Perfume production and use goes back thousands of years. No one is quite sure of the exact origin of perfume. Various scriptures discuss the use of fragrances going all the way back to Ancient Egypt.
Perfumes were once reserved only for the vastly wealthy and important. They were used mostly for hygiene and cleanliness. It is thought that fragrances were also used for decorative purposes to fill the homes of the rich with sweet scents.
In this article, we explore the history of perfume, how we use it today and the future of fragrances.
Perfume around the World
Perfume has been used for many purposes throughout history. They’re thought to have been used in Ancient Egypt, the Roman Empire, Ancient Persia, Ancient India and China, and Medieval Europe.
In Ancient Egypt, perfumes were of high importance. There was even a god of perfume known as Nefertem. Many ancient drawings show Nerfertem carrying water lilies which would have been the main ingredient for fragrances at the time.
Perfumes were crafted by Egyptians using natural ingredients and non-scented oils. Much like the natural perfumes that are becoming popular in today’s society. Fragrances were made up of flowers, fruits, and aromatic woods.
Ancient India & China
In parts of Asia, people were also enjoying fragrances long before they were embraced by Europeans.
The Chinese mixed various materials with their fragrances. They used ink in their homes and in sacred sites. India similarly used fragrances as part of their Tantric ceremonies and rituals.
At that time, the Chinese believed fragrances were much more than sweet smelling luxury goods. They believed that perfume was a disinfectant and a great cleaning product.
The Persians once controlled the international perfume trade industry. They held perfume in high regard and of great importance to the Persian noble society. Persian kings would even have their own personal scents exclusive to them for which they were renowned for. Maybe they started the “signature scent” idea.
It is well documented that Persians were fascinated by perfumes. They had various methods of production, held regular workshops and are even credited for the first non-oil perfumes. Artwork from this period of time often depicts men and women with bottles of fragrances.
During the Roman Empire, perfumes were commonly documented in their books. They even included the methods of production. This led some perfume companies today trying to recreate Roman perfumes.
Perfume was a luxury item of the rich and powerful in Rome. It was used as gifts to please other wealthy and important friends. When Rome fell, perfume was banned and would not return to Europe until hundreds of years later.
In the 11th century, world explorers brought fragrances from the East. This repopularized perfume in Europe at the time. They brought back the knowledge to create their own fragrances. This sparked a new perfume industry.
During Medieval times, “the stench of pestilence” was a hot topic and something you wanted to avoid. Many Europeans at the time believed fragrances would protect them against disease. They created face masks stuffed with fragrances to protect them.
Hundreds of years later, explorers would bring back even better-smelling ingredients. This boosted the perfume industry in Italy. Venice soon became the epicentre for fragrances in Europe.
Today, perfumes continue to grow in popularity. The current market for perfumes is expected to be worth $91.17 billion by 2025.
There are now thousands of companies creating millions of fragrances. Top fashion houses have the most success. They combine synthetic and natural fragrances. The appeal of their brand helps them sell their fragrances.
Walk into any shopping centre or airport and you will soon pick up the strong scent of the perfume section. Modern perfumes can range from inexpensive to quite expensive.
This means fragrances are no longer reserved for the rich and powerful. Anyone can get their hands on a bottle of perfume with a little bit of cash. The counterfeit perfume industry is also growing. It is now thought to be worth millions of dollars giving even more people access to fragrances.
The Need to Go Ethical
As the discussions surrounding climate change, animal rights, ethical living, and veganism continue to grow the perfume industry is changing along with it. Dolma’s founder Jim Payne saw into the future and created his first line of vegan and cruelty free fragrances.
Many of today’s top perfume brands contain ingredients that are harmful to the environment and animals. Currently, more than 95% of chemicals used in fragrances are derived from petrochemicals.
The most common of these include benzene derivatives, aldehydes, and phthalates. Each is known to cause health issues including birth defects and cancer. Other issues include nervous system disorders and allergies.
Ethical perfume companies like Dolma use natural ingredients and certified safe synthetics. We use sythetics in the case of alternatives to animal based ingredients and botanicals that can not be harvested ethically. This helps our consumers avoid any unwanted adverse health effects and maintain values.
Animal testing in the perfume industry is not uncommon. Some of the chemicals used are tested on animals. This ensures that they limit the chance of adverse reactions in the user. However, animal testing is only accurate 40-60% of the time. The methods of testing are cruel and far beyond just a spritz. They use not only monkeys and rabbits but cats and dogs too. Dogs are often used for inhalation tests and beagles are amongst the top choices as they are the most trusting towards humans.
At Dolma, we believe that animal testing is simply unwarranted and unneccesary. There are a number of alternative ways to test products without harming animals. We are also aligned with IFRA the International Fragrance Association who holds up high standards for the quality and testing of ingredients, cruelty free.
One of the biggest issues we face as a species is the management of waste. Many traditional materials used for packaging including plastic are harmful to our environment. Plastic can take up to 500 years to decompose. This clogs up our landfills and many plastics find their way into our oceans.
This misuse of waste if having a detrimental effect on our planet’s ecosystems and wildlife. Microplastics are the result of plastic breaking down in our land and water. They have been found in the stomachs of marine animals. Microplastics are also thought to be poisoning our waters. The term plastic soup is being used for our ocean waters.
At Dolma, we have made significant efforts to reduce our packaging. We’re moving to better eco-materials as best as possible. We don’t believe that products such as perfumes need to have a detrimental impact on our planet.
Moving to eco-materials is a process. We hope to continue to make better choices wherever possible. This will include our production method, bottles, ingredients, and packaging. in 2020 we are revising our entire packagaing line to see where we can improve. We do have to however comply with certain delivery requirements so plastic may be used. Please reuse and recycle where possible.
Perfumes have been an integral part of our societies for millenia. Humans enjoy smelling of beautiful scents and we believe this should continue. Fragrances bring joy to people, can evoke feelings of love, and remind us of our past experiences.
Now, perfumes are moving in full cycle back to ancient methods. Where only natural ingredients are used with minimal impact on the planet. We can all enjoy making ourselves smell beautiful. We don’t need to inflict harm on ourselves, animals, and our delicate environment.