Sunday, June 24, 2012

Tackling the 5 Elements

My Quest for perfection is bogging me down.....
I was supposed to be taking part in Monica Miller's wonderful perfume project around the 5th Sacred Thing..."Primordial Scents 2012"
A Challenge to design perfumes around one or more of the 5 Elements, Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit...
A Project really close to my heart as a) I love and adore Starhawks book "The 5th Sacred Thing" and b) designing scents around the elements is what got me started in perfumery in the first place....
but Life this year has been pretty....emotional. Upheavals, depression, relationship changes and other stuff have been either dragging me away from my workshop or making me too tired and confused to focus properly....
Plus I was stupid enough to want to make a full set of scents, covering all the Elements.
"Should be easy", I thought, after all I used to actually make and sell Magickal Oils along these lines...
But when I actually sat down with my old recipes and starting looking at them properly, it dawned on me that my skills have come a long way since then...and that what may be a perfectly apt blend as say, a FIRE oil, does not translate as easily into a wonderful perfume! I mean, you gotta look for longevity, wearability, generlal wonderfulness and all there...
So I began to rework the formulas...and the collections of little sample bottles for each element got larger and larger....
Whether it was the sheer magnitude of what I was trying to achieve, or the muddled self doubting mess in my head over the last few months, nothing seemed to be good enough. Time rolled on, the deadline grew closer and closer, and I became almost paralized with indecision. And finally gave up, took a job contract for 2 months to get away from the house and the dramas, and left behind my project bottles unfinished...
Now I'm back, brain heart and soul refreshed from 2 months out in the desert, the project is rolling out, and I'm sitting in my workshop staring and sniffing my little bottles. And here is the big question:
Do I just stop dithering, pick the best out of each lot and send 'em off to Monica? Or do I give in to my need to have them "just right" and thereby miss out on the project alltogether?
I have a pretty damm good "Air" that is like a fresh seaside breeze, with tads of seaweed and driftwood in the background...I have a very watery "Water" that I'd love to fiddle with to make it a wonderful perfume as well as a great representation of the "Fire" again is very firey rather than perfumey...and I'm tempted to send in my "Love Potion" which is applied Fire incarnate and maybe PAN as the ultimate Earth elemental...but is it acceptable to add to older perfumes to the set?
Both of these are great perfumes...whereas the Fire and Earth in my experiments are primordial rather than rounded perfumes....arrrggghhh!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Today I am writing about a fantastic innovation a couple of my collegues have come up with!
One of the hardest battles us natural perfumers face, is that of information.
You see the general public has little way of understanding the diference between what we do, and what the larger conventional perfume companies do.
I mean, my neighbour tried to tell me the other day that Chanel No5 was made out of natural Ylang Ylang Flowers!
Unluckily labeling legislation does little to help here..
Basically, you can put anything in a perfume, and the label itself will say helpful things like :"contains: alc. denat., water, perfume."
The big companies are also beginning to jump on the natural bandwagon and are selling a wide range of cosmetics and now even perfumes with lovely natural imaes and hints in their advertising that make people think they ARE actually natural.

So it's time to fight back.
And here's where ECLIP comes in:
ECLIP stands for Complete Ethical List of Ingerdients in Perfume.
Sounds pretty clear doesn't it?!
The idea behind it is to simply start openly and clearly showing exactly what is in out perfumes useing a standardized format. The format we are useing is the ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) standard for cosmetic ingredients, that can be found on the ISO website
That way, consumers can make a clear and informed decision about what they are buying!
Revolution through honesty, hows that for a cool idea?!

And it may well work.
The more of us who do this, the more pressure will mount for the bigger companies to do this too.

I have posted the ECLIP list for my company below, and here is also a webpage which is the start of our true revolution:

Natural Perfumers who use ECLIP


ECLIP of "Perfume by Nature"


as defined by ISO 9235
Alcohol natural
Animal Extracts and tinctures: (Hyraceum, Honey, Beeswax).
Concrete: as defined by by ISO 9235
Essential oils: as defined by ISO. 9235
Extracts: as defined by ISO 9235

Natural molecules isolates obtained from essential oils
Oil Vegetable
Resinoids: as defined by ISO 9235
Tinctures: as defined by ISO 9235

Wax  from bees (for solid perfumes)


Aroma chemicals from chemical synthesis of petroleum derivatives.
Aroma chemicals from chemical synthesis of natural raw materials  
Denaturant for alcohol
Natural molecules (Isolates) from bio technology
Ogm ingredients
Oil MIneral (paraffins)

Preservatives (natural) ex. wheat germ oil
Preservatives (synthetic) ex. vitamin C
Wax from petroleum (for solid perfumes)  

Definition of the products listed on ECLIP      

Absolute: extracted with ethanol from concrete or resinoides. Ethanol is then removed.
Alcohol natural: obtained from natural raw material source (grain, corn, cane) by fermentation then distillation.
Alcohol synthetic, synthetic ethanol is obtained by mixing ethylene (gas obtained from petroleum or fossil gases) with steam at a temperature of 300° Celsius.
Animal Extracts and tinctures: obtained by treating animal raw material with ethanol. To obtain the Extract the solvent is removed (es. civet, Castoreum, Hyraceum, Ambergris, Honey bee).
Aroma chemicals from chemical synthesis of petroleum derivatives.
Aroma chemicals from natural raw materials (acetate vetyveryle, acetate cedryle ecc…): Single molecules obtained from chemical reaction of natural raw materials with acids to obtain acetates, cinnamates, brassylates etc.
Antioxidants (natural) es. wheat germ oil
Antioxidants (synthetic) es. vitamin C or E
Concrete: obtained from botanical raw material usually extracted with solvent (hexane, supercritical CO2) then the solvent is removed.
Denaturant : in perfumery the combination of 2 chemical products is used to disable human consumption. The chemicals used for denaturation are MEK (
methyl ethyl ketone), of controversial health impact and Bitrex.
Essential oils: obtained by steam distillation of natural raw material or cold press in the case of citruses.
Essential oils which significantly change in composition (folded essential oils, fractioned essential oils , x-less essential oil, molecular distillation). materials which has been eliminated reduced by re-distillation
Extracts: obtained by treating natural raw material with volative solvent which is then removed or non volatile solvent that is not removed at the end.
Natural molecules (So called) or Isolates, from bio technology (patent secrecy on process and origin material) obtained from microbiological synthesis. the problem is related to the secrecy that the producers keeps on the origin material of these products with the excuse of patent propriety and confidentiality.
Natural molecules (isolates) obtained from essential oils by distillation. Mostly obtained from fractional distillation of natural essential essential oils.
Ogm ingredients any ingredient from genetically modificated raw material
Oil mineral (paraffins) derived from petroleum. obtained from crude distillation of the same.
Oils vegetable (jojoba, mandorle ecc) from natural source obtained from cold pression without solvents
Preservatives (natural) ex. wheat germ oil, used to prevent the deterioration by oxidation
Preservatives (synthetic) ex. vitamin C, used to prevent the deterioration by oxidation
PG and DPG (Propylen Glicole, Dipropylen Glicole) synthetic solvent from petroleum used to obtain extracts from natural raw materials: PG is used mainly to obtain cocoa extract: the PG is NOT removed.
Resinoids: obtained from dry botanical raw material extracted usually with ethanol, that is then removed.
Tinctures: obtained from ethanol maceration of raw material (also called infusion in perfumery); the exhausted raw material is filtered off.
Wax  from bees (for solid perfumes)
Wax from petroleum (for solid perfumes)

In all our fragrances are present the 16 so called “natural allergens” contained in most essential oils, they are:
  • cynnamic alcohol
  • hexil cinnamal
  • citral
  • eugenol
  • geraniol
  • hydroxycitronellal
  • isoeugenol
  • anisic alcohol
  • benzilbenzoate
  • benzyl cinnamate
  • citronellol
  • d- limonene
  • cynnamaldehyde
  • farnesol
  • linalool
  • evernia prunastri extract

Naturalperfumers that use ECLIP

The list of "natural allergens" is a biot more controversial.
It's one that was basically set up by IFRA, the international perfume association. And defines ingredients that they have decided can cause allergies in some people, and sets standards for the amount in which these can be used in perfumes, as well as demanding that these be declared on labels.
Perfonally I think it's a load of rubbish, as it doesnt incude the many many artificial perfume ingredients that can cause nasty reactions in so many people...and also doesn't take into account that essential oils are complex synergies that contain these chemicals in small amounts...which is a totally different thing to the way the perfume industry uses them.

However, IFRA is such a powerful mover and shaker in the business world that many individual countries have started to legislate useing their standards.
And to be able to sell perfumes legally in most European Countries, we now have to include that list, to warn people that our perfumes contain these dangerous natural chemicals as part of the essential oils we use!

But thats another story alltogether..
Anyway, here's to a new revolution in honesty in business!

I'll be including this list on a whole page of it's own on my website, as soon as I can find a new webtechie to fix up my official website!


Saturday, June 2, 2012

My First Love

My first essential oil Love, was Australian Eukalyptus oil!

My mother is an Ozzie, who grew up on a farm out in the bush some hours from Sydney and one of my earliest childhood memories is her drizzling eukalyptus oil onto my pillow when i was sick as a dog during one of the typical grey wet and miserable English winters.
the effect was immediate... the strong clean nip of the oil began to cut through the foggy muck in my nose and chest, and I began to breath more also cooled my aching head, and cleared my fevered brain a bit too...
from that point on, eucalyptus oil equalled healing and memories of being soothed and looked after by my mother for me....
It's what my grandfather used to do for her as a kid too, and the scent followed me through my childhood.
When I eventually came back to Australia in my late teens, the scent wafting from the eucalyptus trees at the airport welcomed me like a long lost daughter, and I felt immediately at home.....

Eucalyptus trees cover the whole Australian landscape. They grow pretty much everywhere in this vast country, from tropical rain forests in the north to the dry arid desert areas in the centre where I'm currently writing from.
The leaves from the many varieties of eucalyptus have been used by the indigenous people for many centuries...they use them for healing colds and coughs by inhaling the vapors from the leaves both simply crushed and also steamed in hot water.
but they also use them in spiritual "smoking ceremonies" in a similar way to the use of white sage and cedarwood in American Indian "Smudging".
This is done in conjunction with many kinds of ceremonies, to cleanse the body and spirit of "bad energies". I went to a women's conference here a few days ago, and the local elders made everyone walk through thick clouds of smoke before entering the building and beginning the conference. it is used as part of "welcome to country" greeting ceremonies nowadays before many kinds of official meetings, opening new buildings etc, to acknowledge local traditional ownership and out of respect to the ancestors....

The energy and effect of Eucalyptus is cleansing...the oil is antiseptic, dissolves mucous in clogged up airways and is also cooling...
the scent is clear and astringent, with similar notes to mint, rosemary and pine.
It's one of the most useful and commonly used of all essential oils in the average household out here. All supermarkets stock it, and it is used for everything from the traditional few drops on your pillow for colds and flu, to dissolving that annoying leftover bit of glue from labels on wine glasses.

Australians love to suck on eucalyptus lollies during winter to clear their noses and soothe sore throats...but like many essential oils, apart from the tiny amounts used in lollies, it's better inhaled than swallowed. Taken internally, it can drop blood pressure dangerously, esp in small children, so be sure to keep it out of kids reach!

My favorite eucalyptus is from a lemon scented gum, that has a tangy citrus overtone to the cooling menthol clarity....
I often combine it with things like lavender, pine and lemon oil, and add a few drops to the water I use to wash down benches or mop the floor with.
It seems to impart a lovely clarity to the air of a room, as well as being a marvelous natural disinfectant.

Wonderful stuff!

The photos below are

a) two beautiful gum trees growing in the dry creek bed of the Todd river in Alice springs and
b) a small ghost gum at Kunjurra, near Tennant Creek

Both in Central Australia

Below is the list of Guild members taking part in the My First Love project, Do check out their sites for more first love stories!