Choosing Natural and/or Organic Perfumes and Colognes

May 15, 2011 Four comments View all articles in Home

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), founders of the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, found in their 2002 cosmetics industry review that all 17 of the fragrances tested were found to contain phthalates. Phthalates are a class of chemicals that disrupt hormones, and have been shown to cause birth defects and lifelong reproductive system damage in lab animals. The risks posed by phthalates is so great, in fact, that the European Union (EU) has banned them from use in perfumes.

The dangers posed by perfume ingredients isn't just limited to human health, however. Some chemicals commonly found in scented products, like acetone and methylene chloride, appear on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Hazardous Waste list. In 1999, the EPA also found that aquatic wildlife, fish and shellfish in particular, host persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in their fatty tissues; POPs being the toxic chemicals used in agriculture for pest and disease control and crop production. Even though the use of most POPs has been banned, they are still present in the environment and global food chain.

Because the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require rigorous pre-testing and only loosely regulates fragrances and other cosmetics, and because fragrance companies aren't required to list ingredients on product packaging, most 'green gurus' recommend you avoid the majority of the products sold at department stores and drugstores. Does this mean you have to choose between being good to the planet and making yourself a smelly social outcast? Of course not. It simply means you should follow some simple guidelines for finding perfumes and colognes that don't carry health and environmental risks.


  • Fragrances based on essential oils are usually a safer bet than synthetics, and they also usually disclose their full ingredient lists.
  • Natural perfumes and colognes generally contain herbal, fruit-derived, or floral plant oils mixed with a neutral carrier oil such as almond or olive oil.
  • Natural fragrances may be found at natural-food stores or specialty boutiques, which generally means they cost more. This is because substituting natural and organic ingredients for readily-available synthetic chemicals is an expensive process.
  • Most natural fragrance companies now follow sustainable business practices, like using recycled packaging and alternative forms of energy.


  • Aftelier Perfumes are free from parabens, glycols, petrochemicals, and synthetic colors and fragrances. Each perfume is created by hand and in small batches by artisanal perfumer Mandy Aftel. A Perfume Organic LogoHer line includes traditional liquid perfumes, solid scents, face and body products, as well as custom scents (the Pink Lotus scent was originally created for Madonna).
  • A Perfume Organic offers fragrances that are not only USDA certified organic, they are certified by PETA as cruelty-free and vegan, as well. According to their website, their perfumes are “free of petrochemicals, solvents, dyes, alcohol, pesticides, and synthetic chemicals.” If that wasn't enough, their perfume boxes are also embedded with flower seeds that can be planted! Try their signature perfume GREEN, which features a symphony of scents ranging from black truffle to ylang ylang and citrus fruits.
  • Aveda Men Pure-Formance Aroma Spray features Aveda Men Pureformancecertified organic essential oils of lemon, orange, spearmint, lavender, and vetiver. In addition to natural ingredients, Aveda uses eco-friendly recycled packaging, windpower, and various other green business practices at their Minnesota-based headquarters.
  • Burt's Bees offers a Natural Skin Care for Men Cologne that is paraben-, sufate-, petrochemical-, and phthalate-free. This particular cologne contains an all-natural blend of lemon, orange, Bergamot, Cypris, and Fir oils.
  • Herban Cowboy Dusk Organic Cologne is vegan, cruelty-free, and sweatshop-free. They also feature a certified organic line of personal care products for men that offer high-quality green colognes, deodorants, and soaps.
  • L'Occitane Eau de Toilettes and Eau de Parfumes use environmentally friendly ingredients in their range of fragrances, which includes Cherry Blossom, White Tea, Verbena, and Feu d'Orange, while their factory focuses on energy efficiency and waste management.


Shelby on Feb. 29, 2012 at 11:52 a.m.

This is really helpful. I disagree with synthetic manufactoring and using harsh chemicals and animal products just so I can feel and smell fresh, so this gave me a nice choosing list.

Charlie Lammers on April 14, 2015 at 7:22 p.m.

It is a foregone conclusion that the FDA does not represent the public interest. If it did so unsafe fragrances and many other dangerous products would not be allowed to be manufactured or sold.

Parka Herra on July 7, 2015 at 2:28 p.m.

What's the deal with BHT still being allowed in cosmetics? Attempts have been made to ban it since 1976!

William Damon on Nov. 4, 2017 at 5:51 p.m.

Many of the above mentioned manufacturers "feature" natural ingredients, but that does not disclose the compositiin all the ingredients. Aveda mrn's Pure Formance lists "fragrance" as an ingredient and that is the biggest loophole around for dermal-contact products. The FDA does not require disclosure of what "fragrance" means and can have up to 1,300 ingredients, most of which are cheaper, easier-to-add solvents. I want more transparency from the "groovy and green" scent-makers.

Share Your Thoughts:

Comments are moderated to filter spam.