Have you ever noticed that the first thing you do when considering a skin care product is to smell it? The second is to spread a bit on the back of your hand and feel it. The skin is tied to human emotions1 and those two bits of sensorial information are often enough for many shoppers to decide if that product will make them happy.

Big beauty serves formulators a bevy of neutered choices to achieve their desired scent, look, thickness, texture, immediate feel and feel after twenty minutes – just long enough for you to say, “I’ll take it.” It’s not a big surprise that customers might become annoyed after buying the product based on look, scent and feel, only to find it fails to deliver the promised results. 

Here is an insider’s secret…for facial products, the maximum percentage of scent is between 0.3% and 1%. If that scent comes from an essential oil, great. But it often takes more essential oil to achieve a desired scent level than it does using a fragrance oil, and having more than 0.3% of any fragrance (essential oil or not) on facial skin can be irritating.

So are all fragrance oils bad? It depends on whether a fragrance oil is considered “natural.” A regular fragrance oil is made with a mix of aroma chemicals, resins and extracts. It can have up to 80 materials, and even though it may contain plant-based components, it’s not “natural” for labelling purposes. 

Enter natural fragrance oil. These beauties come from nature and may appear on the label as “natural fragrance oil.” They start with a plant source like lavender, cucumber or raspberry to name a few. Let’s take lavender for example. Its many components (linalyl acetate, linalool, b-caryophyllene and terpinen-4-ol) combine to give lavender its scent. To make a natural fragrance oil, one of those aromatic chemical components (isolates) would be blended with other isolates from a variety of plants; they may also be blended with essential oils. These are designated as natural by the International Organization for Standardization. 

One of the great advantages of natural perfume oils is that not all plants produce essential oils. A strawberry doesn’t, but it has scent components that can be isolated and combined with others to create that delicious strawberry scent, naturally. 

In a perfect world, formulators would use naturally beneficial virgin and unrefined ingredients that retain their scent like tamanu oil, babbasu oil, cupuacu butter and ucuuba butter which are captivating and worth seeking out. These sustainably harvested ingredients come from deep in the rainforest, Africa or some lovely flowering field in a country whose name you can’t pronounce. But sometimes you just want to be transported to the beach and crave a whiff of pineapple or coconut. When those urges strike, consider exploring products containing natural fragrance oils. Your brain may be convinced you’ve just landed in Bali, your stress may be reduced and perhaps even the annoying irritation on your face will be quieted, naturally. It could happen!

Brook Dougherty of Indio is the founder of JustUs Skincare and can be reached at [email protected]. For more information visit www.justusskincare.com

Reference: 1) www.cosmeticsandtoiletries.com/research/literature-data/blog/21837511/the-feel-good-factor-in-skin-care

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