Polo Earth? A Quick Thought on the Natural Perfumery Trend

Recently I read an article by Ítalo Pereira, in which he discusses the differences between "synthetic" and "natural" perfumes. Synthetic perfumery boils down to two things: formula stability and olfactory clarity. Natural perfumery boils down to one thing: murky instability. 

I've noticed the recent trend of natural perfumes hitting the market over the last two years, and find myself wondering what's behind the commercial push to "natural." It's clear that natural perfumery is a thing, but how much of it is tied to a cause? I happen to like the idea of my fragrances containing more natural materials, because "natural" has positive connotations. Want a neroli fragrance? Which would you prefer, the one that contains synthetics, or the one made with real neroli distillate? The latter is obviously preferable!

But what if a fragrance is more complex than that? What if we're smelling a composition with several tiers of floral materials, blended with woods and spices? Is it beneficial to go all-natural? As Pereira points out, not really. Synthetics are usually isolates of molecules that occur in nature. If you want a rich sandalwood note, you must examine what molecular components of sandalwood smell good, and which smell interesting, but not exactly desirable. It is then beneficial to separate out the best components, study their molecular structure, and convene in a lab to replicate them. 

The pushback against Pereira's article is notable. The comments are pretty rigidly on the side of "natural is better." But I notice that most of the commenters are posturing. They claim to be capable of discerning the differences between synthetic and natural materials, but can they? One person says, 
"I just don't like synthetic notes. I find they flatten the scent, make it dull and sort of 'expired,' meaning a weak, plasticky vibe . . . Naturals give depth, sillage, and staying power. Synthetics smell kinda trashy and not refined to me."

The opinion is written as if its author can actually smell the differences between these two worlds, but I have my doubts, as no specifics are offered. The same person reviews Bvlgari Jasmin Noir, which is clearly a synthetic fragrance, with the following:

"Very elegant and sophisticated. Smells expensive. It has character and depth which is captivating. Perfect for a gala or late night event." 

This individual also fawns over Dior's Hypnotic Poison. So clearly the whole "natural is better" schtick is just baloney. But there were many reviewers with similar hypocritical stances, by parsing their comments and reviews. Why is the public's perception of "natural" materials so biased, when they clearly prefer synthetics? What drives this overwhelming urge to ditch the lab and just use rough distillates and extractions, with all their un-sanded edges and off-notes? 

Polo Earth is probably the kind of product that gives this demand a voice. It's not really a fully natural product, and it's produced by a major conglomerate superpower with scads of synthetic frags in its portfolio. But it looks mighty chaste! Its simple, clear bottle. Its simple, clear name. The reliance on some degree of natural neroli oil, which gives it street cred. But if I buy it and wear it, am I making a statement, or just indulging in a chemically minimalist experiment? 

I tend to think I'm just being a tool. Regular Polo has been popular for almost fifty years, and never once has anyone asked that it be reformulated to be one-hundred percent natural. A "natural" flanker popping up in 2022 isn't going to change my view of Ralph Lauren, or its legacy. It shouldn't change yours, either.