celest. i am from Singapore. I am so excited when i found your blog!!! i was so worried that i cant find someone to share my sentiments abt perfumery! there are so many websites on healing plants, aromoatherapy, but like you, i'm interested in the A-Z abt making perfume. Unfortunately, Singapore, ot my (limited) knowledge, there is no great avenue here. and furthermore bcoz land is scarce here in Singapore, we do not have gardens, no major companies that set up any perfumery courses or schools here. *sobs* even bookshops here do not carry any books regding perfumery. i actually surf online for details and courses. n the nearest destination that i can find is in Bangkok, they have a school there that offers perfumery course. they even have the perfumery kit!!! it's so exciting. i hope to keep in touch with you. hope you will share with me tidbits. as i just chanced upon your website. (i'll need to slowly look thru your posts and take down notes. i m so excited!!!! *laughs* i believe scents can change one's moods. my fav perfume is Chanel allure and Jean Patou's Enjoy though i think Joy is another wonderful perfume too! here's my email:
hope to keep in touch!
Best Regards,

Jenny said...

Hi Celest, I understand how you feel I had the same thing, I wanted to share my passion with other hobbyperfumers. Because of that I created a group on Yahoo, you will love it. It's a group for people that are really interested in the art of perfume making not only the natural perfume making although you could find information about that as well. You will find all kind of information and formulas and all the (hobby) perfumers are happy to help you. Here is the link to my group:

Jenny said...

Okay that didn't work, I tried to use some html but I guess that doesn't work here.(I would love to hear how I can use the html for links by the way) Here is the link:
Just copy and paste the link in the address balk.

JC said...

I must fall into the category of 'natural romantic'. I love that the components in natural elements may or may not create a lovely end product perfume ~ it's the luck of the draw, and, for me, it's a challenge. I've created several perfume quality blends that have fooled a few folks into believing they were made with an addition of one or two synths. I don't have a hard core reason for using only naturals, such as rabid scent allergies, using what nature provides, being a 'tree-hugger', etc., ad nauseum. I just love the stuff. It's strictly a preference.

Mike Storer said...

I like what you wrote, Jenny. I, too, started out with all naturals. Not because I am a big believer in aromatherapy.... I think there is a lot of hocus pocus in that field... but because the naturals where the only things I could find in the beginning. Just as you said, all my creations smelled nice, but not like perfumes. I couldn't find a good musk in the plant world. I wanted to manufacture, but couldn't make a good enough scent for that. Then I discovered the synthetics and, like you said, it opened up a whole new world to me. Now I don't care what I use as long as it gets the job done. Also, I find tiny vials of naturals usually too expensive.

Jenny said...

Hi Jc, using naturals is indeed a challenge and I love naturals too. I would love to smell your creations to see(smell)the difference.

Jenny said...

Hi Mike, I think a lot of people started like us, because essential oils are easier to find for the beginners. To take the next step and use synthetics is for some people unthinkable because they like to stay in the 'natural world' where they started in.

Rafael said...

Hi Jenny,
Elaborating on your «Natural versus synthetic» topic, this is just like RenĂ© Laruelle said: “Synthetics are the bones of a perfume, naturals the flesh”.
I must confess that I'm a fan of perfumery synthetics (maybe because of my chemical origins) as they have remarkable strenght and power and some have new smells not easily found in nature. However, I reckon it' pretty difficult to create something that smells great all made out of synthetics. I know some great perfumers do it, a good example being the muguet bases, but it's not easy to emulate that silky touch that naturals provide.
I'm pretty fond of experimenting with synthetics though, looking for interesting combinations between them (apart from the fact that it's cheaper when you have to flush down the toilet the outcomes!). At the moment, I'm experimenting with mixtures of Verdox, Dynascone and Cashmeran and it seens there's something interesting around there. I'll keep on trying!
Regards, R.

Jenny said...

Hi Rafael,
I agree with you totally, I think a perfume made only of synthetics misses character. For example the rose or jasmin have so many aroma components of their own, it can't be man made like the way nature profides it. To add these oils or absolutes it will give the perfume quality because of the complexity of these oils.
I like the Cashemeran as well it, you could try it with patchouli it will make it soft. I never tried the Verdox or the Dynascone but it looks like you experimenting with green fruity woody notes. Good luck with your experiments.

Lucy said...

Your post is very interesting, I am one of the those people interested in natural perfumes, but I am also attracted to very fine perfumes, if they have a certain quality, I go only by my attraction to whatever it may be and how it feels. I have found many synthetic perfumes to have a really strange note to them, like Tresor for example, which I can't identify, but that I find irritating and unpleasant, but some such as the latest Hermes are very pleasant. I don't find that the synthetic last any longer on me than the naturals, and often the naturals do make me feel better, possibly their "aromatherapy" qualities -- I agree though that it is good to have access to everything in every price range and type, so as to make the choices for yourself, and to educate yourself to make informed decisions, and to give full scope to your creativity...

Jenny said...

Hi Luccia,
I think that many people believe that synthetic compounds have a real synthetic smell like they smell like plastic or something. But this is not the case, many synthetics have a beautiful smell of their own. Also it's not true that synthetics are always cheaper than essential oils. Some synthetics are real expensive, like
Ambroxan which has an ambergris odor cost around $1150 a kilo and Damascenone with a beautiful floral fruity rose odor $1633 a kilo, Safranal with the odor of saffron cost around $2140 a kilo. So you can see it's not always cheaper to use synthetics. I agree with you that by using both naturals and synthetics you can use the full range of products, and not only one side of them.

Anonymous said...

I've recently discovered natural perfume as I have family members who are sensitive to synthetic scents and chemicals. Nice to know there is an alternative to the usual types of perfumes, especially when it's available without the alcohol as well.