If you’ve ever wondered where to begin greening your beauty routine, Wendi Berger, founder of Pour le Monde, has the answer.
“Fragrance and aerosol hair spray,” she told me in an interview. “Not only do they soak through your skin and into your bloodstream, but as you inhale them into your lungs, sinus cavity, they migrate into your body. They are big indoor air pollutants and can potentially trigger asthma attacks, especially in children as the chemicals linger in the air. Simply put, they should be the first products one should make sure are natural.”
Wendi would know. When she was pregnant with her son, she was told to stop wearing perfume—quite the extreme Rx considering that this perfume aficionado fell in love with her first scent, Love’s Baby Soft, at the age of nine.
However, she was shocked to discover the health risks tied to the conventional perfumes that she loved. Studies* show that petrochemicals in fragrances—particularly synthetic musk—are endocrine disruptors. Traces of fragrance ingredients have been found in breast tissue, breast milk, and aquatic life.
Yet, when Wendi attempted to hunt down a natural scent that suited her, she came up empty. None of the available fragrances rivaled her favorites, nor did they offer a truly natural option. Surprisingly, they still contained a small percentage of synthetic ingredients that could prove harmful.
So she left a successful career as an executive in the fashion and magazine industry (think: ELLE, Vanity Fair, InStyle, Child, and Fitness) to embark on the challenge of launching her own label. Et voila! The first sophisticated and authentically natural perfume was born.
I bet she didn’t foresee developing one of the only fine fragrances that’s 100% certified natural by the Natural Products Association (NPA). Actually, there are only two fragrance brands that boast the NPA seal: Pour le Monde and Sow Good.
That’s nothing to sniff at. The NPA has been around since the 1930s and is the golden standard for certifying beauty and household products as 100% natural. Wendi calls it “literally impossible to get,” yet Pour le Monde worked tirelessly to earn it.
The brand also shows a true commitment to being cruelty-free and sustainable by obtaining the Leaping Bunny, PETA, and vegan certifications and by sourcing FSC certified packaging to protect wildlife and forests.
Where ingredient integrity is concerned, you might say Wendi is now quite the expert having met the stringent requirements of each of the certifying bodies. It’s no wonder, then, that when it comes to greenwashing, she can spot it instantly—and the label “natural” fragrance happens to be one of the worst offenders.
How you can be duped by a “natural” fragrance claim
“I think the real barrier is that so many consumers in general think that perfumes are natural,” she said. “I mean if it smells floral, isn’t a flower a part of nature? Or fruity like lemon or coconut? Who would even think these ‘natural’ smells would be really made entirely from petrochemicals? So it is really our responsibility as green marketers to make the public aware that what you may perceive as natural, really isn’t.”
The word “organic” means nothing on a label and on closer inspection can refer to less than two percent organic ingredients. Using the word “natural” gets even more confusing. For instance, some fragrance companies that claim to be natural use synthetic musk.
“As a company who spent years to create 100% natural scents, it drives me crazy!” Wendi said.
The alternative to creating a synthetic musk isn’t pretty, however.
“Unfortunately, unless you use ambergris (whale vomit), gland from the male musk deer (an old practice prior to the industrial revolution), civet and other animals that no one would think of killing anymore to create a scent, it is literally impossible to make a natural musk,” she said.
“Synthetic musk doesn’t decompose well, and because it is the base, the glue that holds the longevity to a synthetic fragrance, it is a pretty prevalent ingredient. Over 90% of the synthetic scents in the market use it.”
Though she was disappointed at having to give up her beloved musk, the fragrance ENVISION comes close to capturing it.
The not-so-natural ingredient you need to be aware of
But where even the savvy green beauty consumer still needs an education would be in the murky area of “absolutes.”
“Absolutes are wonderful, concentrated aromatic oils extracted from plants using chemical solvents, typically a hexane or petroleum ether,” Wendi explained. “While they are used widely in the natural perfume arena, unless a fragrance is comprised of an absolute that is created by using an organic solvent (most of them don’t), absolutes still have trace amounts of petrochemicals.”
Though a natural perfume using absolutes is certainly much healthier than a synthetic, the NPA does not deem absolutes as 100% natural.
What does creating a natural perfume entail?
It turns out—removing absolutes and synthetics means having access to less than 350 ingredients and omitting thousands of others. The essential oils Pour le Monde uses are steam distilled—tapping into an ancient technique of perfumery.
According to Wendi, the rest of the process wasn’t easy either.
“We had to literally go through tweak after tweak, mod after mod,” she said. “When we finally had them all perfect and ready to be made, the NPA said one of our fragrances had one tiny percentile of an ingredient that was not NPA worthy. We had to start pretty much all over again to ensure we’d get that coveted seal, and in the end it was worth it. I think the scent smells even better!”
That brings us to the actual scent profiles of the three Pour le Monde Eau de Parfums.
What do the Pour le Monde Eau de Parfums smell like?
I asked Wendi to describe how each of her scents compares to a conventional brand. Here’s what she said:
Empower: Our genderless, refreshing citrus scent is a wonderful natural alternative to Annick Goutal’s Eau d’Hadrian; Jo Malone’s Grapefruit; Hermes Orange d’Vert or Christian Dior’s Eau Savage.
Together: This classic, woodsy and powdery floral with lilacs, lilies, jasmine and freesia has reminded those of Antonia’s Flowers; Jo Malone’s English Pear & Freesia; or Coach’s Poppy Freesia Blossom.
Envision: With 50 different notes, this super complex exotic spice scent has caused many to remark, “I’ve never smelled anything like this!” However, we’ve been told this powerful eau de parfum would be in the Theirry Muglar’s Angel family or “if Tom Ford had a natural cousin, Envision would be it.”
Her descriptions are spot on! Wendi kindly gave me the gorgeous scents to try. My favorite is EMPOWER (that I received from Jeannie Jarnot, founder of Beauty Heroes) for its refreshing citrusy scent that isn’t too sweet or cloying at all.
Because the aromas are not synthetic like most mainstream brands, every person wearing a Pour le Monde scent makes it their own.
How to make the fragrance last
While it’s common to find a natural perfume in the form of a roller ball oil or just an oil, Wendi found that they wound up on her clothes, reminded her of a spa, or simply didn’t last long enough because her dry skin would absorb it.
“We worked really hard to make sure that our scents did not wear off quickly,” she said. “One of the things we did was beef up our percentiles of oils. To be classified as an eau de parfum, your perfume concentration needs to be between 10-20%. Pour le Monde’s are at the very top, almost bordering a parfum.”
This experienced fragrance maven said that the key to making a natural scent last longer is hydration! Keeping the skin moist is essential.
“We suggest using a non-scented lotion as a base,” she said. “Also, we recommend you spray liberally on pulse points and yes, hair. We don’t have any dyes so it won’t affect your color.”
Pour le Monde’s altruistic mission
Pour le Monde donates 10 percent of net sales to a specific charity that’s reflected in the name of the fragrance.
- EMPOWER benefits Guiding Eyes for the Blind. “Dogs that EMPOWER the blind, visually impaired and children with autism.”
- ENVISION benefits the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. “ENVISION a world free of MS!”
- TOGETHER benefits the Cancer Support Community. “Let’s all get TOGETHER, ‘So that no one faces cancer alone ®.’”
The fragrances retail for $82 and can be purchased here. Use code NATURAL for a 15% discount.
Wendi also serves as an Advisor to Indie Beauty Expo, the largest platform in North America to promote and showcase indie beauty, wellness, and lifestyle brands.
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