Friday, June 26, 2009

Doing an Interview

Lyn E. Ayre, Canadian Natural Perfumer
As is my habit, I always ask for a list of questions beforehand so I can be prepared. These questions are answered below:
These perfumes are created in my beautiful (if small) Atelier.
I have searched the world for beautiful packaging...

... to contain my natural perfumes.

LA - Thanks so much for the opportunity of an interview with your magazine, and for your interest in Coeur d’Esprit Natural Perfumes.

Only natural ingredients go into my Natural Perfumes.
NJ -1. What types of ingredients are found in natural fragrances?
LA - All types of plant material are represented in a Natural Perfumer’s palette, including: roots such as Vetiver, Angelica, and Orris; wood – Agar, Cedarwood, and Muhuhu; seeds – Coriander, Ambrette, and Anise; leaves – Patchouli, Cypress, Cinnamon; pod/bean – Vanilla; fruits – Bergamot, Litsea, and Black Pepper; flowers – Rose, Jasmine, Lavender; and gums/resins – Frankincense, Galbanum, and Labdanum. As well, in my perfumes I employ cruelty-free animal essences: Hyraceum from the Rock Hyrax, which represents the element of Earth; Honey Bees’ Wax, which represents the element of Air; and Ambergris, which represents the element of Water.
I am ethically and morally against the use of Civet, Castoreum, and Animal Musk as the creature is either tortured or killed in order to get the desired product. The animal essences I use add a lovely earthiness, are very grounding, and I can use them with a clear conscience.

NJ -2. Are all of these ingredients considered eco-friendly (including production/ transportation)? How are natural fragrances more sustainable than commercial ones?
LA - Where available (and this is becoming more prevalent), I buy organic essential oils and absolutes and trust that my supplier makes the right choices in transportation and the grower makes the right choices in production.
I'm not sure how, or even if, natural fragrances more sustainable that commercial ones. Certainly, commercial perfumes have a goodly amount of natural essences and so there are commercial productions all over the world that serve the commercial perfume houses. They contain a whole lot of synthetic chemicals, too, which are created in the lab and therefore presumably 'sustainability' is not an issue.

NJ -3. What is a scent circle?
LA - A ‘scent circle’ is generally considered to be a little more than arm’s length from one’s physical body, so that when someone leans in to say something personal to you, give you a hug, or whisper a secret, they will be able to detect your perfume. The perfume scent doesn’t invade the surrounding area and cause a disruption to others.

Essential oils create accords that add variety to Natural Perfumes.
NJ -4. What are the benefits of using natural fragrances? What are some therapeutic benefits of essential oils?
LA - Our bodies more easily recognize natural aromas because they smell of nature and so are made of the same stuff we are – flowers, trees, water, animals, grasses, roots, and fruit. These scents make us feel at home and we don’t fight them. There are therapeutic effects from the essential oils used in Natural Perfumes… for instance both Sandalwood and Lime have an uplifting effect on our mood. Lavender and Chamomile are relaxing and balancing. Rose and Jasmine create feelings of love and sensuality. Fir needle and cypress make us want to go for a walk in the woods. These fragrances bring us back to earth, grounding us into the gifts of Gaia. They are gently mood-altering, not in a druggie way rather in a natural way.

NJ -5. How do commercial fragrances cause olfactory fatigue and allergies?
LA - I’m not sure about commercial perfumes as I have no experience in creating them. Although some did not bother me, most cause me to sneeze and have a feeling of pressure in my forehead. Naturals can cause olfactory fatigue, as well. This is why we keep some freshly ground coffee beans close by so we can refresh our olfactory palette.
Working with essential oils on a regular basis has offered me the opportunity to create a safe work environment in my Atelier. Working with them in a safe manner and limiting my exposure to these highly concentrated essences is key for longevity in this business.
It has been said that one can use Lavender and Tea Tree essential oil ‘neat’ or undiluted. I strongly advise against this practice of using any essential oil ‘neat’. I have read that it takes 2,000 rose petals to yield a drop of Rose oil. I was at a lavender farm and saw the wheelbarrow full of dried lavender going into the alembic for the steam distillation process. It took half a wheelbarrow to yield a few mils of essential oil. These essences are to be respected and used with caution. Each essential oil and absolute has its own set of cautions. Some can cause skin sensitization, some are photo toxic, most should not be used by women who are pregnant or lactating, by people who are very ill, or by people who have some kind of major organ disease or damage.

NJ -6. Where do your ingredients come from?
LA - I buy my essences from trusted suppliers who work hard to ensure their product is of a very high quality and ethically harvested and, as I replace my current oils, I look for organic options.

Shown are the one ounce and two ounce size.
NJ -7. How do you create special perfumes for people? How much does this cost?
LA – When someone is interested in having a perfume made especially for them, the next step is to determine whether they want a mini ($150.00) or the full ($375.00) consultation.
For the mini, you come in and just over an hour later, you leave with an ounce of perfume and are asked to allow it to age in a dark cool place for a month before using it. We work with an idea, for instance, you love Jasmine and want that aroma to be featured in your final perfume.
For the full, we will begin with a 90–minute consultation and create a brief – a set of images and concepts you envision in your final perfume. I will set about formulating a couple of versions and send samples for you to try out for a week. When you decide which one you’d like, we will have another consultation to finalize the formula. Then I will make up two ounces of it for you and keep your formula on file so no one else will have it.

NJ -8. What ingredients do people need to look out (potentially harmful) for with natural fragrances?
LA – There are several plants that are known sensitizers, for instance: Costus and Fig Leaf. They can be dermal and cause skin problems or respiratory and cause breathing problems. There is no law against using any of these oils. The point is to use them in high dilution, do not use them all in the same formula, and do a skin test on your client or yourself. I do not use ingredients that are known sensitizers. There is now a way to extract the offending constituents and it is called spinning cone distillation.
Some essential oils are photo toxic – ie: Bergamot, Lime, Melissa. The offending constituent is the furocourmarins. These are organic chemical compounds that are created by many plants ie: Saint Johns Wort, Ginger, citrus fruits, and others. When the plant material is extracted by cold-expression or is ‘cold-pressed’, the furocourmarins come across into the end product. There are steam-distilled versions of several of these oils and one should use them to limit the possibility of photo-toxicity. As well, one could spray the perfume on the hair or clothing, or only use that perfume in the evening when you won’t be exposed to the sun. It is suggested to stay out of the sun for 24 - 48 hours after using an essential oil that is photo-toxic.

NJ -9. Why were synthetic fragrances introduced in the first place (Chanel No. 5 first 100% synthetic)?
LA - Commercial perfumery has never been that interesting to me as I generally had a bad reaction to them. This is why I love to create naturals, and I love to teach others how to create them, as well.

NJ -10. Do you see the trend in perfumes moving back towards natural fragrances for good (or is this a short-lived trend)?
LA – Everything has a cycle, as you are likely aware – a time for every season, as it were. Right now we are, as a consciousness in the western world, striving to come back into balance both globally and personally. We are becoming acutely aware of our impact on the environment and are looking for ways of minimizing or even eliminating our personal and collective footprint.
Going back to nature and natural products allows us to maintain our personal grooming habits in a more eco-friendly way. It is my hope that this trend will become engraved in our psyche once more and we will go forward with it, ad infinitum. I don’t feel it is likely that we ‘independent natural perfumers’ will put the big commercial houses out of business. We are simply offering an option and when we do that, we empower people with choices. That is always a good thing.

NJ -11. Do people have allergies toward certain essential oils? How severe could the potential reaction be?
LA – People have allergies towards the most innocuous items such as oranges or peanuts. We are all so very different in our chemical make-up, strengths, and weaknesses. Potentially, at least, a person could be allergic to anything. And, it has been shown that, for instance, even if you have been stung by a bee a dozen times, the next time might be the time when you’ll have a bad reaction. It is difficult to make beautiful perfumes and think about this at the same time, just like it would be difficult to carry on making peanut butter sandwiches, and give them to your grandkids, knowing that the smidge they licked from the spoon could kill them. We cannot live that way. Instead, we do our very best to create in a safe environment and leave the rest to Spirit, ensuring that we have a good first aid routine in place, just in case.

NJ -12. Do all synthetic fragrances emulate naturally occurring fragrances? Are there any natural fragrances that can’t be replicated: jasmine?
LA - I'm not sure as I am not into the commercial scene. I do know that naturals cannot produce a peach scent or a pear scent and so commercial perfumers turn to synthetics to add these notes to the perfume.
Nothing can compare to the scent of real Jasmine, Rose, Patchouli, or Orris Root. Real Ambergris cannot be replicated. The gifts from Gaia are unique, sensual, healthy, and authentic. How can they be replicated?

NJ: Lyn, thanks for seeing us today and for giving me a lovely perfume sample to remember you by.
LA: Thank you for a wonderful experience.

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