Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Not all natural is good for you

I tried, in vain, to find where I had read the difference between synthetic and natural patchouli.

I had remembered some of it, was sketchy on the details, and thought "better get it right on the science", but here's what my memory offers up: I had once thought I was allergic to patchouli and could just not be around it. I've sent workers home because they were wearing patchouli, asked tattoo customers to return when they're not, made a rule where I once was boss that noone was allowed to wear it, and once had to leave a restaurant where my waitress smelled of the stuff, for I was nauseated and couldn't imagine eating.

Now I wear some scents with patchouli in them and think, "This stuff smells wonderful." Not always, of course, but there are a more than a few.

What's going on here? Not much. I still can't abide by what's sold in the health food stores or artsy clothing shops.

The difference is this: The patchouli in my perfume is not natural. Does that surprise you? After all, natural is supposed to be good, and synthetic is bad.

Here's what Luca Turin has to say in his book "Perfumes: The Guide"; ". . .the difference between naturals and synthetics is complexity. If you smell them, pure, natural raw materials are more interesting than aromachemicals. That's because most naturals are mixtures of tens, sometimes hundreds of molecules, and the nose recognizes this. . ."

So, if I remember correctly, there was just a whole lot more to be sensitive to in a natural patchouli. Who knew what it was exactly that was bothering my sensibilities?

Don't forget - everything is made up of chemicals. Just because it's natural doesn't mean it's good for you. My mother grew lovely foxgloves in her garden, but I was told quite strenuously that I should not eat them. Not a silly warning, for I had been known to eat flowers (and even caught once on camera doing so). And not a silly warning, for eating digitalis can cause a heart attack.

Latex, which looks absolutely unnatural, is not. There's so much latex allergy in this country that most doctors and hospitals ask if one is allergic to it on intake forms.

Last week I layered a bit of Oshadi Roots, an all natural organic scent over some Bulgari Blu, which most assuredly has nothing natural in it anywhere. Neither scent smells great on its own, in my estimation, but the two together were heavenly (though not enough so to purchase either). The point? Together, naturals and synthetics can make a lovely brew.

I once thought I'd only wear cotton, wool and linen, but I've been thrilled with the jeans that have a bit of spandex in them. I'm not casting aside their comfort and their accomdation for a bit of weight change or a big meal just because there's something unnatural in them.

Image note: I've having quite a time of it today. My head hurts and my eyes ache and I can't find where I've read this or that. The discussion of natural vs. synthetics and allergies does continue in Perfumes: The Guide. I must apologize to Tania Sanchez for not mentioning she is the co-author. And, last but not least, somewhere is a quote from one of them about patchouli and the "dreaded dirty hippie smell".


Anonymous said...

Sorry you're not feeling your best. Is it allergies?
Hmmm, I'nm not sure I've smelled that dreaded headshop patchouli everyone's hates. Are we talking the general headshop smell/vibe? I've smelled plenty of perfumes with patch and patchouli EO by itself and don't find it objectionable. It smells earthy and has a delicious dry/ dusty chocolate note. Actually, almost every time I wear anything with patch in it,I get compliments.
I'm not being disbelieving, I'm just trying to understand what it is that turns people off about it.
By the way, natural patchouli EO is pretty inexpensive so I don't see why perfumers would turn to synthetic patch to replace it.

Julie H. Rose said...

Hey Nika

You're the one who alerted me to how many fragrances have patchouli in them - what was the percentage? It was ALOT, as I remember.

Ever since I was a teenager, I found the smell of patchouli to be bothersome and heard others complain, too.

Maybe it's the brands that are sold in the Northeast, but I doubt it! Even Luca Turin said somewhere that such-and-such has a patchouli note that didn't (surprise!) have that "dirty hippie smell". I wish I could find the quote!

There are so many different grades of the stuff. But a "headspace" synthetic patchouli may smell nicer in a mix than a natural. The companies use both, from what I know.

Didn't you send me the Drole de Rose? (it that spelled wrong?) I love it, and many others. . .so, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Hey Julie,
You must be thinking of L'A Voleur de Roses, that definitely has patch in it. Beautiful...
Drole de Rose is kind of high-pitched and way too sweet for me.
I should get together a sampler of my favorite perfumes with patch in them and see how you'd react to them.

Julie H. Rose said...

Of course, you're right. I believe the name "Drole de Rose" got stuck in my mind from the beautiful booklet I was given at the L'artisan shop in NYC. Droll meaning "odd or buffoonlike" in English. I've not sniffed that, but yes, the Voleur is lovely.
And I wouldn't say no to a sampling of pathouli scents. But I DO owe you a gift.

I am remiss in not having completed or sent out all the gifts I've promised. I'm sorry!

Country Mouse said...

Well, you know my complete submission and dedication to patchouli. I've always wondered how you deal with it since I wear it in your presence so often. Are you just being a very accommodating friend? I've concluded it's not a fragrance to wear in public - at least not when patchouli itself is recognizable above all other notes. I agree with "Anonymous" - I too get the occasional effusive compliment. It's a love it or hate it fragrance when all is said and done. It fills me with pity - wearing it in the confines of my own home is not enough. As we've discussed before, wearing ANY detectable perfume has been banned from many public places. That just seems plain ol' WRONG. Yeah, I get the ban in principle but it takes the fun out of things.

Julie H. Rose said...

I've never noticed the smell of patchouli on you.

I don't like those "no scent" rules either. There's one at school. Do they ban people from using shampoo that smells like sickly sweet kiwis, strawberries, coconut and such? NO!

But then again, I can understand banning perfume, since most people wear such awful celebrity scents. . .but still. . .