Lab Synthesized Fragrance Oils vs Nature Derived Scents ?
When you smell a flower, you are smelling a combination of many different molecules that together give the flower that signature scent. But there is always one or more molecules that are the most responsible for that specific scent. In the 19th century, when the art of chemical synthesis was becoming more advanced, chemists were learning to synthesize the molecules responsible for a particular scent of a flower. So instead of growing, harvesting and obtaining an absolute oil or an enfleurage from a flower or other botanicals, they could just synthesize the molecule responsible for that scent in the laboratory and use it in formulating a product.
Generally, synthesizing these molecules is much more cost effective than obtaining from botanical sources. This is because very large quantities can be produced using other readily available chemicals (usually petrochemicals), as opposed to obtaining very small quantities from plants that need to be grown, harvested, and extracted. Technological advances have made synthesis automated which lowers the cost of production down resulting in lower prices for consumers. Also you can get very specific to the type of scent you desire when you synthesize it in a laboratory rather than when you extract if from a botanical source. You can also make up a new scent or fragrance oil that does not even exist in any flower or botanical.
A fragrance oil whether naturally occurring or not, can be synthesized in a laboratory starting with benzene molecule ( a petrochemical known to be carcinogenic). No matter how a fragrance oil or any compound is synthesized, its purity level is never 100%. Said differently, there will always be a small percentage of impurities that gets carried over in each step of the synthesis. These impurities can come from hazardous and non-hazardous reagents, solvents and bi-products that are formed in each step. Purification techniques do get rid of impurities to levels of 90% and higher but never 100%. An essential oil, absolute oil or enfleurage of a flower will never contain the same impurities as a lab made molecule, especially if the method of extraction uses carbon dioxide (CO2) or Water as the solvent. When making an enfleurage, petals are immersed in a plant oil such as coconut or palm oil.
As of March 1st, a widely used fragrance oil ingredient, Butylphenyl Methylpropional also known as Lilial has been banned to use in Europe (not USA) due to the reproductive hazards and health issues it has been causing. (Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety). Lilial is a synthetic ingredient that mimics the scent of lilly of the valley and is widely used in popular topical and spray products. Even though some in the industry call this ingredient natural occurring, I have not been able to find any botanicals that their chemical composition contains this molecule. Therefore, it is not a naturally occurring molecule and is only synthesized.
Essential oils and enfleurage of all kinds of flowers and spices have been used for centuries without causing any known health issues when used in the right concentration. I believe when making edible or topical products, using a natural source for color or scent is the safer option for our health and environment. When we just rely on nature to obtain fragrance molecules, we will not be able to produce every scent that our generations are used to smelling, but what if asthma and allergy symptoms reduce dramatically when we stay away from fake scents in all our products? Also when we rely on nature as a source for our fragrance oils we are reducing the accumulation of chemical wastes (hazardous and non-hazardous) and dependence on fossil fuel.
At CT Organics, we have always stayed away from using fragrance oil in our products due to well known health and skin problems they have caused; such as allergies, asthma and irritation. It does not make sense to add ingredients to a product for only the purpose of scent when they cause problem to our health, especially when inhaled. Excluding artificial scent and color from our daily life is an effective way to help our planet, reduce waste accumulation and dependence on fossil fuel.