What Are Synthetic Fragrances: Differences, Longevity And More

If you’ve ever walked into a mall or listened to a television commercial, you’ve probably heard of the word ‘synthetic fragrances.’ What are synthetic fragrances exactly, and how do they compare to other non-synthetic type scents? 

Synthetic fragrances are high-performing scents that are primarily made up of artificial compounds and man-made materials. 

If you’ve ever wondered what a synthetic fragrance is or how they differ from other types of scents, then read on. Not only that, but we’ll also go over what is typically found in synthetic fragrances, their benefits, and a few top scents you may want to add to your collection. 

What Are Synthetic Fragrances?

Synthetic fragrances are non-natural fragrances that are made in a lab with synthetic materials and ingredients. Some synthetic fragrances contain a blend of synthetic and natural compounds such as water and alcohol, though some perfumes and colognes have no natural ingredients at all. If a scent does contain natural ingredients, they are synthesized by modifying the natural structure of the chemicals to be used.

On average, the typical perfume and cologne name-brand includes 29 chemicals in a single bottled scent, though only half are required to be listed on the ingredients label. As a whole, however, the fragrance industry utilizes and combines over 3,100 synthetic chemical scent compounds! That’s a lot to choose from, and thus why synthetic fragrances can often achieve a scent that is not naturally found in nature. 

Most of the compounds found in typical synthetic fragrances come from what’s known as petrochemicals, a family of chemicals that are widely used in making all kinds of consumer goods, like laundry detergents, shampoo, gasoline, aspirin, polyester clothes, and carpeting. 

Petrochemicals and other raw aromatic materials found in synthetic scents are usually created from natural gases and petroleum. 

How Are They Different From Other Types Of Fragrances?

Synthetic fragrances are not natural and are developed by people in laboratories — that’s a stark contrast to natural fragrances and essential oils made solely from plant and animal sources.

Synthetic scents may contain a mix of natural and artificial ingredients or just man-made compounds, like phthalates, a ubiquitous synthetic chemical compound used to make plastics. Synthetic scent tends to last longer than natural-based ones, and it’s easier for fragrance makers to yield consistent results because they do not have to work around nature—for example, climate change such as a heatwave affecting the growth of a crop of lavender.  

On the other hand, natural fragrances are created from sources found in nature, like plants and animals. These scents do not last as long on the wearer versus the average synthetic fragrance. It can be challenging for perfumers to continually recreate the same natural scent, despite getting notes from the same source. And while many people have the impression that natural scents are better for the environment, the process of harvesting trees and plants causes much deforestation around the world. 

What about essential oils? How do they differ from synthetic fragrances? 

To make essential oils, compounds are extracted from the plant either mechanically (such as by cold pressing) or through distillation (purifying the oil using water and steam). No synthetic ingredients are used in 100% pure essential oils. 

Essential oils are the extracted “essence” of plants and are often used in aromatherapy. During aromatherapy, the scented oil is inhaled through the nose or applied topically to the skin. 

Types Of Synthetic Fragrances

There are three types of synthetic fragrances, as ‘synthetic fragrance’ is a broad term.

  • Full synthetics: Almost the entire scent is made from byproducts of petroleum (alcohol, phthalates, mineral oils)
  • Semi-synthetics: This has a mix of synthetic, natural, and artificially modified fragrance notes
  • Natural isolates: Made up of natural byproducts and synthetic materials 

What Is In A Synthetic Fragrance?

Synthetic fragrances usually contain a combination of artificial and natural scent compounds. Most commercial fragrances have 95% synthetically-derived compounds in their scent formulations, and on the market today, about 80% of fragrances are created with these non-natural chemicals. 

Many synthetic fragrances available today have ingredients that are derived from petrochemicals, or refined petroleum, as well as natural gas.  Other chemicals often found in synthetic fragrances are phthalates, aldehydes, toluene, and benzene derivatives. 

What Are The Benefits Of Synthetic Fragrances?

There are many benefits of synthetic fragrances — not only for the wearer but for the perfumer, too. Here are some benefits of synthetic fragrances:

  • It lasts longer on the wearer. 
  • Longer shelf life than natural fragrances (synthetics can last up to 5 years; natural perfumes have an average shelf life of up to 2 years).
  • Can achieve notes not found in nature.
  • A more comprehensive range of olfactory notes to choose from. 
  • Complex layering of notes. 
  • More mass appeal than natural scents. 

How Long Do Synthetic Fragrances Last?

On the shelf, a synthetic fragrance will typically last up to five years. It’s best to keep your fragrances out of the light and stored in a cool, dark, and dry place.

When you spray on a synthetic fragrance, the scent is basically “glued” to your skin via chemicals, like phthalates. On average, most perfumes and colognes on the user last anywhere between three and 12 hours, though it’s not uncommon to still smell a scent some 24 hours or more later.  

On the contrary, natural scents have a shelf life of about 1-2 years and may last about 2-5 hours on the skin. Base notes (dry-down notes) may be detected 12 hours later. 

Are Synthetic Fragrances Bad?

Not necessarily. Many molecules in synthetic fragrances are structurally identical to ones found in nature, and producing them is much cheaper for companies to do than harvesting and manufacturing natural fragrances. Synthetic scents also have a lesser impact on the environment. 

But what about how these scents may affect you? Unfortunately, studies have linked petrochemicals in synthetic fragrances to causing allergic reactions, such as asthma attacks and eczema. There has also been evidence that these chemicals may disrupt the production of hormones and weaken the immune system. 

If you don’t want to part with your fragrances (we understand), you may want to consider spraying onto your clothes and not directly onto the skin

Top Synthetic Fragrances

Are you looking for a new delectable scent? Check out some of our top synthetic fragrance picks. 

  1. Christian Dior Sauvage 

Sauvage by Christian Dior is a spicy, fresh scent with top notes of bergamot and pepper, middle notes of elemi, pink pepper, Sichuan pepper, vetiver, geranium, lavender, and patchouli, and base notes of ambroxan, labdanum, and cedar. It’s the quintessential men’s fragrance and is incredibly masculine and versatile, and can be worn all year long. 

  1. Dolce and Gabanna The One 

With top notes of grapefruit, basil, and coriander, middle notes of ginger, orange blossom, and cardamom, and base notes of soothing cedarwood, ambergris, and tobacco, The One by Dolce and Gabanna is a warm, masculine scent that is incredibly easy to wear. It works best with cooler weather during the fall and spring, though it also adds a nice spice to any winter day. 

  1. Creed Aventus 

Creed Aventus is a crowd-pleaser, with top notes of apple, bergamot, pineapple, and blackcurrant. Middle notes follow with rose, birch, and jasmine. Base notes include ambergris, vanilla, musk, and oakmoss. It’s an undeniably rich and fresh-smelling scent that performs best during the warmer months and is perfect for the office. 

Jasper Pieterse

Hi, my name is Jasper and I've been a long time fragrance fan. Ever since 2014, I started to get a huge interest in fragrances and I've had my nose on countless of different fragrances. I'm excited to share my experiences!

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