Organic perfume

Photo: Studio D

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Organic Fragrance?
You'd want one for the same reason you would want any fragrance: You love the way it smells. But organic perfume has added appeal if you prefer subtler, more fleeting scents. Fragrances made from ingredients sourced from nature generally don't last as long on the skin as their synthetic counterparts, which are formulated from scent molecules engineered in a lab (USDA-certified perfumes are at least 95 percent organic; the Ecocert seal means that a product is a minimum of 95 percent natural and 10 percent organic). "The synthetic perfume industry is very focused on creating the luxury of long-lasting scent—but sometimes an ephemeral pleasure is more powerful," says Yael Alkalay, a perfumer and founder of Red Flower, which makes three organic fragrances. "Natural perfumes give you the opportunity to refresh scents during the day." Another benefit of organic fragrance: It doesn't contain phthalates, chemicals found in everything from perfume to plastic food containers to tap water. The FDA has not found definitive evidence that phthalates, in the trace amounts used in cosmetics, pose a safety risk, but because numerous studies have indicated that exposure could disrupt the body's endocrine system, some people choose to avoid these chemicals. An organic seal doesn't guarantee that a perfume won't cause allergies, though. "Many natural substances, such as rose oil, can cause some of the worst fragrance allergies," says New York City dermatologist Anne Chapas, MD. And there are some folks who think organic, when it comes to fragrance, is mostly a marketing gimmick. "Using only natural ingredients in a fragrance is a denial of some of perfume-making's great raw materials," says Chandler Burr, New York Times perfume critic and author of The Perfect Scent. "It's the equivalent of an architect refusing to use advanced carbon fibers and earthquake-resistant glass in favor of mud and straw and sticks. You can do it—and the results might be interesting—but there's no legitimate scientific reason for it." — Jenny Bailly


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