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Example of Rose accord (from the perfumer's apprentice):

Peonile - 20
dimethyl Benzyl Carbinyl Acetate - 15
Geranyl Acetate - 12.5
Phenyl Ethyl Phenyl Acetate - 10
Citronellol - 10
Undecavertol - 3
Phenyl Ethyl Acetate - 2.5
Rose Oxide - 1.5
Damascone Delta - 1
Isopropyl Myristate (carrier/solvent) - 24.5,

30 Aug 2021 by Estelle Schmitt

Reading time: 8min42

Eco label you can trust

Another way to know if a business has integrity is by reading their website and learning about their background. Read their blog. There is usually a coherence through their visual identity, each blog post and the products they have. Look for transparency in their ingredients. Business owners promoting their sustainability, safety or ethical practices will be open to sharing information with you and answering all of your questions. 

Follow bloggers that specialize in green beauty, sustainability and fair trade. They do an amazing job at reviewing products for you. 

I hope that this blog has answered some of your questions and empowered you to make a conscious, informed choice for your next perfume or cosmetic purchase. 

I invite you to discover my botanical perfume range at www.estelleshaven.com. We are amongst the finalist for the Clean + Conscious awards 2021!

Feel free to connect with me through social media/email and ask me any questions. 


The only defence against these practices is for the consumer (you) to inform yourself and take time to read the ingredient’s labels. Knowledge is power

But you can also trust certifications like Vegan Australia certified, Certified organic, Fair-trade and Cruelty-free. 

These certifications mean that the business has undergone a rigorous audit and had to prove that each ingredient used and machinery and supplier used was compliant with the certification. It is a time and money consuming process that only legitimate businesses will subject themselves to. (Keep in mind that is process is costly and therefore only possible for well-established businesses).

Solutions against greenwashing

Greenwashing is the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company's products are more environmentally sound. Greenwashing is considered an unsubstantiated claim to deceive consumers into believing that a company's products are environmentally friendly.

They will usually use the colour codes of real ethical companies, mostly green/brown, earthy tones, and use wording like natural, organic or pure to dupe the consumer into believing that the product is something that it isn’t. 


The central danger in greenwashing is that it can mislead people into acting unsustainably. If a company says they're eco-friendly, you may want to buy their products. If these environmental claims turn out to be false, then you've accidentally contributed to harming the environment by supporting the company.

This is a very opportunistic way of selling. One in which the business is showing no respect for its consumer. Greenwashing has many consequences, which are very well explained in this article by Seagoinggren.

In botanical and natural perfumery, the trend is to disclose the list of ingredients. In conventional perfumery, manufacturers are labelling products with fragrance components merely as “fragrance” is a holdover from the fragrance industry’s long-held tradition of keeping trade secrets for fragrance formulas. They have historically kept these secrets close to the chest, claiming the formulas to be the lifeblood of their industry. As a result of this claim, numerous consumer product regulations have exempted fragrances from ingredient disclosure requirements.

So look for the labels on your perfumes. If it reads 'fragrance', it probably contains an array of synthetic chemicals, some of which are known to be endocrine disruptors, carcinogens or allergens.  

Natural/botanical fragrances will have a list of their ingredients looking like this: 

Certified organic jojoba oil (Simmondsia Chinensis), Orange essential oil (Citrus aurantium Dulcis), Cedarwood (Cedrus Atlantica), Cinnamon (Cinnamomum Verum), Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin), Neroli (Citrus aurantium linne), Petitgrain (Citrus aurantium Amara).

The essential oil's common name is followed by its Latin name. Ingredients appear in order of greater quantity. If the perfumer uses natural isolates, the molecule name will appear followed by the plant it is extracted from: Linalool laveo from Ho oil.

Beware: if a perfume mentions Rose, without listing its ingredients, one can assume they are accords rather than natural ingredients. Accords are the pooling of different raw materials, balanced and harmonised to create a unique scent, defining the soul of the fragrance. The accord is made up of a maximum of 6 to 10 different synthetic components to recreate the scent of Rose.

Greenwashing in perfumery

Sandalwood sustainable plantation in Australia

The downside of this trend is that some companies try to look ethical and sustainable when they aren’t. It is purely a marketing strategy. This is called Greenwashing. 

Agarwood is a fragrant dark resinous wood used in incense, perfume, and small carvings. It is formed in the heartwood of aquilaria trees when they become infected with a type of mold (Phialophora parasitica). Before infection, the heartwood is odourless, relatively light and pale coloured; however, as the infection progresses, the tree produces a dark aromatic resin, called aloes or agar (not to be confused with the edible, algae-derived agar), in response to the attack, which results in a very dense, dark, resin-embedded heartwood. The resin-embedded wood is valued in Indian-North Eastern culture for its distinctive fragrance and thus is used for incense and perfumes. The aromatic qualities of agarwood are influenced by the species, geographic location, branch, trunk and root origin, length of time since infection, and harvesting and processing methods. 

First-grade agarwood is one of the most expensive natural raw materials in the world, with 2010 prices for superior pure material as high as US$100,000/kg. Therefore Villagers around Aquileia forests fight to access the agarwood while Rangers get killed to protect it.  This makes these areas very unstable. Police have tried to regulate Agarwood harvesting, but this strategy has only created a stronger black market, making the prices rise even more. Monks have had to hire protection to save an ancient sacred Agarwood tree from being poached near their temple. They also turned down an offer from Japanese people to buy the tree for $23 million! 

If you wish to inform yourself further on this issue, I suggest watching the documentary Scent From Heaven 

As a conscious consumer, I want to know that the products that I buy do not participate in the endangerment of botanical species, or increase the demand, therefore, encouraging the development of black markets. 

As a manufacturer, it is my responsibility to inform myself about the ingredients I use and educate the consumer.

Fortunately, awareness is rising around those issues, and some essential oil producers are now beginning to specialize in ethical and sustainable harvesting, communicating with their clients with transparency and even implementing programs to support local economies and small businesses in developing areas. 

Solutions are arising, and in the 5 years that I have been making botanical perfumes, I have seen a steady increase in those social programs, in the evelopment of sustainable packaging along the supply chain, in the development of sustainable plantations and—some regulation on harvesting. 

This is inspiring and heartwarming. 


All these plant materials are used both in aromatherapy and botanical perfumery. Besides being endangered, which is a disaster in itself, some of these plants are in such high demand because of their high price on the market that they have created dangerous situations. It is the case for Agarwood. 

  • Agarwood is used in perfumery, incense, and carving. Species are vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered.​
  • Cedarwood Atlas, Cedrus atlantica and other Cedrus and Juniperus species.
    Cedarwood is used in construction and furniture and to make essential oil. Atlas cedarwood is an endangered species, and the Atlas Mountains of Morocco have been heavily deforested.
  • Elemi, Canarium luzonicum
    Elemi is in the same plant genus as frankincense. Its resin is harvested to make essential oil and other medicinal products. Vulnerable.
  • Frankincense, Boswellia spp.
    Multiple species of frankincense are on the IUCN Red List. The plant’s resin is often overharvested, jeopardizing the life of the tree.
  • Myrrh, Commiphora spp.
    Resin from this tree has been overharvested to make essential oils, perfumes, incents, and medicines.
  • Palo Santo, Burseara spp.
    Palo Santo, also called Holy Wood, is a South American tree. Critically endangered.
  • Ravensara, Ravensara aromatic
    Plant genera Ravensara and Cryptocarya are aromatic evergreen subtropical trees. Both plant genera include threatened species due to habitat destruction.
  • Rosewood, Dalbergia, Ocotea, and Aniba spp.
    Rosewood’s rich burgundy colour and aromatic scent has been prized and illegally overharvested from the dwindling forests of Brazil and Madagascar. The situation is critical. Multiple species in the Dalbergia and Ocotea genera and Aniba roasaeodora are on the IUCN Red List (1).
  • Sandalwood, Santalum spp.
    Indian sandalwood, Santalum album, is vulnerable due to disease, grazing animals, fires, and a rate of harvesting that far exceeds the growth rate for many years. Heavy international demand with poor regulation contributes to the problem. Multiple species in the Santalum genus are on the IUCN Redlist.
  • Spikenard, various Aralia and Nardostachys spp.Rhizomes from the spikenard plant are used for medicinal purposes and to make essential oil. Multiple species are listed as endangered or vulnerable.

Visist www.iucnredlist.org for more info.

Endangered botanicals used in botanical perfumery are:

You must have understood by now that botanical perfumes are just natural perfumes using only plant materials, no animal products. They can contain essential oils, absolutes, resins and natural isolates. They are diluted with alcohol, oil or water. Therefore, botanical fragrances are suitable for vegans.

Going with botanical perfumery surely alleviates animal suffering but what I discovered regarding plant harvesting was just as concerning. 

Just as the demand for some animal products for natural perfumery has created a black market and endangered some species, certain plants have now also joined the list of concerns.

Botanical perfumes definition

1. Botanical raw materials, such as flowers, barks, seeds, leaves, twigs, roots, rinds, etc.

2. Exuded materials from plants, such as oleoresins, balsams, and gums

3. Animal derivatives, such as ambergris and Hyraceum tinctures and absolutes, etc.

4. Soil products such as mitti and minerals such as amber

5. Essential oils derived from natural raw materials by dry (destructive), steam, or water distillation or by mechanical processes, such as expressed or cold-pressed. Also included are other forms of essential oils, such as rectified oils, fractional distillations, molecular distillations, terpene-less oils, and folded oils

6. Natural isolates are a molecules removed/isolated from a natural fragrance material. Processes that are acceptable for removing/isolation are: fractional distillations, rectifications, and molecular distillations of natural fragrance materials as defined by the Guild (exceeds ISO 9235) Revised 2/15/12

7. Other distillation products such as hydrolats (hydrosols, floral waters)

8. Tinctures derived by macerating a natural raw material in ethanol, such as tincture of vanilla

9. Infusions derived by macerating a natural raw material in wax such as jojoba oil or a fixed oil such as almond oil

10. a. Concretes, absolutes, and resinoids, all extracted from natural raw materials using a solvent other than water, followed by removal of the solvent by natural methods such as distillation/evaporation. Solvents may include hexane, CO2 and others.

b. Absolutes and pomades from enfleurage by the methods in 10.a

11. Attars, rhus, and choyas

A fragrant natural product is made by combining a natural fragrance compound with a wholly natural carrier. A fragrant natural product may be labelled 'natural' (e.g. natural perfume, natural soap, natural massage oil, room spray, linen spray, etc.)

Any fragrant product made with a partly or wholly synthetic carrier and a partly or wholly synthetic fragrance compound may not use the term 'natural' on its label.

When I embarked on my natural perfumes journey, after 10 years working with essential oils, my ambition was to offer perfumes that were ethical, fair trade and sustainable. I wanted to offer ingredient transparency to my customers as the lack of transparency from the perfume industry was a source of frustration to me.   

(I'll explain why in a later blog).

From this first definition of natural perfumes, we understand that they contain both animal and botanical ingredients. To further my investigation in my ethical quest, I decided to inform myself further on the kind of animal ingredients found and how they are harvested.

Except for Ambergris and Hyraceum, each of these ingredients requires, in the best of time, the explotation of the animal, and at the worst of times, the killing of the animal.  Some of these animals are now on the list of concerns as their overhunting has greatly reduced their population. As these ingredients sell for a very high price (mush glands sell for $45,000/kg), it is challenging to regulate the black market. Animal rights groups, such as World Animal Protection, express concern that harvesting secretions is cruel to animals. 

Since the apparition of synthetic musks, this practice has greatly reduced but, with the recent resurgence of natural perfumery, it is my concern that demands for these products will grow again. 

To be aligned with my values, not using animal ingredients seemed to be the obvious choice.

  • Civet: the anal secretions from a cat-like animal native to Asia and Africa
  • Ambergris: sperm whale secretions Ambergris is a solid, waxy material produced in the sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) and the pygmy sperm whale (Kogia breviceps). It is, however, only found in about 1-5% of these whales, so it is not a common substance. It is suggested that it is formed in the whale's intestine to cover the indigestible objects from the animals on which it feeds (mostly the beaks of squid). A common misconception is that ambergris is released as faeces; however, whale faecal matter is fluid, and whales could have difficulty processing large pieces of solid matter. Large pieces of ambergris seem to build up in the whale intestine over its life and are usually released when the whale dies. Initially, it floats on the ocean's surface and is black and sticky. Exposure to sun, air and saltwater oxidizes it, and eventually, it becomes grey and waxy, often still embedded with small squid beaks. And losing its unpleasant odour. 
  • Musk: animal secretions from the musk gland found only in adult males. It lies in a sac located between the genitals and the umbilicus, and its secretions are most likely used to attract mates.​
  • Honey: bee secretions
  • Milk: animal mammary secretions, composed of pus, fat, and proteins​
  • Castoreum: beaver anal secretions 
  • Hyraceum: the petrified and rock-like excrement composed of both urine and feces excreted by the Cape hyrax (Procavia capensis, also referred to as the rock hyrax or dassie). 

List of scented animal ingredients that can be present in Natural perfumes:

The American natural perfume guild has a great definition for natural perfume: 

Natural perfumery is the art of blending fragrance ingredients of natural origin (see below) to create aesthetically pleasing natural fragrance compounds used to fragrance a full range of products, from fine perfumes to personal and household products. The natural fragrance compound is the aromatic foundation for fragrant natural products and naturally fragranced products (see below).

Fragrance ingredients of natural origin include:

Defining natural perfume:

Rose harvesting - Ethical perfumery blog

Why is it important to know your perfume's ingredients if you value ethics and sustainability?

Natural perfume vs botanical perfume: an ethical quest.

In the last 10 years, we have seen a surge in consumers awareness around fair trading, ethics, sustainability and organic ingredients. It is no surprise that this trend has finally touched the perfume industry. As a result of this desire for more conscious products, some companies have created alternatives to conventional perfumes (usually formulated almost exclusively with synthetic ingredients), creating fragrances with natural ingredients. 

In this blog, I want to inform you of the differences between 'natural perfumes' and 'botanical perfumes' and what you need to know when choosing your next fragrance. 

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