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Fragrance Friday: Best Natural Colognes & Perfumes For Men
— Updated on 5 July 2023

Fragrance Friday: Best Natural Colognes & Perfumes For Men

— Updated on 5 July 2023
Chris Singh
Chris Singh

Welcome to Fragrance Friday, where each week we’ll be keeping you abreast of the newest and most iconic releases in the dynamic world of men’s fragrances. Born out of the desire to showcase one of the most overlooked, yet versatile, elements of any discerning man’s style this weekly column will help you finesse your own signature scent.

Organic and natural perfumes are, admittedly, something I haven’t paid as much attention to as yet. Unfairly so. I’ve been too caught up with fawning over synthetic notes that I’ve been kind of oblivious to the trend that’s undeniably picking up steam, as interest rises in these clean, environmentally-friendly and health-friendly fragrances.

First, what is a natural fragrance and how does it differ from a synthetic fragrance?

That much is obvious, of course, but I’m going to tell you anyway. A natural fragrance is one that blends notes together exclusively from naturally derived essential oils, plant-based ingredients or floral extracts. A lot of my favourite perfumes have at least some natural ingredients in them, but most are cobbled together with sophisticated synthetic compounds that heighten scent and make it more appealing, longer lasting and less expensive to manufacture.

Legendary perfumer Ernest Beaux was the first to really introduce synthetic compounds to mainstream perfumes back in 1921 when he put together the now-iconic Chanel No. 5 – once the best-selling perfume of all time, until it was replaced recently by Dior Sauvage.

Synthetics allow for mass production, widen profit margins and expand the range of notes that are out there. Both designer and niche perfumes are guilty of this, using far more advanced techniques than Beaux employed when he used aliphatic aldehydes to add a bit of sparkle and zest to Chanel No. 5’s base of rose and jasmine.

As much as I’d like to deny it, the fragrances I love would invariably have plenty of chemicals in them and the most salient seems to be phthalates. These are chemicals, such as DEP, typically used as a fixative to hold scent on the skin for longer, stretching the potency and giving you that really satisfying longevity.

This isn’t going to be a doom-and-gloom article though. I want to avoid that. It seems many studies have been largely inconclusive about the harmful effects of phthalates in smaller quantities. But this also depends on exposure. Ideally, you don’t want to wear synthetic perfumes every day and constantly expose yourself to this toxicity, as it’s been linked to more than just migraines. Then there’s the fact that a lot of what we put on our skin can end up in our bloodstream.

And that’s why a lot of focus has been put on natural fragrances as of late. Anyone who advocates for a “low-tox lifestyle” has been trying to limit their exposure to synthetic fragrances. However, the industry is largely unregulated when it comes to this. Primarily for the sake of intellectual property, most fragrance labels aren’t – and don’t have to be – completely transparent about all ingredients. “Fragrance” in the ingredients list is intentionally broad, and this word could imply any number of chemicals that don’t need to be disclosed.

Although just saying synthetic is bad and natural is good is a false dichotomy. Since the industry doesn’t really need to be regulated, there are natural fragrances out there that use the label as a marketing term. No doubt some of the natural perfumes I list below may be culprits. But it’s probably better to at least start thinking about how you can introduce more natural fragrances onto your shelf, one’s that actually perform well and smell good, rather than sticking entirely with synthetic. As with all fragrance collections, variety is key.

A brand can claim to be natural but still only contain a small percentage of natural ingredients. It’s impossible for a consumer to know.

The trick is to look for more naturally occurring substances in perfumes. If the brand is transparent in the first place, you should be able to trust what’s on the label. These include, as above, essential oils but also absolutes, resins, microbes and aromatic animal musks. A lot of the perfumes you’d read about in Fragrance Friday do use plenty of natural ingredients, but there may also be some that have been fermented from natural compounds and worked, in a lab, to create new ones. Synthetic is more dynamic.

According to this paper, a single scent may contain anywhere from 50 to 300 distinct chemicals. Keep that in mind next time you throw yourself at a new release. Not that most people are overly concerned, but in case you are looking for some natural fragrances for men then check out some of the below – reliable, (probably) natural and worth the investment.

Although, there’s not much choice in the category, especially when you want to balance that with quality. But there’s still some choice out there and plenty of room for the market to grow as more men jump on board the idea that actually taking care of your health doesn’t have to feel like a compromise on indulgences.

RELATEDBest Perfumes & Colognes For Men

Best Natural Fragrances For Men

Bond No. 9 ‘Scent of Peace Natural’

Essential oils and absolutes give Bond No. 9 Scent of Natural a very clean profile. It’s the very first all-natural fragrance from the New York City label, presenting a typical interplay between citrus zest and wood but one that doesn’t smell overly manufactured.

It wears well on the skin, with the unisex version playing off the older and more established female and male versions by making the opening a fruity blast of blackcurrant and raspberry that brings a bit of a jammy quality to the zesty lemon essential oil and sophisticated Damask rose. With cedar and musk on the bottom, this is as good as you’ll get if you want a natural fragrance that actually smells natural.

Top Notes: Blackcurrant bud absolute, lemon essential oil
Middle Notes: Damask rose essential oil, raspberry
Base Notes: Ambroxan, cedar, musk

Roemy ‘Resort’

With the brand identity hinged on being non-toxic and sustainable, this modern fragrance house makes it a point to not use any phthalates in their formulas. And there’s a nice range from the Australian brand too, but Roemy Resort would have to be the top pick.

I own a few fragrances that use figs and I hate them all except this one, with the green fig in the top nice and restrained to keep the sweetness from overwhelming the bit of spice from bergamot which is followed by a notable creamed coconut and musk before diving down into amber and blondwood.

Top Notes: Green fig, bergamot
Middle Notes: Creamed coconut, musk
Base Notes: Amber, blondwood

Henry Rose ‘Fog’

The packaging may be plain for Michelle Pfeiffer’s unisex perfume brand but Henry Fog takes eco-friendliness quite seriously. It was the first perfume brand to be endorsed by the Environmental Working Group, which is a watchdog agency that focuses on the beauty industry.

Perfumers Pascal Gaurin and Yves Cassar worked up Fog back in 2019, releasing a really pleasant earthy scent that’s a good alternative to your favourite woody fragrance. It is quite weak and doesn’t last as long – as you’d expect from natural fragrances – but the lightness is offset but the use of heavier ingredients in the base like vetiver, sandalwood, amber and musk.

Top Notes: Muguet, fresh citrus
Middle Notes: White woods, magnolia
Base Notes: Vetiver, sandalwood, amber and musk

Olivina Men ‘Bourbon Cedar Cologne’

Here’s another fairly high-end brand committed to natural fragrances, best expressed by the signature Bourbon Cedar Cologne. It’s based almost entirely on essential oils, with a profile that’s a bit lighter and more subtle that starts with lemon and bergamot finishes nicely with a smokey red cedar with a bit of a bourbon accord made with natural grain.

Natural fragrances are known for being a bit more adaptive to an individual wearer’s skin, so like the other three on this list of the best natural fragrances for men, performance is just as dependent on you (and your hygiene).

Top Notes: Lemon, bergamot, sage
Middle Notes: Tobacco leaf, lavender, cardamom, cinnamon
Base Notes: Red cedar, bourbon accord, patchouli

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Chris Singh
Chris is a freelance Travel, Food, and Technology writer. He has had work published by The AU Review, Junkee Media and Australian Traveller Media and holds tertiary qualifications in Psychology and Sociology.


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