non-toxic perfume made with natural ingredients in eco-friendly bottle displayed with pink flowers against peach background.
February 28, 2024
 in 
Beauty

The World of Non-Toxic and Eco-Friendly Perfume: Our Top 10 Recommended Brands Redefining Fragrance

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here’s a reason why people talk so much about what Rihanna smells like, or why women are often coy to admit which fragrance they wear – perfume is its own stamp of individuality. Christian Dior once famously said that “A woman’s perfume says more about her than her handwriting.”

So what is it you’d like to say? And are you ok with perfumes using hazardous chemicals to say it? Those are the questions we’re here to help with. Not only will we be breaking down the harmful ingredients many scents contain, but why it matters to choose a non-toxic fragrance. We’ll also look at what makes a perfume more eco-friendly and share 10 of our favorite fragrance brands redefining the industry.

Despite the awful chemicals most conventional brands are using, plenty of perfumers have proven that you don’t need to compromise your eco-ethics for a signature scent. Let’s take a closer sniff … 

Table of  Contents

Why Does Using Non-Toxic and Eco-Friendly Perfume Brands Matter?

A 2018 study caused waves across the beauty world when it was found that most perfumes emit “volatile organic compounds (VOCs) when sprayed which can cause as much air pollution as car fumes. Ironically, the world of perfumery itself is under threat from climate change. Recent weather and temperature shifts have made it increasingly difficult to grow the flowers needed for our favorite scents.

What this ultimately means is that not only do we need to be using less toxic, more eco-friendly perfumes for the sake of our health and the planet’s, but for the sake of keeping the best parts of the fragrance world alive. 

The Top 5 Ingredients to Avoid When Looking for Non-Toxic Perfumes

The hands of a  perfumer mixing various chemicals to make a fragrance with various glass flasks contains ingredients on the desk.

There’s almost no end to the chemical combinations that can be used to make a fragrance but even so, there are 5 of the main ingredients worth avoiding whenever possible:

  • Synthetic Musks: This ingredient generally appears on fragrance labels as musk ketone and musk xylene and terrifyingly, can enter the human body through inhalation and the skin where it tends to accumulate in the body it’s only partially biodegradable. It can also accumulate in our water systems and environment. Some of the concerns associated with this ingredient, as listed and verified by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics include hormone disruption, organ system toxicity, and reproductive and developmental toxicity.
  • Octinoxate: This ingredient is a UV absorber and filter that we’ve otherwise spoken about in our article on coral-safe sunscreens. Spoiler alert: nothing with this ingredient in it is coral-safe, nor does it make for a safe perfume as it’s been associated with allergies and immunotoxicity, as well as developmental and reproductive toxicity for both human and marine life.
  • Lilial: This ingredient has been banned by the EU and various other countries and yet, as the FDA showed, it’s still one of the most common preservatives in cosmetics. The EU ban came as a result of studies that indicated that lilial was linked to reproductive risks and cancer. There’s still some debate about how much of a risk the ingredient poses but for now, if the EU has ruled it as being something to avoid, it’s worth steering clear.
  • Styrene: A 2018 report linked exposure to this very common perfume ingredient with cancer. It can also be toxic to the central nervous system through inhalation and is considered a major endocrine disruptor. No doubt about it, the best non-toxic perfumes won’t have this ingredient in them.
  • Fragrance/Undisclosed Ingredients: The FDA has a very convenient system that allows cosmetic brands to avoid disclosing the ingredients in their specially created scents. The problem is that this means brands get to avoid accountability, and consumers are left in the dark about what’s actually in the products they’re buying. When you’re looking for non-toxic perfumes and checking ingredients, stick with the brands that disclose everything. As with sustainability, going non-toxic requires a commitment to transparency.

Why Some Non-Toxic Perfumers Still Use Synthetic Ingredients

Though many synthetic fragrance ingredients can be hazardous, not all are bad. Many non-toxic fragrance brands use a combination of natural and safe synthetics. Some of these synthetics are better for sensitive skin than pure essential oils or are easier to obtain ethically.

What Makes Perfume Eco-Friendly?

We’d argue that an eco-friendly perfume comes down to 3 main factors:

  • The formula: Ingredients should be non-toxic and ethically sourced, as well as vegan, and not tested on animals where possible. Some of the best certifications a fragrance brand can have in this regard are a Peta cruelty-free stamp and EWG verification.
  • The Bottle: Refillable and recyclable is ideal but even using some recycled material in a perfume bottle can help limit environmental damage. Shipping packaging is also important.
  • Transparency: One of the biggest eco hazards of the perfume industry is that they’re allowed to keep quiet about what’s in their exact fragrance combinations. A great non-toxic and eco-friendly fragrance brand will tell you exactly what’s in their formulas, and what goes into their production, so you get true peace of mind.

Where To Buy Non-Toxic and Eco-Friendly Perfume Brands

There’s a misconception that non-toxic and eco-friendly perfumes can only be found in obscure health stores but most of the brands we’ll look at in the next section are easy to order online or can be found in everyday beauty stores like Ulta and Sephora.

10 Of Our Favorite Non-Toxic and Eco-Friendly Perfume Brands

We get it, all that other information was fun but what you really want to know is how to smell amazing without compromising your ethics. To that end, here are 10 of our favorite eco-friendly and non-toxic perfume brands broken down by their standout scents, ingredients, and sustainability stats:

1. Henry Rose

Popular non-toxic and eco-friendly fragrance by Henry Rose known as Queens & Monsters.

Founded by actress Michelle Pfeiffer, this is the first major fragrance brand to be EWG-verified. It also happens to be home to some of the most stylish and beloved non-toxic perfumes. 

Price Range: $35-$120

Fragrance Range: Genderless, wearable fragrances that go from fresh, citrusy scents to deep florals and woody patchouli blends. 

Standout Scent: Queens and Monsters is a sensual combination of sandalwood and petitgrain that won an Allure Beauty award (2020) and maintains 152 5-star reviews on the brand’s site.

Sustainability Stats:

  • Clean ingredients – free of any known carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, etc.
  • Leaping Bunny-Certified.
  • Cradle to Cradle Certified for overall sustainability.
  • EWG Certified.
  • Recycled and recyclable packaging.
  • Green and renewable energy used at fragrance factories.

2. Dedcool

Genderless Xtra Milk fragrance by Carbon neutral and non-toxic perfume brand, Dedcool.

Dedcool has set out to do something truly unusual: make vegan, biodegradable, non-toxic fragrances that don’t just smell great but will boost your mood and health.

Price Range: $6-$90

Fragrance Range: Genderless bright, spicy scents, as well as sweeter, more sensual combinations designed to be worn for any occasion.

Standout Scent: Dedcool’s bestseller is Xtra Milk which features bergamot, white musk, and amber to create a fragrance that sits close to the skin and smells like “you”.

Sustainability Stats:

  • Carbon Neutral.
  • Vegan.
  • Donate to 1% for the planet.
  • Everything is manufactured in-house in small batches to reduce waste and carbon footprint.
  • Recycled and reusable packaging.

3. Sana Jardin

Cruelty-free and non-toxic fragrance named Venus of Verbena by Sana Jardin.

This female-founded brand makes some of the best clean perfumes on the market and even better? The business runs multiple initiatives to improve the livelihoods of female harvesters in the perfume industry.

Price Range: $28-$180

Fragrance Range: Aimed at women, the brand creates rich, memorable scents that cover everything from warm, earthy notes to florals and fresh citrus.

Standout Scent: Sana Jardin’s Venus of Verbena scent is a highly unusual, green, citrus blend that won a Vogue Beauty Award in 2023.

Sustainability Stats:

  • Vegan Leaping Bunny Certified.
  • No polycyclic musks, parabens, BHT, etc.
  • Recycled and recyclable packaging.
  • Non-plastic bottle caps.

4. Abel

natural and sustainable fragrance known as Cyan Nori by Abel.

If you’re looking for the best, all-natural perfume, then look no further. Abel is a New Zealand-based brand making modern, 100% natural, biodegradable fragrances.

Price Range: $85-$180

Fragrance Range: Genderless florals, ambers, woods, and an unusual, sweet, salty musk.

Standout Scent: Cyan Nori was an Allure Beauty winner (2023) and received praise for its “juicy, warm, and slightly umami scent” that can transport you to the “Italian Riviera”.

Sustainability Stats:

  • 1% of profits given to non-profits.
  • 100% biodegradable, natural fragrances.
  • Vegan.
  • Cruelty-free.
  • Ethically sourced ingredients.
  • Low carbon shipping.
  • Recyclable packaging.

5. Wit and West

Wit and West's popular Brumaire Woods, non-toxic scent formulation.

Here’s another brand making natural perfumes without chemicals to worry about and this time, in small batches from Colorado from a husband-and-wife team.

Price Range: $60-$160

Fragrance Range: Genderless classics such as Jasmine and Rose-based scents, as well as spicier combinations and fresh, citrus scents.

Standout Scent: Lavender, peppermint, and thyme, with a dash of Jasmine and oakmoss. That’s what makes up Wit and West’s award-winning and wholly unique Fougère fragrance.

Sustainability Stats:

  • 100% natural ingredients.
  • Vegan.
  • Leaping Bunny certified.
  • Small batch, artisanal.

6. For Strange Women

non-toxic oil based perfume by For Strange Women known as November In the Temperate Deciduous Forest

This all-female indie perfume house is based in the Midwest and has a wonderfully witchy, gothic approach to their scents. Their natural, nontoxic perfumes are available as solid balms and concentrated oils, as well as mists, for different wearing experiences.

Price Range: $17-$60

Fragrance Range: Genderless fragrances broken down by elements such as “blooms”, “resins”, and “moss”.

Standout Scent: November in the Temperate Deciduous Forest is their best-seller thanks to its transportive, autumnal, woodsy scent.

Sustainability Stats:

  • Natural, non-toxic formula.
  • Ethically sourced ingredients.
  • Small-batch production.
  • Recyclable packaging.

7. By/Rosie Jane

Cruelty-free and vegan perfume formulation known as Rosie by By/Rosie Jane

A Los Angeles-based brand, By/Rosie Jane, has received attention from Allure, Harper’s Bazaar, WWD, and various others for their incredible smelling, 100% clean perfume options.

Price Range: $28-$75

Fragrance Range: Genderless, cozy scents that sit close to the skin. Top notes range from fig and gardenia to vanilla and hinoki wood.

Standout Scent: Rosie, the brand’s signature scent, has 501 5-star reviews on their site. It also won the “Best Unisex Fragrance” at PEOPLE in 2023 for its skin-like scent made up of nude musk and sweet rose.

Sustainability Stats:

  • Cruelty-free.
  • Vegan.
  • 1% for the planet.
  • Climate neutral.
  • 100% recyclable packaging.
  • Clean, safe formulas.
  • Recyclable packaging.

8. DefineMe

Award winning, PETA Certified and Organic Kahana scent by DefineMe.

Like so many fragrance houses on this list, DefineMe is female-founded and committed to creating the very best organic perfumes. Sticking mostly to natural ingredients, they only use synthetics when they’re deemed safer on the skin than essential oil counterparts.

Price Range: $72

Fragrance Range: Fresh, light, everyday fragrances for women that include everything from citrus notes to softer, more floral scents.

Standout Scent: Kahana won the “best ethical fragrance” at the Global Green Beauty Awards in 2021. It features a hibiscus, delicate pink pepper, and refreshing coconut water.

Sustainability Stats:

  • Peta Certified vegan and cruelty-free.
  • Natural, organic, and sustainably sourced ingredients.

9. Rainwater Botanicals

Coconut Lime perfume oil by natural and sustainable fragrance brand, Rainwater Botanicals.

Rainwater Botanicals makes some of the best natural perfume oils and mists on the market. We love that everything is produced in small batches with natural, ethically sourced ingredients.

Price Range: $14-$24

Fragrance Range: Genderless perfume oils and mists with simple scent profiles such as spruce and cardamon, and jasmine and vanilla.

Standout Scent: Their bestseller is a Coconut Lime Perfume Oil that is small enough to be carried around all day so that you’re never without the sweet, tropical, sunny scent.

Sustainability Stats:

  • Natural and responsibly sourced ingredients.
  • Recyclable packaging.

10. Maison Louis Marie

Clean, Bois de Balincourt perfume oil by Maison Louis Marie in sustainable packaging.

Trust the French to bring a sense of glamor to the world of natural fragrances. Maison Louis Marie makes chic, botanical scents with a history that goes as far back as the French Revolution.

Price Range: $16-$93

Fragrance Range: Genderless “eu de parfum” (they are a French brand, after all) and perfume oils in distinctly botanical scents with top notes such as hinoki wood, vanilla, and tropical tuberose.

Standout Scent: The Bois de Balincourt perfume oil is their most popular. This romantic, natural fragrance has top notes of sandalwood and cedarwood which settle to reveal warm, nutmeg and cinnamon scents.

Sustainability Stats:

  • 1% for the Planet
  • Partnered with the National Forest Foundation.
  • Certified climate neutral.
  • Clean, natural ingredients,
  • Recyclable packaging.

A Scent With A Conscience

Smelling good is one thing, but what about feeling good? The right non-toxic perfume will give you that unique, signature scent you’ve been looking for while also ensuring that your health and the planet’s is protected. If you’re looking for even more reasons to go clean, most of the brands we’ve mentioned sell inexpensive testers that allow you to dip a toe into the non-toxic fragrance world without too much commitment. Be warned, you’ll smell too good to ever go back …

Frequently Asked Questions About Non-Toxic Perfume

Is there such a thing as non-toxic fragrance?

We’re happy to say that there is such a thing as a non-toxic fragrance thanks to EWG-verified perfume brands like Henry and Rose which have managed to make natural, safe perfumes free of any toxic ingredients. 

How do I know if my perfume is toxic?

To know if your perfume is toxic, check the ingredient list for chemicals like synthetic musk, lilial, and styrene. We’d also recommend doing an online search of any ingredients you don’t recognize and using EWG’s Skin Deep site as a resource. They’ve reviewed popular fragrances such as Daisy by Marc Jacobs and broken down the hazard level of each ingredient.

How can I smell good naturally?

If you want to smell good naturally, you’ve got to do two things: pay attention to your health and stick to products with natural scents. For the health side of things, it’s all about drinking lots of water, eating an antioxidant-rich diet, and making sure to wash daily so that nasty bacteria are kept at bay. If you do then want to add a fragrance over and above this, stick to natural brands like Rainwater Botanicals which have a range of fragrances and body care items that are naturally scented.

Which fragrances are natural?

Natural fragrances are anything that use natural derivatives to create their scents. Usually, this involves the use of essential oils and extractions from plants such as Jasmine, rose, or bergamot. If you’re looking for natural perfumes without chemicals, some brands we’d recommend include Rainwater Botanicals, Wit and West, and For Strange Women.

What is 100% natural fragrance?

A 100% natural fragrance is a scent that doesn’t use any synthetic ingredients such as synthetic musk, or styrene to create the scent. Instead, a 100% natural fragrance will rely on naturally derived ingredients and is biodegradable as a result.

What is the purest form of perfume?

The purest form of a perfume is called the “extrait de parfum” and usually exists in oil form rather than as a spray. These oils have a fragrance concentration of about 20 to 40% and can be applied directly to the skin for an extra long-lasting scent.

Does organic perfume exist?

Organic perfume does exist! Some of the best organic perfume brands are Sana Jardin, Henry Rose, By/Rosie Jane, and DedCool. Not only do they each make organic, non-toxic fragrances but they’re also just beautiful formulas that prove that smelling good shouldn’t have to come at the cost of the planet.