Fragrance 101: What is a Clean Fragrance?

A new wave of green perfumeries refusing to compromise on quality

You could be forgiven for thinking the expression ‘Clean Fragrance’ refers to a light, everyday style perfume. While this is true in part, the term in fact represents a growing category in the niche fragrance market concerned with wellbeing and the environment.

With the climate debate now very much a mainstream issue, and with an ever-growing market of health-conscious consumers, perfume houses are increasingly modelling their approach with wellbeing and sustainability in mind.

 Ethical beauty is here to stay. And with no shortage of new wave perfumeries prioritising people and the planet, there’s never been a better time to indulge in clean, green luxury — with no caveat that compromises on quality.

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Motivated by values of transparency, recyclability and accountability, Obvious proves that ethical production is no roadblock to luxury. When it comes to the precious juice, the Parisian house favours natural ingredients and uses organic dilution alcohol. Bottles are fully recyclable too, and are themselves made from recycled glass. The cork caps contain no plastic inserts, while the outer packaging is made from recycled paper, using only natural dyes.

Their perfumes, sublimely simple in concept that explicitly say what they are — Une Rose, Une Vanille, Un Oud etc — boast depth and complexity, benefitting from a Less is More philosophy. As creative director David Frossard’s vision reflects: the very concept of luxury changes to mirror changing attitudes. It seems as though the consensus is now, well, obvious.

Family-owned and run by mother-son duo Marie-Lise Jonak and Baptiste Bouygues, Ormaie’s roots lie deep in art and nature. Its commitment to nature is to pledge its preservation, starting inside the bottle. Sourcing only ethical and sustainable ingredients, with traceable supply routes, ensures all raw materials are responsibly harvested.

Remarkably, Ormaie bottles are produced by the only French glassmaker to recycle its own glass magma, while the beechwood caps derive from sustainably managed forests. Aside from the green and good, their olfactory creations truly push boundaries, emblematic of their creative, artisanal roots.

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La Perla artfully bridges the gap between luxury and sustainability. Founded in 1954 by fashion designer Ada Masotti, the lingerie house turned beauty brand was conceived through a vision of femininity. At the time, it was almost unheard of to have a woman at the helm of such a brand. Honouring its heritage, the house has modernised, now offering luxurious products for women that are clean, vegan, ethical and sustainable.

Dispelling the notion that natural is always better, La Perla’s research has found that in some cases, blending nature-identical, safe synthetic ingredients as part of their bespoke formulations, can be safer than their natural counterparts, particularly where natural ingredients are not used with care.

Daring to be bold, natural, and transparent, Bastille is inspired to preserve the wellbeing of people, animals, and the planet. As CEO Sophie Maisant sees it, originality is a catalyst for freedom, affording each perfumer complete creative licence with every project they undertake.

Their clean credentials are without question. Using only natural raw materials, they work closely with IFF-LMR, a pioneer in natural and ethical sourcing of fragrance ingredients around the world. Giving back to the planet, Bastille is also a member of the 1% for the Planet movement, donating 1% of sales to the NGO Surfrider Foundation, a non-profit that works to protect and preserve the world’s beaches and oceans.

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Hermetica’s moisturising molecular fragrances, inspired by the ancient practice of alchemy, are long-lasting and completely alcohol-free. Striving to be number one in the clean fragrance category, 2023 has seen the Parisian house overhaul every aspect of the brand, including the relaunch of its new-look collection.

A modernised visual style recalls even more its unique green & clean identity. The new cylindrical packaging, with bright motifs and rich imagery, is both 100% recyclable and 100% plastic-free. The new frosted celadon green bottles — all refillable — are produced from locally sourced sand, significantly reducing its carbon footprint. Whether you want a fragrance that’s good for your skin, has a low environmental impact, or you’re looking to scent up with something that is vegan or cruelty-free, Hermetica has it covered.

Keiko believes sustainability and beautiful fragrance go hand-in-hand. With exclusive access to rare ingredients such as May rose, jasmine de provence and precious sandalwoods, Keiko Mecheri delivers evocative accords through renewable means.

All glass bottles and packaging components are recyclable, while raw materials are responsibly sourced, operating closely with supply partners along the way, ensuring the preservation of habitats along important supply routes. With Keiko, no products or ingredients are tested on animals and none of the ingredients used in its fragrances contain materials of animal origins.

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Miller Harris fragrances explore natural beauty in the urban landscape. Part of a new wave of modern luxury brands, the London house is fiercely protective of the environment — all packaging is FSC approved and recyclable — and is committed to creating unique fragrances of depth and beauty using only natural materials.

All raw materials are sourced from sustainable supply chains, with the brand increasing its use of Fair Trade materials year-on-year. The house uses preservatives that are Ecocert compliant and, upon investigation, chooses to use responsibly sourced palm oil over what it deems to be less sustainable alternatives. All products are vegan, free from phthalates, artificial colourants, parabens and formaldehydes, and contain no SLS and SLES.

Since its formative art installations exploring scent as landscape, Fueguia 1833 has been on a scientific and spiritual voyage, cultivating exotic botanicals to tell the story of land, people and ritual. Founder and creative director Julian Bedel implements a near zero-waste policy at the Patagonian house, sourcing locally produced, sustainable materials.

The brand continues to be 100% vegan and is ceaselessly looking for ways to reduce waste, recycle more, and help the earth. As Bedel himself puts it: “Sustainability is finding imperfections and transforming them into something useful.”

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