top of page

Is The Perfume A Story About Murder?

Updated: Jan 17

Have you read the book by Patrick Süskind, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer? If you haven't, it is worth a try, or you can always watch the movie based on the novel. The book takes you to the France of the eighteenth-century, and tells you the story of a perfumer's apprentice obsessed with the creation of the perfect perfume made of the one odour he cannot capture. It is exquisite, magical: the scent of a young virgin. And to get it he must kill. Hauntingly powerful tale of murder and sensual depravity. Although a dark story, The Perfume takes you to the old perfumery and its 'savoir faire'.

Trying to link the past with the present perfume industry unfortunately reveals a radical disconnection from the original therapeutic purpose and use of pure essential oils. Today’s synthetic fragrances are far away from the healing balms treasured so much by the ancient world that some were worth more than gold.

Instead of being medicinal, today’s scented cosmetics and fragrance products are associated with diabetes, obesity, autism, ADD/ADHD and hormone disruption. Sadly, the person wearing or using the fragrance is not the only one affected. Synthetic perfumes affect air quality for those sharing the space as well.

From pure to perverse, it is twisted irony that the word fragrance has now gained infamy as the new second-hand smoke when the etymology of the word perfume comes from the Latin expression “per fumo” meaning “through smoke”.

So... What is actually in a scented product?

“Fragrance” or “parfum” on an ingredient list actually represents a trade secret fragrance recipe that could be made up of not just one or two chemicals, but hundreds of synthetic chemicals on mainstream cosmetic and perfumery industry. These chemicals are selected from a reservoir of 5,000 ingredients. And of this large number of ingredients, none of them actually have to be disclosed or tested for safety.

According to an Environmental Working Group (EWG) study, 72% of products with the ingredient “fragrance” contained endocrine disruptors called phthalates. Phthalates have been linked to diabetes, obesity, liver and breast cancer, hormone disruption affecting fertility and development as well as linked to ADHD and Autism in first and third trimester prenatal exposure. The National Academy of Sciences, working with an expert panel, stated that there may be cancer-causing chemicals in fragrance recipes. Unfortunately, because of secrecy and a lack of transparency in labelling, there is really no way for a consumer to make informed decisions about scented products.

Up to 95% of these the synthetic chemicals used to make fragrance recipes are derived from petrochemicals. These particular ingredients are known (according to a 1991 EPA analysis) to cause cancer, birth defects, nervous system disorders, asthma, and allergies. To make matters even worse for the unsuspecting public, many products labelled as “unscented” are actually the scented product with the addition of another masking fragrance.

Now… What about natural scents or essential oils?

Unfortunately, the term “natural fragrance” or “essential oil” on an ingredient list does not necessarily mean it is totally safe. In a study analysing 25 top-selling products, researchers found that the “green”, natural, and organic scented products emitted just as many hazardous chemicals as regular perfumed products. Why? That’s because many essential oils in consumer products are processed with a toxic solvent. In addition, there are companies selling essential oils that do not follow any safety regulation, does not run any test, and yet they claim to be selling therapeutic grade essential oils that are not.

But I didn't mean to write this article to freak you out, but to help you make better choices...

So what can you do in this ocean of misinformation?

To ensure safety, essential oils in products should be verified as organic or wild crafted and extracted without solvents. For more information I recommend you to read my previous blog post Are you buying the right essential oils?

When buying an essential oil ask for its Certificate of Analysis with the complete analysis information, I’m not asking you to understand all the chemical analysis of it (that's my job) but I can assure you if a company is able to provide you with this you are more likely in good hands. On the other hand, the extraction method will be shown as well as the organic certification number helping you to do a better choice. I share here an example for you to see, the company name has been cut for Personal Data Protection and Privacy Law (it's one of my suppliers).

Unfortunately there are many small businesses that are not Organic Certified, although they produce following good practices; getting this certification is an expensive and very long process not every little biz can absorb, me included. Thus, when buying a fragrance or a scented product look for organic certified ingredients, some brands list all their ingredients and others rather to keep secret the composition of each product essential oils blend. I do, my synergies are what makes my products different and unique, however I always inform about the source of the essential oils that compose each synergy (organic, wild crafted and natural). It goes without saying I take very much care about all the ingredients I work with, putting a special emphasis on the essential oils. [If you would like to know more about my products, please click here to be redirected to our FAQ page]

Therefore, I’m not urging you here to rush and throw away every skincare care product or mainstream perfume you have that does not comply with the above; actually, this article was not meant to freak you out. What I would suggest you in order to enjoy a healthier lifestyle is to make more informed purchases and start including in your beauty routines more safe options.

May your days be perfumed only with dozens of flowers! Speaking of what, I'm actually wondering… Should we consider a bunch of chemicals a perfume just because it brings a scent? Because in my humble opinion… would you consider food a bunch of chemicals that brings you a flavour?

A true perfume should never be the story of a murderer!

Keep glowing naturally!

Sonia x

bottom of page