Natural Notes: Where fragrance fits in the natural beauty niche

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

Natural Notes: Where fragrance fits in the natural beauty niche

Related tags Natural fragrance Fragrance brands Perfume

Perfume, parfum, eau de toilette, cologne, body spray, essential oils—all of these are coming into conversation with the natural beauty movement. And earlier in the fragrance supply chain natural sourcing initiatives are getting very interesting.

As part of this year’s Cosmetics Design readers survey, cosmetics, personal care, and fragrance industry pros were asked about industry trends, including all things natural. “And, 70% acknowledge that their company is making more products now, than in past years, that can be described as natural, bio-based, or green.”

While that 70% spans the entire beauty industry, fragrance brands, manufacturers, and suppliers were part of the mix. And that’s not the only indication that natural perfumes and natural fragrance notes are gaining market share.

Retail realities

Major beauty retailers like Sephora sell natural fragrance, designated as such, now. Ellis Brooklyn (the brand founded by New York Times beauty columnist Bee Shapiro) and Lavanila Laboratories (from Danielle Raynor) are among the natural fragrance brands available from that company.

Pour le Monde, the brand Wendi Berger launched in 2013, has been available from Macy’s for a year now and was recently named to the Best in the World list from BCorp.  Commenting on the natural beauty movement for Cosmetics Design​ in late 2016, Berger pointed out that, “there has been enormous growth in the natural beauty space as more consumers question ingredients found in personal care. They scrutinize and hold companies accountable and expect transparency, efficacy, sustainably sourced ingredients and cruelty free products.”

And she went on to explain how she has seen the market shifting: “As natural resources become more accessible, traditional cosmetic companies are now eliminating or modifying some questionable ingredients with safer alternatives to appease the consumer demand.  While skin care and color have taken precedent, we’re finding more people now understand that commercial fragrances are the farthest thing from being natural.”​ 

Other popular natural fragrance brands available today include Ojai Wild, Abel, Lurk, Rich Hippie, Pacifica, Providence Perfume Company, and Tsi-La Organics.

Indie practicalities

For a brief moment, a few years back, it seemed as if all things indie beauty and all things natural, or green, or clean, or however you like to slice it, were synonymous. Now, it’s clear that beauty startups and niche brands will always come in all shapes, sizes, and philosophies.

That said, indie fragrance brands like Pour le Monde, Ojai Wild, and countless others are leading industry innovation when it comes to ingredient tech, experimental scents, and formulation purity. (To catch up on the latest trends in indie scents, read fragrance expert Lisa Wilson’s recent piece here on Cosmetics Design​.)  

These innovative brands are pushing the creative, tech, and science professionals working in (or adjacent to) fragrance to do business differently.  Some natural brands use only fragrance ingredients that are found and sustainably sourced from the natural environment; others see the category much more broadly.

Natural actualities

Not all natural fragrance and beauty inputs are naturally occurring. For the purpose of scale and industry, many of these ingredient and notes come into being only with a bit of technical contrivance. Enter bio-based fragrance notes.

Biotech companies like Ardra Bio and Ginkgo Bioworks are manufacturing fragrance notes with the help of carefully engineered and cultivated micro-organisms (such as yeast or algae).

In May of this year, Ginkgo Bioworks announced that a project carried out in conjunction with renowned fragrance maker Robertet​ had led to fermented fragrance notes (those made with help of so-called designer yeast) being available for the first time on a commercial scale. Bob Weinstein, president of Robertet Ingredients and CEO of Robertet USA remarked in a media release about the partnership, “We are thrilled to be working with Ginkgo on the next generation of flavor and fragrance ingredients. We're proud to have reached this milestone in commercial scale fermentation and to continue developing innovative ingredients in the future.” ​And this wasn’t the first time the two companies had teamed up, they first worked together on a fermented rose scent and then on a collection of lactone notes​.

And what seemed like progress this May will, in the not-so-distant future, be small beans. Early this month, Ginkgo signed a deal with an automation technology company called Transcriptic Robotics; and Ginkgo expects the partnership will soon double the company’s synthetic biology output.

As for Ardra, that company “makes petroleum-free, high-purity specialty chemicals that find applications in cosmetics industry,” ​according to their own site. And while its first ingredient was 1,3-butanediol or 1,3-butylene glycol, the company joined the J&J incubator program not long ago. And, in materials J&J circulated to the press at that time, Ardra was listed as a company that “makes high-quality natural flavors and fragrances through synthetic biology.” ​So it’s reasonable to assume that Ardra is putting its biocatalyst tech to use making new or biosimilar fragrance notes.  

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