A Spotlight on Synthetic Fragrances

Have you ever thought about the actual contents inside a shiny new bottle of perfume? In days gone, by many women would love to mark the start of an overseas holiday by purchasing a new fragrance when passing through duty-free. In fact, it had become second nature to some. With duty-free shopping now at a halt, what better time to reflect on the bigger picture behind a seemingly harmless purchase.

As consumers, we are getting increasingly better at spotting the common nasties in our everyday products, such as Parabens and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate but for some reason, we often overlook fragrances. 

Fragrance can be identified as either naturally derived or synthetically produced. So, what’s the difference between these aromas and what does that mean for not only our perfume buying habits but also our skincare brand of choice?

Synthetic Fragrance 

Synthetic fragrances are man-made scents comprised of a vast array of synthetic materials. The aromatic materials present in synthetic fragrances are either chemically created, mostly from petroleum, or natural materials with their chemical structure modified. 


In efforts to protect the ‘trade secrets’ of synthetic fragrances, these materials are disguised on the ingredient list as either ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’ - which sound totally harmless, right? Wrong! 


Synthetic fragrances are very complex and can achieve virtually any scent imaginable, but with every spritz of a synthetic fragrance, you are exposing yourself to a number of toxic and potentially endocrine-disrupting chemicals.


There are currently around 4000 chemicals used to give aroma to all types of products (e.g - body care, skincare, cleaning and laundry products), some of the common chemicals used are acetone, ethanol, benzaldehyde and methylene chloride. 


Phthalates and synthetic musks are also commonly used in and are potentially hazardous ingredients. For example, synthetic musks - present in some laundry detergents- enter your bloodstream, lodge themselves in your fatty tissue and bioaccumulate. Yeah, no thank you….. 

Natural Fragrance 

Genuine natural fragrances are made using only naturally derived ingredients harvested from the earth. The ingredients must be physically obtained from plants, without altering their chemical structures. 

These can be in the form of essential oils (what we use at Byron Bay Skincare), distillates and absolutes.

The ingredients found in natural fragrances are typically more expensive either because of the rarity of the plant, the labour it takes to obtain them, complicated production processes or a combination of the three. Which is why brands often opt for synthetic fragrance, in an attempt to cut down on costs. 

Natural Vs Synthetic


As previously mentioned synthetic fragrances contain a number of risky chemicals which are potential carcinogens, hormone disruptor and allergens. They also can exacerbate asthma, dermatitis and other skin allergies. 


Naturally derived fragrances blend with the wearer’s natural odour and skin type to create a beautiful fragrance personal to you, this scent will evolve and fade throughout the day - naturally. Synthetic fragrances contain fixative’s which literally ‘fix’ the smell to your skin, making it last all day whether you yourself can smell it or not. For some, this may be the desired effect of your perfume, but when we think back to the number of chemicals that come with the scent, there should be some cause for concern.

Animal testing: 

Due to the number of different chemicals and chemical combinations used in these synthetic fragrances, it is simply too dangerous to test on humans, therefore animal testing is often used as a safety measure. As natural fragrances contain zero chemicals, animal testing is not required. 

Real vs Fake 

Natural fragrances are real aromas, synthetic fragrances are not. A single synthetic scent (e.g. the smell of a Rose) may contain anywhere from 50 to 300 distinct chemicals. Whereas the essential oils present in natural fragrances actually contribute to the formula rather than take away from it - this is especially true for skincare. 

Take Byron Bay Skincare’s Gel Cleanser, for example, Tea Tree Oil is used for it’s anti-inflammatory, disinfectant and wound-healing qualities, while Mandarin Oil is used for it’s antiseptic and astringent properties. However, the combination smells divine! 

Synthetic fragrances are all around us (whether we purchase them or not), making them near impossible to avoid. 

What’s important? Educating ourselves and trying to minimise our exposure to them as best we can! 

The essential oils we’ve chosen to use in our formulations at Byron Bay Skincare are due to their beneficial properties on the skin. Their fragrance is an added bonus. 

So, remember to steer clear of misleading ingredient lists that include vague terms such ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’ and try and look for naturally derived extracts!

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