close up of yellow rose

I am a fragrance obsessive and feel pretty sure that I’m not the only one.

There is something so immediate and primal about the effect a scent has on you. The olfactory membrane, buried deep up our noses, is the only place in the human body where the central nervous system comes into direct contact with the outside world, giving us an instant response to threat or pleasure.

Nature creates scents with very particular evolutionary purposes in mind but like so much in nature it has been subverted by humans, and in the case of perfume it no longer even seems to play a part.

 So here are the 5 reasons why I no longer wear perfume:

  1. It is not natural - If you smell of roses it is highly unlikely to have anything to do with roses. It takes around 60,000 roses to produce an ounce of rose absolute, with flowers being hand-picked before sunrise. It is justifiably beyond affordable for most of us. So fragrance houses deconstruct the chemical ingredients of the rose, and then reconstruct it synthetically.  This is great for the mass manufacturing of perfume as it means that once you have created your formulation based on various chemical combinations, and spent squillions marketing it, it will always be the same. Unlike the rose which changes with the soil, the seasons, the time of day it is picked and so on. In short, perfumes are synthetically manufactured, largely from petroleum extracts, and have little to do with nature.
  1. Our bodies don’t like it - So the fact that scientific studies now show that a third of us are intolerant to these fragrances is not that surprising as nature never intended us to inhale them. We have all experienced the over enthusiastic perfume wearer wafting into a room. Interestingly, if you use the same fragrance often, perhaps a signature scent, this reduces your ability to smell it, so in a way this behaviour is inevitable. Some countries are getting wise to this and banning the wearing of perfumes in public places as poor health costs governments money.
  2. It is a self-regulated industry - There is really nobody looking out for us here, and one of the reasons is that the harm done by clusters of chemicals, working in various combinations, and reacting to everyones unique microbiome in different ways, is impossible to quantify, and certainly too expensive to study. A handful of ingredients have been studied and occasionally banned but only after considerable harm has been proven. Regulation is carried out by the Fragrance industry itself, which many governments seem happy to go along with as the issue problematically falls between Ministries of Health and Environment.
  3. You don’t know what’s in it - The ingredients of all “perfumes” and “fragrances” are a trade secret. This makes sense for a business where you don’t want to lose your magic or be copied, but again the losers are the customers who have no idea what it is they are reacting to and how they might avoid it in future.
  4. It can get into your bloodstream - More shocking than the synthetic nature of perfumes, the intolerance we increasingly have to them, the lack of regulation, and the absence of transparency is the fact that some molecules are absorbed into your bloodstream. Perhaps only the small ones, and perhaps your body deals with it, but there is no proof of this. The ability of certain chemicals to penetrate the blood brain barrier is utilised in many transdermal treatments and medications, and often to great effect. Personally, I would rather find another way to smell good naturally than put my body through this.


So, I have sought alternative ways of using natural scent to perfume my life and continue to leave the world of perfume to the uninitiated, which is now not you.


January 22, 2021 — Kim Brookes