| makin’ scents | Your Favorite Fragrance Might Have Some Harmful Ingredients, But We Found Some Better Options


Almost everyone can recall an experience in which you had to exit the room that you were in because were choking on somebody else’s perfume or cologne. For me, I remember an experience at the department store Gimbels when I, dressed as an elf (obvi) literally choked on fragrance when a saleswoman asked me if I wanted to sample their fruit spray. Or maybe that was a scene from Elf.

Either way, moral of the story is that a lot of the perfumes and lotions out there these days have some pretty hefty chemicals in them, so it’s really no surprise that so many of us can become so irritated when our neighbors pile it on. Perfumes and lotions that contain synthetic fragrances can contain both petroleum- and coal-derived chemicals, as well as carcinogenic ingredients. So in addition to smelling nice, you get the added bonus of potential hormone, endocrine and reproductive system disruptions. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?

Not to give all fragrance a bad name, I will say that it is nice to smell like a fresh bouquet of flowers, or bergamot (whatever that is) or patchouli (you hippy) every once in while. Just maybe without risking our health. To that end, I’ve wrangled up some tips, hints, suggestions and brands that can help you find that perfect, non-toxic scent for you or your S.O.

I’ll start off by saying that it is somewhat difficult to shop for fair-trade and socially responsible fragrances. Fragrance labels don’t typically list all of the ingredients, something to do with “trade secrets.” Whatever. But there are a few signs that you’re headed in the right direction:

  • Natural perfumes typically are either single-note or have fewer notes. This is due to that fact that there are fewer “raw materials” to work with as a lot of flowers don’t actually have oils that can be collected naturally.
  • Look for information about sustainable sourcing. The crops should be grown in a way that doesn’t cause harm to the land or the farmer.
  • Try to find companies that follow fair-trade policies. Ideally, they are paying fair prices for the crops and ensuring working conditions are safe.
  • Small batch and handcrafted are good signs, but not always a sure bet.

Beyond that you may have to do a little bit of detective work — check out the company’s website, ask them questions via customer service or on social media — to see what their ingredients and practices are. But here are a few retailers and brands to get you started.


 Credo Beauty has done a lot of the work for you (not just for fragrance, but for all beauty products). They have scoured the earth and found a lineup of brands that are safe, sustainable and use ethically sourced ingredients that still do what they’re supposed to do. All of the products they carry are all free of any animal byproducts and have not been tested on animals. And the best part is, it’s all in one place for you to shop. They have an online shop and physical locations in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles.


Follain is Gaelic for “healthy, wholesome and sound,” and definitively lives up to its name. Shocked by the unsafe ingredients in U.S. beauty products, Tara, the founder of Follain started the company as a healthy skincare retail alternative and as a catalyst to change the U.S. beauty industry. Before launching Follain in 2013, Tara did her homework, not only researching safe and sustainable skincare, but also apprenticing on an organic lavender farm in France and with a private label skincare company in Maine before going on to get her MBA from Babson College, where she won a national retail business plan competition for the Follain concept. A little bit overachiever-y for our taste, but in this case we’re so glad she was. With an online store, as well as locations in Boston, Washington DC and Nantucket, Follain features a curated collection of skincare, hair care and cosmetic products from over 40 U.S. brands. And, to help fight plastic waste, Fallain also offers refills in their stores for some of their products.

Aveda is probably one of the most well-known, and definitely one of the trailblazers of the bunch. Founded in 1978, Aveda was born after founder Horst Rechelbecher went to India and was inspired by Ayurveda — the Indian healing tradition based on the knowledge of life and the interconnectedness of all things. With that in mind, Rechelbacher sought out to bring beauty professionals botanical products that would be good for them, their guests, the Earth and its communities. Aveda is committed to using ingredients that are naturally derived, certified organic and sourced from sustainable or renewable plant-based origins that don’t negatively impact the ecosystems from which they are sourced.  They also provide fair compensation and give back to the communities that their ingredients are sourced from. Aveda uses post-consumer recycled materials in all of their packaging, they are working on expanding recycling initiatives and donate to earth related causes throughout the year.

CLEAN started out with the mission to be one of the first “green” fragrance brands and to be a simple brand — giving you everything you need and nothing you don’t — but I would say their mission was truly realized with their CLEAN Reserve Collection. Each fragrance in the collection is infused with sustainable ingredients (several also include ECOCERT materials) with the alcohol in their fragrance derived from corn. Their product is manufactured in a facility that uses 100% solar energy, their glass bottle is 100% recyclable with an oak cap sourced from Spain and made of wood from certified sustainably managed forests. A bottle will run you $95, but you can also buy their Discovery Layering Set for $22, which includes nine 0.05 Fl. Oz. samples and you get a $22 credit toward the purchase of one full-size (3.4 Fl. Oz.) bottle.

After pregnancy turned her off to synthetic scents, Forager founder, Casey Coyle, set off to make create a line inspired by her childhood days of making her own perfumes out of water and flower petals. Handcrafted in Brooklyn, Forager Botanicals is a natural fragrance and beauty company focused on creating beautiful products using all natural ingredients. All Forager producs are free from harmful synthetics and are color, paraben, sulfate and preservative free. They are also vegan and not ever tested on animals.

Handcrafted in small batch runs, By Rosie Jane was started by Australian native and celebrity makeup artist, Rosie Jane Johnston. The fragrances, all made in her Silver Lake, California studio, use organic and vegan ingredients. Their products are cruelty free, and their paper packaging is 100% recyclable, made with 100% wind power and vegetable based inks.

To Be Continued….




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