Facts about perfume ingredients

Flower as perfume ingredients

Substances used in perfumes are volatile compounds that get into the air. The ingredients of perfumes can be very simple from basic natural ingredients that were used in ancient perfumes, to a quite complex mixture that is used today in modern perfume manufacturing. In general, perfumes have between sixty and a hundred ingredients, but some of the more complex ones can have up to three hundreds.

There are many reasons why some types of perfumes are very expensive, and why some of them are so cheap. The main reason is the price of ingredients. The more complex perfume ingredients, the more complex is the scent.

Early perfumes were made by using only few ingredients. Ancient fragrances were produced with the essence of flowers and from natural aromatic plants. In Ancient Egypt herbs, oils, flowers and spices were used to create potent aromas. With the advances of technology, ingredients of fragrances got also changed. By the 1885, with the developments in chemistry, many natural extracts have been replaced by synthetic compounds. Chemicals are used for creating artificial fragrances of flowers.

Perfumes today are much more chemically complex than perfumes centuries ago, but still follow the same basic formulas.

The basic ingredients are essential oils, alcohol, water and chemical compounds. The foundation of most perfumes is a simple mixture of these ingredients.

The sources of the scents used to create perfumes can be natural or synthetic. Some natural scents come from animals while other scents come from flowers and other plants. Natural ingredients include essential oils and absolute extracts of aromatic plants. There are only about 2000 of the 250000 known flowering plant species that contain essential oils. Many flowers and plants do not naturally produce an essential oil or may only produce in small quantities (for example many thousand rose petals is needed to produce just one ounce of rose oil). Only 5% of today's perfumes are derived from natural compounds. Many essential natural oils can be created synthetically. This synthetic oils smell exactly like the natural aroma, but synthetic chemicals can also be used to create original scents not found in nature.

The concentration (composition) of perfume starts with a base of fragrance oils, which can be natural, animal, or synthetic. Fragrance oils are composed of eruptive elements that can damage the skin or cause allergic reactions and because that these oils are often watered down with a solvent that makes perfume light and applicable.

Some aroma compounds that help create the overall scent of the perfume also include some secret components.

Groups of perfume ingredients:

Plant Sources

Natural scents come mainly from plants: flowers, blossoms, leaves, twigs, roots, fruits, barks, lichens and woods. Plants are the oldest source for fragrant oils compounds in perfume. Some popular scents are jasmine, amber, lavender, basil, bay leaf, benzoic, bergamot, geranium, rose and sandalwood.

Essential Oils

Natural oils can be derived from plants and animals. Essential oils are extracted by a number of methods, each of which is designed to preserve the, essential qualities of the natural aroma. Essential oils are scented oils like jasmine, rose, orange, musk etc.

As all essential oils have a chemical formula for chemists is not difficult to reproduce the most prominent characteristics of an essential oil.

Animal Sources

There are several animal-derived aromatics that are used in perfumery.

Musk is derived from the musk sacs from the Asian musk deer. Musk is one of the most important ingredients in perfumes. It is common ingredient in men's fragrances.

Beeswax is collected from bee hives and used as a base for solid perfumes.

Civet for perfumes

Civet is a secretion from the civet cat. These animals are usually kept in captivity and their secretions are collected as valuable perfume ingredient.

African stone is also used as ingredient in perfumery. It is the fossilized droppings of the Rock Hyrax which is a type of an African rodent.

Ambergris is a fatty compound that comes from a cured secretion from sperm whales.

Castoreum is a leathery emission from the genital scent sacs of the castor beaver

Synthetic Sources

Today all the scents can be created synthetically emulating the natural scent of the actual plant, flower or tree that the scent derived from. Only 5% of today's perfumes are derived from natural compounds and over 500 chemicals can be used to make one fragrance. Some synthetic perfumes may be created with a natural equivalent but some original synthetic fragrances do not exist in nature. The most popular synthetic sources used to make fragrant oils are: ethanol, ethyl acetate, benzaldehyde, benzyl alcohol, camphor, ethyl acetate, calone, coumarin, terpenes, linalool, coal, tars and petrochemicals. Synthetic ingredients have advantages, such as greater stability and durability.

Citrus for perfumes

Ingredients used in some of the families of scents:

Citrus scents are obtained from fruit by cold pressing; include bergamot, lemon, orange...

Fougere scents are: lavender, oak, moss, coumarin, bergamot, geranium...

Chypre scents include: oak moss, ciste labdanum, patchouli, bergamot, rose...

Woody scents are sandalwood, patchouli, cedar, vetyver, etc (with lavender and citrus notes).

Amber or oriental scents include a soft scent such as vanilla, ciste-labdanum...

Leather scents include burnt wood, smoke, tobacco, birch, etc (with slightly floral scents).