These fragrance brands are redefining clean scents with natural, non-toxic perfume ingredients that are better for your body and the planet.
Scents are transformative, magical, even. But the perfume industry is filled with toxic chemicals labeled as “trade secrets” that can put our health at risk, not to mention the health of the planet. A growing number of brands are working to address this with clean fragrances void of harmful chemicals, and sustainable practices re-shaping the industry.
Prestige fragrance brands are taking queues, too, at least on the sustainability front. Chanel is now packaging its No. 5 perfume in a recycled glass bottle — a feat more difficult than it sounds. Its caps are also biodegradable.
L’Oréal recently created Polo Earth for the Ralph Lauren fragrance collection (it’s now on this list, too). The Polo Earth fragrance is vegan, using a plant-based alcohol as well as being 97 percent natural origin ingredients. Its packaging and wooden cap have been certified by The Forest Stewardship Council.
Lancôme recently opened Le Domaine de la Rose in Grasse, France — a nearly ten-acre plot where it’s growing organic roses and other fragrance ingredients as part of its sustainability commitments.
What ingredients are in traditional fragrances?
About 4,000 different natural and synthetic ingredients are currently used in fragrances. Unfortunately, what ingredients are used in certain perfumes is often unknown—and some blends can have as many as 300 ingredients.
Perfume formulas are often classified as proprietary information so that companies do not have to share their formulations.FDA regulations don’t apply to fragrances, which essentially exempts the fragrance brands from listing their ingredients. Because of the proprietary nature of fragrance formulations, brands can hide behind the term “parfum” and keep their ingredient lists on lockdown.
This leads to dirty and questionable ingredients lurking in our scents. Hormone-affecting ingredients such as oxybenzone and phthalates have been found in many traditional perfumes; these can be harmful to both humans and the planet, according to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database. A recent study found that more than 1,300 ingredients were flagged for potential concerns including seven carcinogens and 15 chemicals already prohibited from use in cosmetics in the E.U.
Clean fragrance ingredients
On the flip side, there is a wave of clean perfume companies leading with sustainable and natural ingredients as well as ingredient transparency. Though terms like “clean” and “natural” are used interchangeably there is a slight difference in them all.
“Clean” refers to fragrances made without harmful ingredients, while “natural” is often found on products made from ingredients extracted from raw materials.
When shopping for a clean fragrance, these terms are all important. Furthermore, many “clean” perfume brands are crafted without the use of toxic materials such as phthalates and parabens, as they can have health consequences.
In place of these questionable ingredients, clean perfume brands use natural formulas crafted with ingredients such as essential oils and plant-based alcohol bases. Some of these brands do use synthetic ingredients but opt for ones that have been tested to be safe and sustainable to use.
Ethos’ favorite clean perfume brands
1. Henry Rose
Founded by actress Michelle Pfeiffer, Henry Rose boasts seven exquisite scents keeping in mind health, sustainability, transparency, and good manufacturing practices. Pfeiffer worked with the Environmental Working Group and the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovations Institute to craft the good for you, good for the planet products. They are also cruelty-free, hypoallergenic, and don’t use parabens, phthalates, or formaldehyde.
2. Le Labo
Le Labo is a cult favorite in the clean perfume game. Le Labo believes in the true soul of a gorgeous fragrance, crafted with responsibly sourced ingredients. From the sustainably-sourced sandalwood to the hand-picked roses, every ingredient is carefully selected. Not only are the bottles oh-so-pretty, but they are also made from glass and refillable at Le Labo locations.
3. Maison Louis Marie
Maison Louis Marie’s story begins way back in 1792. Louis Marie Aubert du Petit Thouars was a pioneer in French botanical history after being exiled to Madagascar where he discovered a vast array of plants. Building off her rich botanical ancestry, Maison Louis Marie built a luxury perfume brand focused on illustrious scents with unique floral fragrances. Most of the fragrances are unisex and crafted with safflower oil without gluten, parabens, or phthalates.
Certified B Corp label Chloé brings its eco commitments to its Chloé Eau de Parfum Naturelle. The vegan fragrance is formulated with 100 percent natural origin fragrance, naturally derived alcohol, and water. There are no filters or artificial colors in this fragrance. The bottle is made with 25 percent reclaimed glass and the signature ribbon is made from 100 percent recycled polyester as well as 40 percent recycled materials in the box.
Skylar enforces strict standards around its scents and chooses to exclude thousands of common ingredients that don’t meet those requirements. The company is dedicated to clean ingredients, clean formulas, and hypoallergenic scents. The formulas are also crafted with both botanic and synthetic ingredients that pass safety screening tests. Additionally, the fragrances come with dual-purpose packaging, renewable resources, and recyclable packing materials.
6. By Rosie Jane
Founded by celebrity makeup artist Rose Jane Johnston, By Rose Jane is a company that puts sustainability at the forefront. All of the fragrances are hand-mixed in Los Angeles using botanical and safe synthetics. They use 100% recyclable packaging, vegetable-based inks, and no single-use plastics. They also refrain from using phthalates, parabens, or endocrine disruptors.
Founded in Amsterdam by master perfumer, Frances Shoemack, Abel crafts incredible natural and vegan fragrances. All of the scents are derived from plants and made with organic, food-grade alcohol. The products also use natural oils and are free of parabens, soy, and sulfates. Each item is packaged in recyclable material. The company believes in transparency and lists the full ingredients of each product. Abel believes in playing an active part of businesses and consumers that can turn the tide on the climate crisis.
8. Clean Reserve
Clean Reserve designs all of its exquisite scents with the finest, clean beauty ingredients. It uses both sustainably sourced plants and tried-and-true synthetics that always put the environment first. The company never tests on animals, the products are gluten-free and packaged in recyclable bottles.
9. Ellis Brooklyn
Ellis Brooklyn was founded in 2013 by veteran beauty editor, Bee Shapiro. During her 11 years of covering beauty for The New York Times, Bee saw the beauty industry transform into using cleaner, more sustainable ingredients but felt that the same attention was lacking in the fragrance world. She launched Ellis Brooklyn to fill that need using sustainably sourced, clean ingredients to create her tantalizing scents.
Heretic was inspired by ancient traditions of fragrance creation. Through traditional extraction methods, such as distillation, expression, and extraction, Heretic obtains its essential oils from plants and flowers. The team then blends these into its fragrances at high concentrations to bring aromatherapy benefits to its perfumes so the scents are both pleasant and functional.
11. Good Chemistry
Good Chemistry’s dedication to better products goes further than just its name. Its fragrances use exclusive blends of natural and safe synthetic ingredients, including essential oils and sustainably sourced plants. Each ingredient is carefully selected for both its scent and its sustainability. Good Chemistry believes in transparent ingredient lists and all its products are paraben- and phthalate-free.
12. The 7 Virtues
The 7 Virtues was built off of a DNA of empowering others. The company uses natural ingredients sourced from nations rebuilding after war. The brand is dedicated to giving dignity and jobs to others and works with suppliers in Rwanda, Haiti, and Afghanistan. The company ensures all the workers are treated fairly and receive fair wages, and it supports programs to advance the wellbeing of their families. The company’s headquarters are powered by 100 percent renewable energy, and its partner, CPL aromas, are experts in sustainable, raw, and natural ingredients to ensure the integrity of its products.
13. Lake & Sky
Lake & Sky approaches fragrances as a force for wellness. Scent has the power to change our emotional state quickly and can have positive effects on our moods, emotions, and memories. Lake & Sky takes a holistic approach with its award-winning products by distilling its scents down to its natural essence to create exceptional products that elevate our everyday life. It uses natural and sustainable ingredients whenever possible and its perfume uses organic sugar cane alcohol.
Kai is an exclusive perfume brand crafting exotic fragrances that have celeb followers including Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Charlize Theron, Reese Witherspoon, and Jennifer Garner. All of its perfumes are free of sulfates, phthalates, phosphates, and gluten, as well as free of microbeads. Additionally, all of its products are made in the U.S. and come in recyclable packaging.
Pacifica is a cult-favorite vegan beauty brand that has exceptional products ranging from skincare and makeup to fragrances. Its perfumes are crafted with corn grain alcohol and natural and essential oils. All of its products are formulated without phthalates or parabens and are certified cruelty-free. The bottles are made with recyclable glass and all the formulas are made in the U.S.
A newcomer to the market, Béatus was seven years in the making. It features six fragrances in nature-inspired scents including Gardens, Alhambra, Sylve Noire, Tropical Forest, Giverny, and Haute Futaie evoke a floral or forest bouquet. The French-inspired clean fragrance line developed by Gabriel Reboh and Busch Beer heir Billy Busch and his wife Christi. Reboh has served as artistic advisor and hairstylist to a number of high-profile celebrities including Mariah Carey, Sharon Stone, Celine Dion, and Jennifer Lopez. Try Gardens for a luxe spring scent you’ll want to wear all year round.
17. Ralph Lauren
Ralph Lauren Fragrance’s first all-gender vegan and clean fragrance is made from 97 percent natural origin ingredients. It includes botanical top notes from bergamot, Italian green mandarin, and diva lavender from France middle notes of Turkish rose and sage heart; and base notes of Haitian vetiver and bourbon geranium from Madagascar. The “sheer, yet luxurious” all-gender scent is refreshing and easy to wear and a great conversation starter about clean fragrance.
From the clean skincare brand Aesop, delicious fragrances in seven scents from the earthy, musky Marrakech to the mossy greenness of Erémia. As a certified B Corp, Aesop takes sustainability seriously from sourcing clean, quality ingredients, to packaging that’s as gentle on the earth as possible. All of its products, including the parfums, are vegan and never tested on animals.
Chopard’s Journey to Sustainable Luxury commitment includes its line of fragrances. Santal Odeyar, Bois Nomades, and Patchouli de Sumatra are all made with sustainable and clean ingredients for scents developed in partnership with Swiss fragrance house Firmenich. The in-house parfums focus on natural, responsibly-sourced ingredients.
With a craftsmanship rooted in quality and clean ingredients, it’s no wonder Kering Beauté made the label its first division acquisition. Creed was developed by sixth-generation master perfumer Oliver Creed and its legion of fans speaks to the allure of its fragrances. Made with more than 65 percent natural ingredients, all of Creed’s perfumes are free from parabens and phthalates for scents you can feel good and safe putting on your skin.
Ceremonia makes the Clean + Planet Positive at Sephora list for its comitment to clean, sustainable ingredients. Free from phthalates, formaldehyde or formaldehyde releasers, oxybenzone and octinoxate, hydroquinone, triclosan, coal tar, methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone, insoluble plastic microbeads, and more, this is an ideal every day fragrance for you and the planet.
“I was inspired by the memory of a family vacation in the fall, when we spent hours around fires, telling stories and making s’mores. I wanted to capture the nostalgia of this moment in a fragrance. Milk Expressive is a balance of sweet elements contrasted with firewood,” says perfumer Christelle Laprade. The result is a clean, vegan, and planet-friendly fragrance.
23. 5 Sens
Fall in love with this Clean + Planet Positive at Sephora qualifying brand. The clean label perfume eschews the Sephora no-nos incuding phthalates, formaldehyde or formaldehyde releasers, oxybenzone and octinoxate, hydroquinone, triclosan, coal tar, methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone, insoluble plastic microbeads. The result? A rich and textured warm scent. Another reason to love 5 SENS? The glass bottles are 100 percent recyclable and the wood cap liners are made with 35 percent post-consumer recycled plastic. 5 SENS ships in recyclable paperboard.
24. The Maker
Not just a clean perfume label, The Maker is also committed to making the planet healthier through sustainable sourcing, responsible packaging, and supporting environmental issues. The Maker has earned the Clean + Planet Positive at Sephora label for its commitments. The bottles take their design inspo from antique ink flasks using post-consumer recycled glass, decreasing glass use by 27 percent compared to conventional perfume bottles.
A must for every fragrance lover, the brand uses a delicate combination of botanical and carefully selected synthetic ingredients that are kind to us, our skin, and the planet. It refrains from using parabens, phthalates, or sulfates to craft aroma-rich, modern fragrances. Phlur also coordinates with IUCN to ensure all ingredients are responsibly sourced so that the consumers can feel good about the way they smell.
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