WHAT DOES IT MEAN WHEN A SCENT SAYS IT’S “NATURAL”?

 

A spritz of Ojai Wild’s White Sagebrush eau de cologne immediately conjures the earthy, perfumed heaven of the Southern California hamlet. A small town brimming with wisteria, orange groves, eucalyptus, and rosemary, if there was ever a place to settle down and make perfume, Ojai is it. Perfumer Janna Sheehan moved to the Ojai Valley in the 1990s and found immediate inspiration in the olfactory bounty that surrounded her. Ojai Wild, her latest project, brings to life the signature scents of California and could not be more alive. Crafted exclusively of raw, natural materials that are unheated to preserve their true essences, they have a depth and purity that tells your nose it’s come across something singular and exciting.

In the natural beauty realm, fragrance is a space where confusion can abound. What does it mean to be “natural,” anyway? We tapped Sheehan to find out.

BIKINI: What, exactly, does it mean when a fragrance is “natural?”
JANNA SHEEHAN: The word natural implies “nature,” not “synthetic” or “aroma chemical,” which is unnatural. There is confusion around this. Consumers are not exactly sure what “natural” means because it’s being depicted ambiguously and misinterpreted by many fragrance brands for marketing purposes. If you do a google search for natural perfume this is the first article that comes up. Only two of these brands, Lurk and Strange Invisible are truly natural and made using non-synthetic ingredients. The more consumers learn about natural fragrance, the more brands will have to be clear about their ingredients.

BIKINI: What’s the big difference between a naturally-formulated scent and one that contains synthetics?
JS: Again, it’s specifically the difference between raw materials that come from natural origin versus synthetics. The byproduct of those two different compositions render a different experience as well, so the smell experience will be different (with a scent created with natural ingredients as opposed to synthetic materials). To be clear, as an artist I love working with all aroma materials, both natural and synthetic. For me, it’s about the process, the palate, and the intention. But, as my art form evolves, I am more drawn to nature and more inclined to work with natural ingredients exclusively. Because of my experience formulating with both synthetics and naturals, I can say that natural fragrances are much more satisfying to wear. Natural fragrances are quiet, exquisite, and refined — more connected to our primal instincts and essence and that is sexy.

BIKINI: Ojai is a majorly fragranced oasis — how do you narrow down the scents?! 
JS: Gosh, yes, you are right! Ojai is a mecca for fragrance — a perfumed valley, so to speak. The scent of orange blossoms in the spring and sagebrush and citrus year-round. The mysticism of Ojai was the inspiration for our line; we are capturing the scents of California.
We harvest our redwood from a ranch in Northern California and juniper berry from a property in Yucca Valley. Availability and inspiration are equally weighty in our determination of what we’ll design with, especially for our main collection. I also love botanicals that are special, blooming once a year and may not be abundant. Those fleeting harvests become our limited-edition colognes, like our upcoming Chamomile Flowers, which we’ll release in August — just 250 bottles.

BIKINI: Do you need to care for natural fragrances in a different way?
JS: A natural fragrance whose carrier is alcohol will get better with age if it’s stored properly. Alcohol is a natural preservative. Keep your fragrance out of light and in a cool place (like wine) and it will last a very long time.

BIKINI: What are some of your favorite natural scents and natural perfumers? It seems like a really interesting community. 
JS: I love any natural DSH Perfume that Dawn comes out with. She is a significant artist and magician who understands fragrance deeply. It shows in all her work.

BIKINI: How do you approach scent yourself? Do you switch out daily/seasonally/by mood? 
JS: For me, it’s very mood and fashion-oriented. I love fashion, so my fragrances are usually dictated by my clothes (which are dictated by my mood). The combination of wardrobe and fragrance are another fun composition.

BIKINI: How do you suggest someone find a scent that really speaks to them? 
JS: Whether they know it or not, people usually gravitate towards something they have a memory of, which dictates their end choice. They’ll ask for something that smells like the woods, or a flower or a situation (campfire, sailing, etc.) which is then interpreted by the salesperson. Sometimes the name and story of a fragrance will captivate one enough to try it. In the end, the choice should be made after applying it to one’s skin. That’s the true test.

BIKINI: Are you working on any new projects right now?
JS: Yes! We are very excited to be releasing our first limited-edition cologne this fall: Chamomile Flowers! We’re working with a ceramics artist now to design our bottle and the box will be very special as well. We’re also working on upcoming releases of our luxury biodynamic body oils for release next spring. We’ll have limited editions of these as well.