Alcohol In Perfume — Good Or Bad For You?

Original Reporting by: | Zoe Zeng

People have strong opinions about alcohol in certain aspects of their lives. Tipplers perk up their ears and go, “Fantastic!” Skincare lovers avoid it like the plague. But when it comes to having alcohol as an ingredient in perfumes, most of them shrug it off because, really, a perfume is just what you wear to smell good—that’s the basic consideration before other higher-level thoughts such as wearing it for individuality and confidence come into play.

But with heightened awareness of ingredients that go into beauty products because of certain lifestyle choices and the clean beauty movement, alcohol is becoming increasingly spotlighted in perfumery.

So, what is the purpose of using alcohol in perfumes?
Alcohol is mainly used in perfume for two purposes. One, as a solvent to extract essential oils from raw ingredients such as flower petals, after which they are evaporated off. And two, to dilute the perfume to an appropriate concentration and strength. This means that lighter eau de toilettes (EDT) will likely have a higher alcohol content than eau de parfums (EDP) or colognes.

To a certain extent, alcohol also acts as a preservative, and carrier, to help disperse the scent evenly across the surface of your skin.

How are alcohol-free perfumes different?
When alcohol is removed from the formulation, certain fragrance molecules may be harder to extract or stabilise. This means the scent may turn out differently from what is intended. And because alcohol also works as a binder to blend different types of fragrance molecules together, getting a complex fragrance may be challenging.

Alcohol-free perfumes may also be more intense, but do not carry as far. This means that other people need to be physically closer to you to smell your perfume if you are using an alcohol-free one compared to a normal EDT or EDP. And because alcohol is used as a solvent or diluting agent, alcohol-free perfumes will come in different forms such as a perfume oil or perfumed stick formats.

For whom is alcohol-free perfume best for?
If you are into the clean beauty (or, as what we would call, the considered beauty) movement, and are particular about getting alcohol on your skin, even if it is as small a spot on your inner wrists or behind your ears, you will likely be eager to look into alcohol-free options.

And for people with certain lifestyle or religious restrictions, who have opted out of wearing perfumes because of its alcohol content, alcohol-free perfumes from niche perfume houses are a good alternative. They are likely able to give you a more complicated scent and is a safer option than what you can get mixing essential oils on your own.

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1. Hermetica Megaflower EDP, RM881.96, from MYER

This floral, oriental fragrance smells like sparkling orange flowers that is balanced with warm vetiver oil. The scent is pretty intense when you first spray it on, but it does mellow out without a significant change in fragrance notes because of the way alcohol-free perfume house Hermetica creates it, where it uses both natural and synthetic molecules to ensure the scent’s stability and longevity.

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