While shopping in SOHO last week with my friends Dawn and Michelle, we visited “Le Labo” which makes “made-to-order” fragrances from combinations of essential oils and natural and synthetic materials. Michelle and her teenage daughter are hooked on the Le Labo fragrance called “Bergamote” and Michelle wanted to have her empty bottle refilled at the Le Labo store located at 233 Elizabeth Street (between Prince and Houston Streets) in New York City.
I never heard of Le Labo before that day, but I could always count on Michelle to find things which are on the cutting edge and very cool. When I learned that Le Labo’s fragrances are vegan and cruelty free, I immediately considered having my own signature scent. I haven’t worn perfumes in many years because I feared unknown harmful ingredients in them.
Ultimately, I did not buy any perfumes from Le Labo since they were somewhat costly and I could not decide which scent I liked best; however, my visit to the “fragrance lab” led me to do a bit of my own research about perfumes and the choices available for vegans. Before I tell you about my findings, let me talk some more about Le Labo fragrances which may be an option for you.
Le Labo’s vegan and cruelty free fragrances are “made-to-order.” This means that the essential oil concentrates in the perfume remain separate from the alcohol right up to the moment of purchase. When you decide on which fragrance you want to purchase, the “lab experts” in the store mix the ingredients together, bottle them and then label the bottle with your name on it and the date of fabrication. Each bottle is quite costly, but if you truly love one of their fragrances then it might be worth it. The concept is kind of cool and the store is like being in a chic laboratory.
Apparently, Le Labo’s perfumes are costly because they are made with high quality natural oils, as well as other natural and synthetic materials. They are sold not only at Le Labo’s stores, but at other select locations including Barney’s in NYC. You could also purchase their products through their website.
There are many other fragrance options available for vegans. As far as ethics are concerned, I would not consider purchasing any fragrance which has animal products in it or which are made by a company that tests on animals. An example of an animal product in perfume would be a traditional “musk” which was the name originally given to the penetrating odorous substance obtained from the gland of a male musk deer. I think this “gland” is the deer’s testicle but I could be wrong. What a lovely thought! Most “musk” scents found in perfumes today are synthetic and not obtained from deer. Other examples of animal ingredients in perfumes would be beeswax and ambergris (a solid, waxy, flammable, dull grey or blackish substance produced in the digestive system of sperm whales). Most “ambergris” found in today’s perfumes are also synthetic.
There are many cruelty free perfumes out there which contain no animal products in them. I would check the packaging or the company’s website if you are interested in buying a specific perfume because many brands make it very clear that they do not support animal cruelty and contain plant ingredients only. I have noticed specific statements to that effect on Le Labo’s website, L’Occitane’s website and on the packaging of the fragrance “Clean” which I sampled at Sephora. There are many other companies which do not engage in animal cruelty; therefore, your options are wide open if your sole concern is a matter of ethics.
In addition to purchasing perfumes which are cruelty free and contain no animal ingredients, you may be interested in “clean” perfumes for health purposes. These perfumes would contain no chemicals or dangerous synthetics. I am interested in both vegan and “clean” perfumes. This would be your personal choice because, as previously stated, a perfume could still be vegan and contain potentially hazardous ingredients. If you are concerned about your health, you may want to avoid some of the following ingredients in your fragrances:
1. Phthalates: Substances added to plastics to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability and longevity. They are also used in a large variety of other products and high doses have been shown to change hormone levels and cause birth defects.
2. Parabens: A class of chemicals widely used as preservatives by cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. Although no effective direct links between parabens and cancer have been established, they have been found in breast cancer tumors and have also displayed the ability to slightly mimic estrogen.
3. Mineral oil: A liquid by-product of the distillation of petrolatum. The concern with mineral oil in cosmetics is its presence on lists of comedogenic substances which cause or aggravate acne.
These are only a few of many ingredients which you should be aware of. Some others are paraffins, propylene glycol, petrolatum and PABA. I am no expert in the field of health. I can only tell you what I would like to avoid in my personal care products.
I have come up with a list of fragrances which seem to be “clean” by the above standards and are probably worth checking out if you are looking for a new perfume. I have personally sampled some of them over the course of the past week and I will comment next to these particular fragrances.
Here are my recommendations:
1. KAI perfume oil and spray perfume: KAI products are a spa line which is very popular with celebrities. Oprah once listed KAI’s Body Butter as one of her favorite things. I actually purchased the body butter and the perfume oil. You must love the smell of gardenias which are found in Hawaii to like this fragrance. KAI products are paraben free, sulfate free, phthalate free, cruelty free and not tested on animals. The packaging is also recyclable. I purchased my KAI products at the Spa at Nordstrom in Garden City, New York.
2. Origin’s Ginger Essence Sensuous Skin Scent: This is a really nice feminine everyday scent which smells like a lemony ginger ale. Ginger Essence is also a very “clean” perfume which is high on my list of recommendations if you are looking for a signature scent. They are available at Origins’ stores and other locations, including Macy’s.
3. LUSH perfumes: I went to the LUSH store and tried all of them. If you are a LUSH fan, I would consider the solid perfume sticks in Vanillary, Breath of God and The Sweet Smell of Freedom.
4. The LA VANILA line sold at Sephora: La Vanila markets itself as “The Healthy Fragrance.” If you are a vanilla person, you should consider these perfumes which come in spray bottles or roller ball sticks. I liked the pure Vanilla scent the best.
I have not sampled the following fragrances but, from what I have read, they appear to be good choices:
5. A Perfume Organic: A high end perfume which can be purchased on their website. The “Mejica” scent looks like a good choice.
6. Ajne Organics: These organic perfumes are created in Carmel, California and could also be purchased on Ajne’s website. This line is also popular with the celebrities.
7. Honore des Pres: A French company with a new line of natural perfumes. The popular scent seems to be the “Love Coconut.” Ooh, that sounds good!
8. CROW Perfume: A new company specializing in water-based perfumes. The “Luna & Azul” scent looks interesting to me. You must check out CROW’s website.
9. Tsi-La Organic Perfume: Another high-end celeb favorite. I was interested in the scent called “Misaki.”
10. The PACIFICA line of spray perfumes and solids: always safe.
11. Sweet Anthem: A vegan perfume sold on Etsy. I know nothing else about it, but it may be worth looking into.
As you can see, there are some cruelty free and safe choices if you are interested in smelling good. I would love to hear some of your recommendations, if you have any. Happy sniffing!