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Clearing the Air: In Praise of Synthetics

Posted: January 7, 2008

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Sims: We wonder what would be left of fragrance houses. I think the loss from an economic standpoint would be tremendous. The industry would become an unaffordable luxury; only the wealthiest people would be able to use fragrances if we were left with just naturals. So, in addition to having a limited palette, it would be too expensive for the average consumer.

The effects on consumers would be devastating. The pleasures of daily life experienced through household and personal care use, both of which use huge quantities of synthetic ingredients, would disappear. Can you imagine laundry without fragrance and bathing in the morning without fragrance? All of the things that I think have become sort of subconscious pleasures would become obsolete.

Garlick: If synthetics were banned it would take us back to the state of the fragrance industry in the 19th century. As Heather mentioned, that was when fragrance was a true luxury. It wasn’t available to most people because of the cost. The perfumers’ palette at that time was a very limited one, consisting of just what could be derived from nature.

As for what would be lost if synthetics were banned … we would lose the very foundations of perfumery. We would lose the basic floral notes such as jasmine and rose because we couldn’t afford them. And we would lose muguet (lily of the valley) because it can only be created synthetically. The aliphatic aldehydes (such as aldehyde C-11) are something that perfumers almost take for granted these days. These ingredients are inexpensive; they have a remarkable effect on the performance and the aesthetic quality of a fragrance. They bring elegance and a complexity that you couldn’t achieve with natural ingredients.

Check out the final part of the interview in the January 23 edition of P&Fnow, where Garlick and Sims will discuss:

  • their favorite synthetics
  • examples of fine fragrances using synthetics
  • how naturals and synthetics can work hand-in-hand to create successful fragrances