Natural Perfume vs. Synthetic - Making Sense of Scents


In our modern world, the thought of perfume often connotes feeling overwhelmed by the potent scents in a fragrance department, holding your breath until exiting the stenchy, misty bubble. Perhaps you realize that the majority of those perfumes are made of chemicals. But what you may not know is that synthetic perfumes are relatively new, though natural perfumes have been around thousands of years before Ancient Egypt even existed.

Perfume comes from the Latin term “per fumus” or through smoke.  As early as 7000 B.C. in the Middle East the first remnants of perfume and cosmetics vases appeared. Ancient Egyptians believed that perfume was the sweat of the sun god, Ra. Because fragrance was precious and costly, it was reserved for royalty, clergy, and religious celebrations. Ancient Greeks and Romans meticulously documented perfume recipes and processes, enabling us to recreate them in the modern age. In ancient China, incense was used for disinfection and purity. Later during the Renaissance in Europe, perfumes were used to mask body odors resulting from the sanitary practices of the day.

The modern perfume industry didn’t begin until the late 1800’s with the discovery of synthetic compounds. Mass production shortly ensued—fast forward to the multi-billion-dollar fragrance industry of the 21st century.

natural perfume

natural essential oil perfume

The differences are stark: natural fragrances are derived from plants using distillation, expression, and extraction while synthetic fragrances have either been chemically created (mostly from petroleum) to smell like plants or chemically modified from their natural state. Not only are natural fragrances better for the environment, they are safer for our skin too (our largest organ!). Synthetic perfume has been known to cause skin irritations, allergies, migraines, nausea, and asthma. Even worse, our skin absorbs much of these chemicals into the bloodstream. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) concluded that many of these chemicals labeled as “fragrance” have been shown to impact hormone activity, decrease sperm count, cause reproductive malformation, and have been linked to liver and breast cancers, diabetes, and obesity. In fact, a study spearheaded by the EWG found over 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in umbilical cord blood.

Fortunately, natural perfumes are reemerging in the beauty industry as modern consumers become more aware and educated about the choice between natural and synthetic fragrances.

Forager Botanicals offers four natural organic perfume scents, each light and feminine:

Bloom—with notes of spring blossoms and fresh-cut green stems

Island Lei—with notes of tropical flowers, sandalwood, and vanilla

Nectar—with notes of luscious flowers, citrus, and honey

Woodland—with notes of cedarwood, high alps lavender, and green leaves 

We use all natural (organic when possible) botanical essential oils and our scents are:

  • 95% organic ingredients
  • 100% natural plant-based ingredients
  • free from harmful synthetics 
  • color, paraben, sulfate, and preservative free
  • not tested on animals
  • vegan 

Our 2 fl. oz. bottles are $98 and can be ordered here. Or check out all four scents in our rollerball collection for just $88 of 10ml each.

Not sure which to try? Start with our sampler pack, 1.5 ml of all four scent for $25.

by JENN FREEDMAN