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Clearing the Air: In Praise of Synthetics

Posted: January 7, 2008

In the January issue of Perfumer & Flavorist magazine, Steve Tanner (Arylessence Inc. president and CEO) discusses "Misconceptions Surrounding the Fragrance Industry." In his article, Tanner stresses the need for improved communication within and outside of the fragrance industry for the continued use of safe materials (both natural and synthetic). Unfortunately, as the media promotes all-natural fragrances as healthier for the consumer and the environment, synthetic fragrances are misperceived as unsafe. Here, P&Fnow chats with two Arylessence perfumers—Bruce Garlick and Heather Sims—to elucidate the benefits of synthetic ingredients and what the industry would look like if synthetics were lost from the palette.

P&Fnow: As you see it, what are some of the unique benefits of synthetics?

Garlick: First of all, with synthetics you have absolutely predictable color and odor stability. You have consistent odor quality regardless of climatic variations and harvest variations. Additionally, they are very easy to work with. In many cases synthetics are capable of replacing natural ingredients that are derived from endangered species or botanicals. For example, ambergris has not been used in perfumery for decades because of the ban on whale products, but perfumers have Ambrox and other similar materials. Currently, the situation with sandalwood oil is very severe because the trees were being depleted. Now we have so many different synthetics that do a wonderful job of replacing sandalwood oil that I believe most fragrance houses aren’t using the natural sandalwood any longer. The use of animal-derived products, such as musk, is also very sensitive. Certainly, the increase of synthetic musks available to perfumers has helped enormously. Those are really important benefits of synthetics to perfumers.

Sims: Our creative pallet at the moment would be tremendously depleted without the use of synthetic ingredients.

P&Fnow: What would the fragrance industry look like if synthetic materials were lost?