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News about natural fragrances



As more people are becoming aware of the benefits of natural perfumery, it is becoming more available in natural health stores as well as in some mainstream outlets.

Lyn Ayre is not talking about music when she mentions base notes and elements that sing, or about food when she talks of rich ingredients. And it’s not art she refers to when she discusses the depth of her work, the different layers, and the feelings transported by them.

Ayre is a natural perfumer. In her small studio in Coquitlam, BC, she creates unique scents so compelling that one little drop can carry you to another place or another time. She uses only natural ingredients in her perfumes, and even uses certified organic ingredients when possible—many of them imported from around the world.

Natural = choice

As synthetic fragrances inundate almost every aspect of our home and work lives, not only in perfumes but also in cleaning products and other cosmetics, Ayre says that the growing trend of natural perfumery empowers consumers with choice.

As more people are becoming aware of the benefits of natural perfumery, it is becoming more available in natural health stores as well as in some mainstream outlets.

Ayre has been creating scents for six years, following an aromatherapy course during which her instructor pointed out that her mixtures smelled more like perfumes than remedies. Since then, she has created more than 100 natural fragrances from all kinds of plant-based materials.

Sins of synthetic

Ayre, who couldn’t tolerate most synthetic perfumes, was grateful to discover she isn’t irritated by their natural counterparts. For some, synthetic fragrances cause uncomfortable but non-life-threatening conditions such as migraines and nausea.

But for others, the chemicals used to add scent to synthetic perfumes can cause a number of serious health issues, including seizures and numbness, especially for those with lung diseases such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Synthetic scents can also cause allergic reactions on skin with repeated exposure. It is estimated that between 1 to 2 percent of Canadians now have a dermal allergy to scented products.

While the long-term health implications of chemicals used in fragrances is not yet known, it is apparent that fragrance bioaccumulates in the body’s tissues and has even been detected in breast milk.

Fragrances from cleaning and beauty products have been found in the fatty tissue of fish and in shellfish. Synthetic fragrance is designed to volatize in the air so that we can smell it. But these volatile compounds remain in the atmosphere and contribute to smog.

Scent considerations

This doesn’t mean that people who are sensitive or allergic to synthetic fragrances won’t experience trouble with natural ones. People with food allergies shouldn’t wear fragrances containing ingredients which are allergens for them. But for many people, natural perfumes are one way to decrease the amount of chemicals going into their bodies.

Ayre talks about wearing fragrances so that only those within your “scent circle” are aware of them.

“When somebody leans in to tell you a secret, or to ask you over to another corner of the room, or gives you a kiss or a hug, they’ll be able to smell your perfume, but the boss over in his office won’t,” she says.

“People are happy about this because they can wear natural scents to the office and not bother anybody. They don’t fill the space in the room.”


Our sense of smell provides a direct pathway to our brains. As fragrance enters our noses, it is detected by olfactory receptors, and instant nerve impulses send messages to the brain about what it is that we smell.

Scents have the ability to change our mood and to invoke specific memories.

“For me, it’s the smell of cocoa and cinnamon,” Ayre says. “This combination of scents takes me back to times when I’d be sitting in front of the TV huddled under a blanket with all my sisters, while eating cinnamon toast and drinking cocoa.”

She explains that there are some therapeutic effects from the essential oils used in natural perfumes. Whether they uplift, energize, relax, or balance our spirits, Ayre says that human bodies more readily respond to these fragrances because they smell like nature.

“They are made of the same stuff we are—flowers, trees, water, animals, grasses, roots, and fruit,” she says.Research supports the notion that fragrances have the ability to change a person’s state of mind. Lavender, known to relax and calm, contains a compound called linalool that has been found to reduce st



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Matthew Kadey, MSc, RDMatthew Kadey, MSc, RD