Plants To Perfume: How It's Made
Everyone knows that perfume comes in a bottle, but do you know the process that gets it there?
Now, there are a few different ways depending on if it's a synthetic perfume, an all-natural perfume, or a blend of both. Each process is unique and helps determine whether a perfume is natural or synthetic.
There are 6 ways for the oils of plants and flowers to be extracted and crafted into perfume.
1. Steam Distillation: Steam passes through the plants or flowers which causes the essential oil to turn into a gas. This gas is then passed through tubes, cooled, and then liquified.
2. Boiling: Typically used with flower petals, they are simply boiled to release the essential oils.
3. Solvent Extraction: Flowers are placed in large tanks that rotate. Benzene (organic chemical compound) or Petroleum Ether (laboratory solvent) are then poured over them to extract the essential oils and dissolve the petals. Once dissolved, a waxy material, containing the essential oils, is left and set into ethyl alcohol. It is then rinsed and heat is applied to dissolve any alcohol, leaving a high concentration of perfume oil.
4. Enfleurage: Plants and flowers are first spread out on greased glass sheets then placed between wooden frames. The glasses are then covered in vegetable or animal fat that is odorless and highly purified. Once the oils are extracted, old petals are removed by hand and new petals are placed. When there is enough essential oil, the fat and grease is dissolved in alcohol leaving only the essential oil. This process is labor-intensive and very expensive.
5. Maceration: Almost exactly the same as enfleurage, but warm fat is used.
6. Expression: this is where peels (typically from fruits) are compressed or squeezed to release the oils. This is the most economically feasible method.
All of these methods are used within the industry by companies that use essential oils in their products.
*vegan companies will use vegetable fat if they use the enfleurage or maceration methods.
From The Lab
There are 3 ways that synthetic fragrances can be created. Obviously these are all made in a lab using chemicals but it is broken down like so:
1. Full Synthetics: These are made from petroleum byproducts.
2. Semi-Synthetics: Natural scents that are modified by artificial means.
3. Natural Isolates: These are between natural and synthetic. They are created by isolating a single scent from a complex aroma (taking part of a scent) by using chemicals to extract it.
This is simply taking processes from both natural means and synthetic means and then combining the final products to create a fragrance. With FDA regulations being a bit blurry, this allows companies to claim "all-natural" even when using synthetics.
Even though we're all-natural, we won't knock synthetic down. There are some companies using safer synthetics, meaning they have been tested and don't contain harmful chemicals such as parabens, phthalates, sulfates, etc. We're definitely cool with them. It's companies that don't regulate anything that you really have to watch for. These chemicals could include hormone distributors and possible carcinogens.
It's up to you to research the company and find out what exactly is going into your products and what you allow on your body.