A walk down the aisles of your local supermarket will confirm that veganism is now completely mainstream. So it was just a matter of time before vegan fragrances became a thing. Vegan fragrances contain no animal-derived ingredients whatsoever, including beeswax, honey, and milk, and are not tested on animals.
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They offer an alternative to those who’re increasingly concerned about the ethical and environmental consequences of their consumption. Due to consumer demand, they’re likely to become standard this decade.
As Michelle Feeney, founder of British vegan brand Floral Street said in a recent interview on Everfumed: “When I am asked ‘why did you produce vegan fragrances,’ my answer is ‘this is the future of beauty.’ This is not a trend; it is an absolute. It is about finding the best way to create fabulous products while lowering the impact on our planet.”
Personally, I have no issue with the use of beeswax or honey when they are sourced responsibly and sustainably. And I would gladly wear a perfume containing ambergris, the precious ingredient secreted by sperm whales.
It becomes a bit murkier with the use of animalic notes like civet, which were at one stage an integral part of classics such as Chanel Coco, Danu Tabu and YSL Kouros.
The good news is that through clever lab work (where most of perfumery’s magic happens), most animalic notes can now be reproduced with the use of synthetic molecules (for example, Civettone). Natural substitutes – for example, cumin – can also produce similar musky effects.
Things to note when approaching vegan fragrances:
- If they are important to you, do your homework regarding the legitimacy of a brand’s claims. For example, have they been certified by an organisation such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta)? See for more info.
- Just because a brand isn’t vegan doesn’t mean it condones cruelty to animals.
- Some brands are not completely vegan but offer vegan-friendly ranges or products.
- Check whether the brand sells in China. According to Peta, this now means companies will be allowed to market most imported general cosmetics and personal-care products (for example, most make-up, fragrances, and skin-, hair-, and nail-care) withoutanimal testing, if they take certain steps and qualify for an exemption.
And now onto the reviews of these vegan-friendly fragrances or brands that have recently grabbed our attention. Where known, the name of the perfumer is listed in brackets after the name of the perfume.
This NYC-based company was founded by New York Times beauty columnist Bee Shapiro in 2015 after she gave birth to her first child and became serious about “clean” beauty. Myth was part of the brand’s launch range and it’s easy to understand why it’s one of their best-sellers.
It opens with a silky-sleek waft of powdery ambrette, the naturally derived musk, supported by notes of green cassis and crisp bergamot. The trio of florals that follows – tiger orchid, pink lotus, jasmine petals – is pretty indeed, in an airy, fresh and delicately sweet style. The drydown is sensually soft, with notes of white musk, patchouli and white cedar.
Before launching her company in 2017, Michelle Feeney worked in senior roles for La Mer, MAC Cosmetics and St Tropez, among others. As its name and pay-off line (“powered by flowers”) will tell you, all their fragrances have a floral focus.
Although Arizona Bloom, a Fragrance Foundation 2021 Awards finalist, is inspired by an arid landscape, there’s a good chance it will put you in a holiday mood every time you wear it. That must be the creamy vanilla-ish Balinese coconut, with a hint of warm Madagascan black pepper, in the intro. Jasmine, fresh and honeyed, adds to the sunny vacay vibe, the sweetness tempered by a salty musk accord and oakmoss as it dries down.
Founded in 2003 by beauty entrepreneur Randi Shinder, the Clean Beauty Collective is an industry pioneer with their vegan fragrances. From the American niche brand’s Reserve Collection, this 2016 release opens with light citrus notes of bergamot and mandarin.
Raspberry gives it juiciness, while saffron infuses the EDP with a gentle leatheriness. An amber accord and musk keep things cosy and warm in the drydown. Sweet from start to finish, but in a sophisticated way, it’s a great option if you like your scents soft and pure.
The NYC-based niche brand scores big points for its vegan values and quality perfumes. This 2015 release is one powerful brew. We’ve never smelled a cup of black tea quite like it. It announces itself in immediately intense and compelling fashion with a trio of rich notes: fig, bergamot and bay leaf.
It gets even darker when the black tea leaf, vetiver and tobacco notes come into play. The result? An uncompromisingly bold fragrance that more than justifies its niche-level price tag.
Trust self-taught perfumer David Seth Moltz of NYC-based niche house DS & Durga (all their fragrances are vegan) to do something completely different with a rose perfume.
You’ll know Rose Atlantic is not the usual rose scent from the opening of this 2016 release, featuring bitter-ish notes of bergamot and lemon oil, with rose petals softening the effect.
A fine rose accord comes through in the heart of the EDP, with linden blossom in support. But this is a rose drenched in salt water. Lots of it. As if you’re aboard the ship Salt Spray Rose. What a clever boy! A dose of white moss completes the mood.
The Barcelona-based brand has been making an impact with their contemporary and vegan fragrances since it was founded by Romy Kowalewski in 2016.
Opening with a combo of aldehydes and violet notes, this EDP is cool, minimalist, almost metallic.
That chilled vibe evolves with a powdery note of iris from Landes, France. Daniela Andrier, best known for her sterling work for Prada, is a pro at this frosty floral and it’s infused with the smoke of incense from Somalia.
The drydown is clean and crisp, courtesy of notes of cedar from Morocco and musk.
While the British luxury brand is not completely vegan, it’s Vegan Collection has top-notch, top-priced options, such as this 2018 release.
Slightly bitter petitgrain and bergamot feature in the opening. They are wrapped in a finely fresh take on cypress and a perfectly balanced spicy trio of clove, nutmeg and ginger.
Amber, so over-used in recent male fragrances, is elevated to the most sophisticated resinous powderiness, with support from cedar and oakwood.
It’s a long time since we’ve come across such a seamless scent. We can believe the blurb on the website about it being a 25% pure perfume concentration that’s made from the finest ingredients.
There are a number of reasons to like the latest addition (2020) to the CK One franchise:
1) The simple but oh-so-clever name, which expresses the universal and unisex appeal of the scent.
2) The elastic band on the bottle, a nod to the most exposed underwear waistband ever.
3) It’s vegan and clean formula. Many of the brand’s fragrances still use animal by-products.
4) Featuring notes of organic orange, blue tea accord, and cedarwood, the juice ain’t going to win any awards for complexity. But it sure is pleasant in a clean, fresh, and undemanding way.