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Comparatively Speaking: Natural vs. Synthetic Fragrance
By: Anthony J. O'Lenick, Jr., Siltech LLC; and Ed Matson, Carrubba Inc.
Posted: December 22, 2011
The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) only allows fragrances marked as "natural" to contain fragrance ingredients that correspond to the terms and definitions laid down in the International Organization for Standardization's ISO 9235:1997 (Aromatic natural raw materials – Vocabulary), or substances already present in them and isolated from them by purely physical means.
In general, ISO 9235 defines natural aromatic raw materials as being physically obtained from plants using distillation, expression and extraction. Synthetically reconstituted essential oils, synthetic nature-identical ingredients and intentionally chemically modified natural raw materials (e.g. chemical acetylation of essential oil) cannot be used in fragrance compounds that are described as being natural. The Natural Products Association goes one step further to not permit the use of petrochemical solvents in the extraction process, so concretes and absolutes made using hexane are not permitted. Natural fragrances are complex compositions of natural aromatic raw materials such as essential oils, fractions of essential oils, isolates, exudates such as resins, distillates, extracts and volatile concentrates.
Fragrance (Synthetic Fragrance)
Fragrances are complex compounds comprised of aromatic raw materials, at least one of which is not a natural aromatic raw material as defined above. A fragrance may contain natural aromatics in combination with synthetics, or could be 100% synthetic.
Synthetic aromatic raw materials have either been chemically created (mostly from petroleum), or started as naturals and have had their chemical structure modified. Synthetic aromatic raw materials fall into the categories of chemically modified natural raw materials, nature identical raw materials and aroma chemicals that do not exist in nature.