Natural. What is it?
This is the debate. Always has been, it seems, in this business. Much splitting of hairs goes on in the explanation of 'natural'.
I am no expert in this debate. I don't know all the facts or figures. I suspect my lack of rabid involvement is partially due to not wanting to load more on my plate than what's already on it. And it's a migraine waiting to happen. And I feel it puts limitations on the creative process. As an artist, specifically in this art of botanical based perfumery, I feel the need to expand the natural palette, to bring in more and more that is rare or new to add umph to my finished perfumes; as a conscientious consumer, I try to curb this desire. This brings me to natural isolates in perfumery, something which I have no first-hand knowledge of, and no information on, except that they're derived from nature, plants, and a lot of 'natural perfumers' use them. This is where things get a bit fuzzy. Isolates are isolated molecules derived from a natural, plant-based component, like geranium oil. They are used to add a single scent element to a perfume without adding all the chemical components in the mother plant/oil (my example is geranium). Ok, like I stated earlier, I don't know jack squat about this stuff, this is just my understanding of these things. My question is: Is this natural?
How far from the original source does an element have to be to become 'unnatural'? Let's look at petroleum. It's organic. Dead plant matter, dinosaur bones (I'm being facetious) ~ synthetic perfumery ingredients are derived from the by-product of petroleum oil production. This is decidedly far, far away from the original source, is it not? A few million years, at least. And is that what makes it 'unnatural'? Hair splitting happens here.
Maybe I'm just being lazy not delving into natural isolates. Maybe they scare me. Maybe both of those and more are what is keeping me from venturing beyond essential oils, absolutes, concretes and the lot. Maybe I see the potential of this newest (really, it's quite old) idea in perfumery and want to be a part of it.
Blended ideas ~
A non-meat-eating friend of mine once said that it was ok to wear leather because the cows used to make her boots weren't killed for their skins, they were killed for their meat. So in her eyes, as a by-product, the leather was completely ethical to use. This is a similar comparison to the production of rosewood oil -- some of the plants are being clear-cut for farmland, with the oil being a by-product of the clear-cutting. This is only part of the story, however. The rest is more political than I care to involve myself with. I leave that up to the pit bulls in this business. But it begs the questions: Do we still buy rosewood oil in indirect support of clear-cutting forests? And do we use it with a clear conscious because otherwise it would go to waste? Or to someone else?
The ethical issues in natural and botanical perfumery are mind-boggling.