Head to Toe: Scent Matters



WITH VALENTINE'S DAY FAST APPROACHING, a busy holiday for global perfume (and cologne) sales, we thought the timing was right for our next installment of the Head to Toe Green Beauty Guide on perfume. Admittedly, it's a loaded topic as many of us are firmly attached to and even self-identify with a signature scent, but this truly is a case of buyer beware.

The sense of smell is among the most powerful, capable of calling up memories and associations so clear and bright—the lingering smell of someone's perfume on a favourite sweater, or blanket, instantly carries you away. But hidden among the high-notes in synthetic perfumes are dangers more lingering and powerful than you might ever have imagined.


I still remember sitting in on lectures at univeristy and feeling surprised when announcements were made that perfumes were banned from certain classes due to allergies and other symptoms such as nausea and headache. As someone who had only dabbled with perfumes it didn't bother me, but the outcry from fellow female students was my first indication that perfume and a sexy, signature scent is a powerful component of a woman's beauty routine. Having researched much further and educated myself on green beauty, I now know that the suspected list of side-effects due to routine exposure have gotten much more serious, including birth and reproductive problems, a somber thought considering so many women spritz themselves almost daily.

So why the big scare? A few points to consider:

  • 90 to 95% of synthetic perfume ingredients are coal or petroleum based
  • According to the US FDA, 30% of all allergic reactions are due to fragrances
  • A single perfume can contain up to 500 synthetic chemicals, including the big one, Phthalates
  • The U.S. National Academy of Science has grouped fragrances with insecticides, heavy metals, and solvents as chemicals that should be prioritized for neurotoxicity testing

More About Phthalates

Phthalates are used in a wide range of products, commonly in plastics (keeping them soft and pliable) and in cosmetic and perfume products. It is among a group of chemicals that are easily absorbed into the skin and bioaccumulate in the body (we can't get rid of them). The Canadian Cancer Society and the US National Toxicology Program (NTP) (among many other research groups) classifies them as strongly suspected to be linked to, or cause, cancer. Furthermore, they are strongly suspected of contributing to fertility problems, and they are known endocrine disrupters, meaning they mimic the action of certain hormones within the body, wreaking further havoc.



Like many things, the answer is found in nature as perfumes made with pure, organic when possible, nonsynthetic essential oils smell heavenly and are safe. So it is indeed still possible to smell postivively wonderful, sensual and alluring, without the heavy dose of dubious chems. Look for brands that avoid the use of petrochemicals, dyes, parabens, etc (see more here). My favourites contain only distilled flower essences, plant extracts and oils, and high-quality, pure essential oils—best case scenario these are also organic, non-GMO, and/or wildcrafted. In using and experimenting with organic perfumes, one main difference you may find is that organic, plant-based perfumes will fade faster as they don't contain synthetic ingredients to make the scent last for the entire day, but you can get around the problem by keeping a small bottle in your bag to reapply on the go. 

To help get you started, here are a few of our favourite, tried-and-true brands:

LURK As shown in the photos, we have a love affair with this brand. Soft yet strong, their powerful essential oil blends will win you over. From their website: 

"We painstakingly compound each scent using only organic, wild crafted, supercritical (CO2) extracted & certified hexane free absolutes to guarantee purity and olfactive quality. Our oils and raw materials are verified by a variety of processes from gas chromatography to USDA organic certification. We formulate to produce the purest, safest products possible that are sophisticated, complex and provide for a beautiful experience.

Our creations contain none of the synthetics or chemicals associated with mainstream perfumery and skincare and we do not use oils that are diluted, engineered or fractionated. We are uncompromising in our methods and in our commitment to creating products that sustain the living and olfactive quality of our oils. This strict adherence to our standards has yielded ground breaking luxury organic fragrances that demonstrate complexity, relevance and depth."


More From the Green Beauty Series:

On Skin | On Teeth