How to identify a natural fragrance for home or body

Posted by Liz Cook on

In the interest of keeping our commitment to you of 100% transparency, always, we want to help you choose a truly natural fragrance - whether it’s  a personal scent or something for your home.

Brands these days do an amazing job at creating a mood, a feeling, an ethos, just by the imagery, scent description and key words they use. But are they saying they are 100% natural, or have you just assumed that by the impression you get?

To help you look for the right information and ask the right questions, here's our simple guide on how to identify a 100% natural fragrance for your home or body, and not fall into the “clean” trap.


It takes practice to read labels, but just like you do with your groceries, take time to read the packaging thoroughly. Don’t just look for key words and tag lines - look over all of the information presented to you, including ingredient lists, who the parent company is and what the product claims are. There is key data in there that will help you make an informed decision.


If it’s anything short of “100% natural” or “100% organic”, then it isn’t completely natural. Any brand that only uses only naturals would definitely state that on the packaging and their website as that factor is leverage for brands these days.


You deserve to know exactly what’s in the products you buy. Look for ingredient panels that list all of the ingredients, and not just categories, like “fragrance” or “colour” or “vegetable wax”. We need details, people! While Trade Secret protection laws mean personal perfumes don’t have to list all their ingredients (boo), and candles and home fragrances don't have to list any (!!), a company who has nothing to hide, or at least has your best interests in mind, will give you a full list.


For perfume, a brand whose fragrances are all clear in colour (or close to it) indicates they are using all (or close to all) synthetic ingredients. Fragrances derived from plants display deep colour - from bright yellows and greens to deep ambers. It is almost impossible to make a natural perfume that has no colour. With candles, it’s the opposite; a deep or bright colour indicates a synthetic dye has been used (which usually means that company doesn’t mind using synthetic fragrance ingredients either). Naturally-scented candles should be a white or milky colour - a combination of soy or coconut wax and the very limited range of essential oils that can actually be used in candles.


Most of us assume that the more we pay for a fragrance or candle, the higher chance that it contains mostly natural ingredients. But that’s not often the case. Price is complex, and for most expensive fragrances, the price you pay contributes mostly to large marketing budgets and large profits for shareholders. Conversely, if the product is actually cheap (eg $30 for 30ml perfume, or $20 for a candle), it’s almost guaranteed to be synthetic. Naturals are not cheap, often costing more than 10 times that of their synthetic counterparts.


Notes are simply descriptive words of what aromas you might perceive in a fragrance. They most often have absolutely nothing to do with the actual ingredients. For example, the scent of “white musk”, which sounds gorgeous and exotic, is usually a mixture of lab-synthesised hormone-damaging chemicals, including ethylene brassilate and exaltone (not so pretty after all).


These words we often associate with natural, but they don't actually mean natural at all:

  • vegan: the product doesn't contain animal-derived ingredients
  • sustainable/renewable: using renewable resources, very frequently lab-synthesised chemicals as they are often highly renewable
  • clean: they haven’t included certain ‘dirty’ or toxic ingredients, but have they told you what they do include?
  • cruelty-free: simply not tested on animals, but nothing to do with natural
  • hypoallergenic: allergy-friendly. Almost always synthetic, as natural ingredients can contain allergenic ingredients
  • pure: does that even have a definition? Should mean 100% something, but really is just a marketing term and has no real meaning or definition
  • phthalate-free: its a good start - phthalates are highly toxic, but it doesn't mean it's free of any other toxic or questionable ingredients
  • Handmade/hand-poured/crafted - Just means its made by hand. That could be using natural ingredients or synthetics
  • “Inspired by” eg aromatherapy-inspired or inspired by Ayurveda: The product may be inspired by something in nature, but that tells you nothing about the actual ingredients being used


Fragrance descriptions are beautiful stories and create a feeling before we have even laid nose on the product. But descriptions are no indicator of the actual ingredients that go into the product. And don’t be fooled by beautiful photos of stunning blossoms or hands mixing a batch of oil. Imagery is simply visual storytelling, designed to help you feel the product or the brand. It doesn’t actually tell you anything about the ingredients in the product.

And finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Email or call the company and ask direct questions (“Is your product 100% natural? Can you send me a full list of ingredients?”) Or whatever else is important to you. They should be willing to be open with you about their ingredients, or very least their company philosophy and practices with regards to ingredients.

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