It’s no secret we all love smelling our best, so having our favorite fragrance on hand is a must. Of course, we don’t want this to come at great cost to the environment, so I was curious to find out more about the true environmental impact of perfumes. 

So is perfume eco-friendly? You can tell an eco-friendly perfume by looking into how transparent the brand is regarding their ingredients. Look for brands that respect the environment by being cruelty-free and use ethically sourced natural materials while promoting sustainability across the industry. 

There are many perfume brands that indeed use natural ingredients but are sourced in ways that are cruel to animals or harmful to the environment. The more you are aware of perfume production processes, the more you can be an informed consumer. 

What Exactly Is in Your Perfume?

It may be difficult to tell what exactly is inside your perfume bottle as many brands mask their labels with single words like “parfum”, “aroma”, or “eau de toilette”. But the truth is, many brands hide this because they may not produce their perfume with ethically sourced ingredients. 

Synthetic ingredients are much cheaper for brands to produce, but the benefits of natural perfumes make consumers less likely to trigger allergies, skin irritation, asthma, or headaches. Since there is a now a growing demand by many eco-friendly conscious consumers opting for more natural options, perfume producers have followed suit. 

Now, you may be thinking, all-natural ingredients are better for the environment, right? 

Think again. 

Natural ingredients can be just as problematic as synthetic ingredients. In fact, many raw plant ingredients are overexploited by perfume makers which are now threatened with extinction. The use of “natural” animal-derived ingredients also raises concerns about animal cruelty. 

The global fragrance industry is worth nearly 43 billion dollars. These producers are the biggest consumers of precious oils which are extracted from rare wild plants due to their unique scent profiles. Sandalwood is popular for that woody exotic scent we all love. Harvested mostly in India, it is now almost extinct in the wild. An eco-friendly perfume brand will mention the origin of their sandalwood if used in their formula. 

Both sandalwood and aquilaria trees are slow-growing, so it takes a long time for them to mature. In order to extract their valuable oil, perfume producers need a mature tree. Farmers cannot keep up with the industry demand, poachers step in and destroy species of these wild incense trees. 

Brands that use animal-derived ingredients have slowly been decreasing over the years, however, there are still many brands that choose to prioritize them over synthetic ingredients for their rare and complex scent profiles which cannot be reproduced in a lab. 

The origin of animal-derived ingredients in perfumes may come as a surprise to you. Civet musk comes from rear-end glandular secretions from exotic civet cats, the leather scent of castoreum comes from the castor sacs of beavers, musk comes from perineal secretions from endangered musk deer, and the sweet-smelling earthy aroma of ambergris is a substance derived from the digestive system of sperm whales. Thinking twice about your old perfume?

More often than not, the harvesting of these animal-derived ingredients is not cruelty-free. The civet cat, valued for its glandular secretions, is captured from the wild and kept on farms in small cages and dark rooms without ventilation. There is a high mortality rate among captured animals and extraction methods are painful.

Castoreum, derived from beaver sacs, is known for its ultimate leather smell making it a popular ingredient in high-end perfume brands. It’s very expensive and impossible to get from live beavers, so they must be hunted and killed in order to remove and extract the ingredient. 

Musk is an ingredient that is found in the glands of certain subspecies of deer. Illegal hunting of musk deer has lowered their population significantly. In order for poachers to make profit three to five deer need to be killed. Poachers may also go after endangered sperm whales in order to sell ambergris which can go for extremely high prices on the black market.

What Can I Do as a Consumer?

As a consumer, the best way to guarantee that your perfume is eco-friendly and cruelty-free is to research the brand. If a brand is clear on what their ingredients are and how they source them, chances are they are taking a responsible approach towards their production and ingredient sourcing with respect to the environment.

When looking into a brand, look for keywords such as cruelty-free, non-toxic, free of added dyes, paraben-free (chemical preservatives), and phthalate-free (plastics). Look for background additional background information on the brand. Are they a small local company or are they a massive commercial corporation? Where do they produce and manufacture their products? Find out whether or not their ingredients are ethically sourced and cruelty-free. Also, notice if the packaging is recyclable or produced from recyclable materials. 

The Best Eco-Friendly Fragrances 

Some smaller perfume brands have begun to make commitments towards sustainability when producing their fragrances and sourcing their ingredients. Here are some of the best eco-friendly perfumes available. 

Lavanila The Healthy Fragrance

Lavanila produces fragrances with natural and organic oils that are paraben-free, cruelty-free, and contains no added dyes. Pure Vanilla by Lavanila The Healthy Fragrance (link to read reviews on Amazon) contains ingredients which are responsibly sourced contain anti-oxidants, vitamins, natural oils which are non-toxic.

Most of their fragrances have a vanilla-based scent with an infusion of another fruit such as grapefruit or coconut. In addition to packaging their products in recyclable packaging, they are a brand that is committed to a greener planet by being transparent in their production process while pledging to plant a tree for every perfume purchased. 

Pacifica Beauty 

Pacifica is an environmentally friendly brand that specializes in 100% vegan and cruelty-free cosmetics and skincare products. Pacifica Hawaiian Ruby Guava Perfume (link to read reviews on Amazon) is a tropical blend of sweet berry with notes of guava, citrus, and coconut.

Hand-produced from a natural grain alcohol base their ingredients are globally sourced with sustainability in mind. it’s a guilt-free fragrance that’s non-toxic and free from parabens or phthalates. 

By Rosie Jane

By Rosie Jane makes handcrafted fragrances using only natural and organic ingredients that are paraben, phthalate, and cruelty-free. Available in roll-on and spray, their fragrance Leila Lou Eau de Parfum (link to read reviews on Amazon) has a light spring-tone with notes of pear, jasmine, and fresh-cut grass.

A brand committed to the environment, they have even taken the extra step for sustainability in their manufacturing – all the paper packaging they use is 100% recyclable made from wind power and vegetable-based inks. 

Final Thoughts

If you are an environmentally conscious consumer like myself, you don’t have to stop using perfumes altogether. Instead, look to have a more careful approach beforehand by researching a bit more into the brands you choose to buy. Find and choose brands that are open about respecting the environment during the process of sourcing ingredients and have an upfront eco-friendly ethos for change across the industry.