October 16, 2007

Natural Perfumes

Today is blog action day, and thousands of blogs are participating in order to bring attention to environmental issues - see link here. This put me in mind of something I read recently (in Scent of Desire by Rachel Herz - see my posting below) about the sense of smell. Her studies have shown that our sense of smell is known to have a strong and powerful connection to our deepest survival instincts. It connects directly to that part of the brain we share with the very earliest creatures that evolved to breath oxygen and live on the surface of mother Earth. Our strongest and most meaningful memories are created in contact with the environment and beauty around us, based mostly on what we directly experience as children. What we think of as the true smell of a rose is what we remember as the smell of a rose laid down in our brains as growing children. These experiences of the environment create the mental reality we will live in and reference the rest of our lives.

There is an interesting twist to this though, in the contemporary age we live in. Consider this -- that a rose on a bush emanates a fragrance made up of thousands of different molecules, acting on our brains and enriching our experience of the world in many complex and subtle ways. But also consider that now, generations have been born that have become so accustomed to the commercially produced rose fragrance, that is made up of one very strongly fragrant molecule alone. This one molecule is very pleasant but cannot provide all the complexity and dimension of the real thing. It is everywhere, though, and has become part of the fabric of our daily lives, because it is used to give the scent of rose to many of the products we surround ourselves with. It has now become the "real" scent of rose for many people, much preferred to the scent of a real rose on a bush, because it is what they know, and what they grew up knowing. It's quite a switch. I wonder if this will not also ultimately have impact on our sense of survival, to be so divorced from the experience of organic Nature itself, in reference to our deepest memories and emotional associations.

While it may be more economically viable to save the labor and natural resources it takes to produce a true rose absolute, it is equally important for us as human beings to remain connected intimately to that scent of natural rose, and all the rest of the scents produced organically by nature, all the other natural fragrance beauty that is out there. That is one reason why I am very glad that there has been a renaissance of natural perfumers, using natural elements to create beautiful fine fragrances, such as Mandy Aftel, Anya McCoy, Ayala Moriel, and many more and that there are more every day (The Artisan's Natural Perfumer's Guild has done so much to support and promote the efforts of these perfumers.) I am also very glad that there are now many larger companies's products, such as Aubrey, Avalon, Burt's Bees and others, that use natural and organic materials, affordable, well made and cruelty-free.

12 comments:

Di said...

Amen and thank you. Natural Perfumery is on the rise, although with new regulations being passed that ban some natural substances commonly used in natural perfume, we have a battle ahead of us to be natural and stay natural.
(Ref: IFRA amendments)


http://magickalrealism.com

Lucy said...

di -- I have been reading about that.
It's a big issue. I am grateful to Anya McCoy for taking on the job sending out the information to keep us all abreast of developments.

It's good to remember to be conscious of the scents around us -- smell the plants and aromatic materials that are out there -- something that can be enjoyed directly without spending hundreds on perfumes or products. (Not that I don't covet those, too.) It's all out there,in the wild, or cultivated. Even something simple as a lemon when you make your own lemonade is so dimensional and beautiful, as you know...

Vetivresse said...

I'm always encouraging friends to create fragrances from nice smelling things they can find in their house or garden. Even if it comes down to infusing oil or tea with the herbs and flowers which "grow" on your terrace. (New Yorkers and other urbanites will understand the scare quotes.)

Lucy said...

Hi V -- The farmer's arkets at Union Square and Grand Army Plaza are serving as my harvesting points...see you at the Sniffa I hope!

Anya said...

Hi Lucy
So nice to see you blogged on natural perfumes for the Action day! I think you may be the only person who did so, many of us were caught offguard by the late announcement about it, so I think you. Did you see my blog on food, scent, sustainability? I tied them all together, and it felt good, going back to my aggie roots.

Lucy said...

Hi Anya -- Ironically, it's just because I got up super early this morning and looked at Now Smell This, who posted about the Blog Action day, and that inspired me to post on the issue myself, and to call a friend about posting on it too (on a different environmental issue). Just saw your post, and it's wonderful to see all the work you are doing to help keep people in close touch with nature through the sense of smell and now taste (so intimately connected, it's a natural outgrowth)...

Vetivresse said...

L., I will be at Chandler's dinner on Sunday but not at Sniffa. I can't do crowds. Please give my regards to the Karens.

Lucy said...

V -- I will. I know it can be intense. I can only do one day and know I must take the next to recuperate. I am so looking forward to meeting Ina and seeing others again. I hope you let us all know how the dinner was with a posting...

helg said...

Lovely post and thanks!

BTW, I linked your Apivita Euphoria review on my blog (on the Earth review I did), hope you don't mind (didn't find an email addy posted here to mail you) :-)

Lucy said...

Hi Helg: The more links the better, and I love their products, the more people know about them the better...

Valerie said...

Lucy,

What a joy it is to have you blogging again. I'm a poet living in Barcelona, where the access to natural and artisanal products isn't as great as I would have imagined. It's always wonderful to read your posts and be reminded of all the sensual pleasures to be experienced!

Lucy said...

Valerie -- you are so kind and encouraging, thank you.

I am surprised that Barcelona has less direct access -- I would suggest if you take a trip to Paris, London or Rome you might be able to take some time to try various things. Also online there are many who prepare decants and samples, tho I know it is best to try things in person, skin chemistry is so variable, as I was reminded this past weekend at the Sniffa here in NYC.