My boyfriend was asking me if synthetic in perfumes means bad and natural good. I replied that as far as I could tell like most ‘natural’ things, it’s the marketing that tends to convince the buyer that all things natural will taste, feel, smell and work better than synthetic.
Especially with increasingly tight restrictions on the use of certain natural materials in fragrances, it is the masterful use of quality synthetics that is creating some of the best-smelling, most interesting and longest lasting fragrances on the market.
Paula Begoun has an interesting website called Beautypedia in which she explodes many myths about products promoted by marketers keen to sell at any cost – costs to our wallet and our health. My understanding of much of what Paula says is that there is good and bad in everything – both synthetic and natural, and that it is worth researching products and finding out what is most effective and healthy for you – and this isn’t necessarily going to be reflected in the price tag or the packaging.
A friend who works in a perfume shop was telling me how many folks come in asking if the perfumes are ‘natural’ – either because they want natural products, or because they claim they are allergic to natural products. Most of their perfumes are a mix of natural and synthetic (like most perfumes on the market today), and he was explaining that people often misunderstand what aspects of the perfume they might be having reactions to, and that it is often as likely to be a natural ingredient as a synthetic one.
I have a tendency to think that natural stuff must be better for me – I’ll spend that bit more to get the organic vegetables or will haunt the aisle in the health food store with natural beauty products in it reading labels and wondering if this or that ingredient from an artichoke will do me more good than one that comes from a lab. The question I always come back to, however, is isn’t everything natural? Even what we make by combining this or that molecule in a lab is still derived from stuff of this world. I guess that’s a bit of a philosophical question but somehow it feels important in this context. Last night I watched Lars von Trier’s film Antichrist, and that was what started me thinking about ‘nature as evil’ – Bambi was definitely nowhere to be seen in Lars’ vision of Eden.