Kinda Obsessed – 3 Super Clean Fragrances

April 9, 2018 (updated February 4, 2022)

nontoxic fragrance

Hope you had an awesome weekend. I love wearing a beautiful scent on the weekend – it elevates this special time adding an element of intrigue, beauty and desire. Plus it’s a great way to really create an “olfactory signature look” as I like to call it. A scent profile people will remember you by. Scent plays such an important part in our memories so it’s important to choose wisely!

Unlike our other senses (vision, touch, hearing) our sense of smell has the ability to lay down long-lasting memories linked to particular times and places and include deep emotional resonance associated with these memories. – Live Science

Choose Clean

It’s also important to choose clean. Why? #1: Perfumers are not required to disclose their ingredients. The Fair Packaging and Labeling Act requires companies to list out their ingredients but according to the FDA, this excludes “trade secrets”– including fragrance ingredients. #2: No one is checking to make sure these ingredients are safe. It’s the manufactures responsibility to make sure fragrances are safe before selling them. It’s like the fox watching the hen house.

To illustrate, here is a list of 3,999 materials that have been reported to be used in fragrances as of 2016. A few highlights include:

  • Resorcinol – A toxin associated with endocrine disruption and cancer.
  • Naphthalene – Confirmed animal carcinogen and possible human carcinogen via inhalation routes. Causes mutations in animal lungs and ovary.
  • Butanamide, 2-ethyl-N-methyl-N-(3-methylphenyl) – Harmful if swallowed, causes skin irritation, may cause allergic skin reactions, causes serious eye irritation, toxic to aquatic live with long lasting effects.
  • 4-Methylnonanoic acid – Causes severe skin burns and eye damage, skin irritation + serious eye damage.
  • Benzenesulfonic acid – Harmful is swallowed, causes severe skin burns and eye damage, causes skin irritation, causes serious eye irritation, may cause respiratory irritation by single exposure, corrosive to metals.

And that’s just 5 out of the 3,999 listed.

nontoxic fragrancesHow To Shop For A Clean Fragrance

But what’s clean and what’s not? Well, let’s break it down. All clean fragrances need a carrier or a base to hold the fragrances. This can be organic grape or corn alcohol or organic fractionated coconut oil for example. Then absolutes and essential oils are added for scent.

Just like conventional fragrances, most natural perfumers will not tell you exactly what’s in their fragrances because that would literally be giving away their livelihood and copycats would take advantage. So here’s what you can ask:

  1. What base or carrier do you use?
  2. What do you scent your fragrances with?
  3. Are they organic or wildcrafted?
  4. Do you use isolates? (Ex. Eugenol, Citronellol, Geraniol – These are naturally occurring in essential oils but if they have been isolated and/or synthetically manufactured and added back in that’s usually a good indication to avoid.)
  5. Are there any preservatives? (An Eau de toilette for example will require a preservative because it’s usually formulated with water whereas a fragrance formulated with just a carrier and essential oils won’t.)
  6. Do you add anything else?

The Cleanest of The Clean – Let’s Talk Extraction Methods

If you are getting an organic base scented with organic or wildcrafted essential oils, that’s pretty much as clean as it gets. Except, we can take it one step further and look at HOW the essential oils and absolutes are collected/processed. Essential oils and absolutes are extracted in several different ways such as steam distillation or solvent extraction (however it’s exciting to note that alternative methods are continually being developed like super clean CO2 for example). One common solvent used for extraction is hexane.

Here’s a little bit about hexane from the Environmental Protection Act:

Hexane is used to extract edible oils from seeds and vegetables, as a special-use solvent, and as a cleaning agent.  Acute (short-term) inhalation exposure of humans to high levels of hexane causes mild central nervous system (CNS) effects, including dizziness, giddiness, slight nausea, and headache.

Chronic (longterm) exposure to hexane in air is associated with polyneuropathy in humans, with numbness in the extremities, muscular weakness, blurred vision, headache, and fatigue observed.

Neurotoxic effects have also been exhibited in rats.  No information is available on the carcinogenic effects of hexane in humans or animals.  EPA has classified hexane as a Group D, not classifiable as to human carcinogenicity. – EPA

Why would people use hexane? Solvent extraction is unavoidable and necessary for some aromatics like jasmine, tuberose and vanilla which generally will not yield their aromas through distillation. Enter hexane. The other benefit to using hexane is that hexane extraction gets closer to the actual scent – even more so than CO2 extraction. Plus it makes scents last longer.

Is Hexane A Deal Breaker?

But let’s get to the point. In the end, we are not spraying a bottle of hexane on ourselves. To put this in perspective, the Thorn & Bloom website notes: Although most of the hexane is washed away with alcohol at the end of the process, there still exists a small percentage in the final product (parts per million). This minuscule amount renders the aromatic non-organic even if the growing methods were organic. 

So #1: THAT’S one reason why you don’t see a lot of natural perfumes that are certified organic. But also, #2, let’s get real. Parts per million is a really, really small. So big picture I personally am okay with using a clean fragrance that employs hexane extracted absolutes (and most all clean fragrance lines do by the way!) But the point is I want us to be able to make a choice. Use it or don’t use it but as consumers it’s important that we are making informed decisions and CHOOSING. 

3 Hexane-free Nontoxic Fragrances I Love!

So if you want to kick up your clean fragrance game a notch, here are 3 clean options that do not use any hexane extracted ingredients. They also happen to be my 3 faves too.

*I feel the need to add that some natural fragrances tend to smell too literal like…..lemon or campfire or…dirt…I mean, let’s be honest. It’s less than sexy. They lack that je ne sais quoi that really makes a fragrance a fragrance IMO. So anyways all three of these are complex, beautiful and leave generous space for interpretation. Truly the cleanest of the clean with a lot to offer.

Josh Rosebrook’s Ethereal

Ethereal is currently unavailable due to sourcing issues. I for one am praying it returns to the market soon. It’s too good to say goodbye to forever!

This is one of the biggest nontoxic fragrances on the market. Ethereal is everything: bold, musky, earthy, sweet, spicy, warm, sensual and sexy. It’s the everyman’s and everywoman’s fragrance and wears beautifully on me and my hubs – Fantastic and edgy for a 20-something too.

Josh Rosebrook Ethereal Nontoxic Fragrance

Depending on how the wind blows it reminds me of my dad’s musk when I was little. I used to stand at the bathroom door and watch him shave. His favorite thing was calling me over to smell his shaving cream because it “smelled weird” – catching me with the ol’ pie in the face trick. I cried every time. Anyways, it fills my heart with nostalgia when I wear Ethereal.

Ethereal also gives me that tingle in my belly like I’m going on a first date again – it’s masterfully moving. This is Josh Rosebrook’s first fragrance although I hear he is working on his second. Comes in a base of organic alcohol with a spray applicator. Wears for 8+ hours. Mature, confident and unstoppable.

Bless by Leahlani

Bless is a brand new fragrance that just hit internet shelves about 2 weeks ago. It’s for the floral lover through and through and is a dead ringer for Leahlani’s Bless Balm. But if that doesn’t give you any context…think: an enveloping bouquet of powdery florals. It’s pretty and light with hints of citrus blossoms and sweet tansy. Made in Hawaii, this is Leahlani’s first fragrance. Comes in a base of organic fractionated coconut oil with a roller top. Everyone I’ve tested Bless on loves it. It’s perfect for when you want to feel soft and pretty. Application is generous and wear time is 4+ hours.

Vapour Spirit No°1 Solid Perfume

vapour perfume spirit stick

Spirit No°1 is also currently unavailable. Vapour just did a huge brand redesign in 2019 and Sprit did not make the cut.

It was one of my favorites. Seductive, spicy, complex but mild. It hits with haitian vetiver and notes of dark, sweet florals in a lush, woody, green base. It’s not super strong, more like a seductive whisper that draws you in and leaves you wanting more. I would say wear-time here is 2+ hours which is consistent with most green beauty fragrances.  This is also Vapour’s first scent blend. Great on me or my hubs but subtle enough to be appropriate for teens too. This comes in a solid stick which is perfect for on-the-go; no spills!

P.S. Come see what’s really in your organic hair dye and read more about Bless here!

What’s your favorite nontoxic fragrance?

Xo, lisa

By Lisa Fennessy

Lisa is the founder of The New Knew. Passionate about clean beauty, organic eats and nontoxic lifestyle, Lisa writes to create awareness. Conscious consumerism and informed decisions will impact the marketplace, our health and THE WORLD!


  1. Reply


    Excellent post Lisa! Really helps clear up the murky waters of the fragrance world. The isolate issue is tricky and definitely not for everyone. Many natural perfumers can’t even agree on whether or not they should be used in natural perfumes! (Obviously synthetic isolates and GMO derived isolates should not be!)

    I thought you might be interested in this link which gives a little bit of the history of the evolution of some natural perfumers deciding to use natural isolates in their perfumes. It’s really interesting.

    1. Reply


      Hi Trish! This is awesome, thank you! I’m sure readers would love to click over too. xo!

  2. Reply


    doTERRA’s Whisper blend has my heart! It has a very warm/spicy/musky smell. In a base of fractionated Coconut Oil with: Patchouli Leaf, Bergamot Peel, Hawaiian Sandalwood Wood, Rose Flower, Vanilla Bean Absolute, Jasmine Flower, Cinnamon Bark, Vetiver Root, Labdanum Leaf/Stem, Cocoa Seed, Ylang Ylang Flower. Sometimes I mix it with wild orange essential oil as well. Very dreamy 🙂

    1. Reply


      Wow, that sounds amazing! Thanks Mary!

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