Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Natural Joy, Organic Bliss

Bliss, originally uploaded by Dave Ward Photography.

After long procrastination, I have finally got my hands on some samples of Rich Hippie’s perfumes, thanks to a kind swapper via MUA. While Utopia left me only slightly uplifted from my current state (yuzu has the ability to do that to you) ; and Nirvana left me numbly bored – Wild Thing was the one to grab my attention, instantly (and no, it was not because of its steep price point). Wild Thing is as close as a natural perfume ever got to Patou’s infamous “Joy” (at its time bearing the slogan of being "the most expensive perfume in the world”). But the two have more in common than their high price. They both celebrate the luscious beauty of jasmine and rose. In Wild Thing, there is hardly anything else (a little bit of citrus at the opening, and a very subtle orris note). The rose almost gets lost in the bush of sultry, penetrating jasmine. The indole is intoxicating and beautiful. Almost outrageously so. Wild thing is a rich (pun intended) but not overpowering kind of floral and while very animalistic it is never repulsively so. Despite the fact that there is no civet at the base to my knowledge (which is what makes Joy parfum slightly “dirty”) – you get a similar vibe from the dry down of Wild Thing – it’s always jasminey and quite long lasting; though I can’t really tell what is it in the base that make it linger so long (no particular note stands out enough to be noticed, aside from the rose and the jasmine; and whatever iris there is there – it is very subtle, which makes me wonder if it is not used merely as a fixative). To the flower girl within me, Wild Thing is pure bliss and thankfully it is not in the least “hippie”.

On a completely other note, being a by-product of the hippie era myself, I can’t say I am particularly thrilled by the names or the concept of the Rich Hippie line. There are plenty of things that deeply irritate me when I read the website that have nothing to do with my personal taste (or with my lack of fondness of the brand’s paradoxical name): the perfume-history inaccuracies, the scare tactics, and last but not least – the inconsistency in regards to the quality or grade of the materials used (i.e. what is organic). The bottles are all labeled as “Organic Perfume”, yet in the list of notes, sometimes the same notes are listed as organic and sometimes they aren’t. My conclusion is that the alcohol is most likely organic, while maybe some of the essences could be organically grown (especially when listed that way) but many I suspect aren’t. Of course, the overall mystery around the subject contributes to the justification of the higher price point This brings a whole new issue which was brought up to me today: the definitions of “natural” and “organic” product, when referring to perfumes.

Recently, several new health-food-store distributed lines of fragrances were launched , branching out from aromatherapy into the real of “natural” or “organic” fragrances. Theoretically, it’s nice to see this happening – natural fragrances becoming more popular and being semi-mass-marketed. However, we are back to square one in terms of truth in labeling and advertising. Why? Because what makes these products “organic” is not necessarily the fragrance they are made of but the carrier. In order for a product to be certified organic, it needs to be made 95% certified organic components; and it can be labeled as “made with organic ingredients” if it uses at least 70% organic ingredients. The remaining 30% is easily open to interpretations, and could, for example – in the case of perfume – mean that the alcohol base is organic alcohol (usually grain or grape alcohol); but the remaining 30%, where the scent actually comes from, could easily be not organically grown, not to mention – it could even include synthetic molecules. Keeping in mind that the alcohol stays on the skin only for a few second, I am afraid I’m not particularly impressed! In other words – read the label and ingredient list very carefully before you fool yourself to thinking you are using an organic product.

As a flower-child’s daughter, I was brought up in an organic village, and I can tell you quite a bit about what organic farming is, and what is required for any crop to be considered organic. To put it simply, the crops must be:
Not genetically modified or engineered (aka non GMO)
Grown with no pesticides or herbicides
Grown with no chemical fertilizers
Grown within a reasonable distance from pollution sources (i.e.: other farms that use pesticides and herbicides)

In other words, the crops should be grown as pure as possible from any chemical or biological human interventions. To ensure that, most countries have their own body that certifies organic farms and companiess adhering to these standards. To be certified organic the farm must be assessed by a third party that will look at those factors and certify the produce or the products of that farm with the organization’s seal. The seal of approval can be also found on other products, such as prepared foods, cosmetics, cleaning products and body products.

On another note, I am yet to find a jasmine absolute that is certified organic. In fact, the mere act of extracting absolute from a plant is non-organic as it requires the use of synthetic solvents (only traces of which will be found in the absolute). Some even argue that absolutes are not natural (and I will discuss more of that in a future post, tomorrow). The groves of jasmine are sparse in the world and I haven’t heard of an organic one as of yet. Citrus and herbs are more easy to find organically, but the flower essences for the most part are very challenging. If you know of a source I would be happy to get that information from you …

I would be very curious to hear from anyone here who owns an original bottle from this line if there is any seal to attest to its certified organicness.

As you can see, the definition of “organic” is quite ambiguous, perhaps even more so than the definition of “natural”. If you want to further investigate here are two interesting links on the topic:

SkinCare @

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At October 01, 2012 6:50 AM, Anonymous Mike said...

A lot of perfumes that are on the market contain lots of dangerous chemicals. I wonder even with the organic perfumes sometimes. We have to do our research and approach perfumes with caution as our health should always be the first thing we protect.

At October 01, 2012 7:55 AM, Blogger Ayala Moriel said...

Hi Mike -
Thanks for your comment!
While I agree that one should always look carefully into what are the ingredients in the products they use; I must admit that fine fragrances are an misguidedly overly targeted and are the subject of far more attacks than they deserve: even if you were to use a perfume that contains synthetics, the amount you use (unless you're over using it) is just a little dab on both wrists and maybe the neck too (or spritzes, if you use a spray application). You have control over how much of fragrance you expose yourself to with the fine fragrances (and these are parfums, eaux de toilette, eaux de parfums and eaux de cologne).

IMHO it is the functional fragrances that are to blame for our over-exposure to toxic aroma-chemicals. Most people don't know it, but almost any product you buy is scented - and this applies not only to body products or fine fragrances, but also to the following unlikely list:
Plastic products (any and all; including kids' and babies' toys)
Rubber (ditto)
Leather goods
House cleaning products
and so on...
These we have a lot less control over how much they affect us, because they are everywhere in products we are using.
I wish perfumes were less attacked, because it is also an art form, and because of ridiculous regulations that were designed to make the fragrance companies stronger and richer (that is far more higher on the agenda list than the public safety, I'm sorry to say) - this art form is in danger of extinction now.


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