In the Florentine Pharmacy or: How to find a cruelty-free scent
Hallo and Salve, let’s do something completely different today! Let’s go shopping for cruelty-free scent! This blog is mainly about travel although the cats sometimes sneak in, but I do like to buy quality stuff every now and then, and we’re in a cosy round here, so, inspired by my Florence and Santa Maria Novella trip, I’d like to take you shopping for scent! Cruelty-free scent, that is!
I love a good scent. Not all scents, even the good ones, are liked by all people. Because I work in a job that takes me really close to people (poking round peoples throats and noses), I like a good, unobtrusive scent. A good cruelty-free scent. I know this is not the typical travel post. But as I like to bring a good souvenir back, one that is often scent, this is where it all ties up!
Good people smell good 🙂
Likewise, some bodily and non bodily odours (stale cigarette breath, mainly) and certain perfumes put me off. So I always endeavour to smell good. Since I am not allowed to burn my Japanese incense sticks in the practice and the smelly herbal tea can only produce so much odour, I love a good natural feelgood scent. For me, that is mostly citrus. Citrus with a few amber or rose body notes. But for me, that feelgood factor gets totally killed when animals have been killed in order to produce or market that scent, which excludes maybe 90% of all scent sold in Europe.
What I used so far but do no longer want to buy
For a long time, I had three citrus favourites: Aqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo Arancia di Capri and Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine for decent moderately priced scents, and Frederic Malle Fragrance Bigarade Concentree for special occasions.
The problem: All three are not cruelty-free. Aqua di Parma and Atelier Cologne sell in China, therefore animal testing is required by law. Frederic Malle was bought by Estee Lauder this year so I expect a decline in quality and ethics. Also, Le Labo, another ethical niche perfumer was recently bought by Estee Lauder. And for something heavier, I use the incense-based scents Kyoto and Avignon. However, their parent company, Puig, stopped being cruelty-free in 2013 – presumably for selling in China.
Where to buy cruelty-free scent
Actually – where does the nice-smelling ethical customer buy their scent now? I started experimenting making my own Cologne and Eau de Toilette after taking a course at Neals Yard Remedies some years back. The scents kept really well and they had the best names ever, named after Morrissey songs, but they were not the greatest. So, now, where do I get my nice perfume now?
I like to check Cruelty-free Kitty first, who has an exhaustive and regularly updated website of cruelty-free cosmetics. Sometimes, you may not find the scent, or there is discussion on whether the scent is vegan/not tested on animals/has a parent company that tests on animals but I find this the best site to check for cruelty-free cosmetics, especially as there is a lot of engagement as well.
The PETA cruelty-free list is good and handy of you’re out shopping. I also like Basenotes, but although there are some forum posts on cruelty free products, they are often not up to date. The site is a great resource, though, giving you pretty much every perfume ever launched, as well as fragrance notes, and the parent company both at launch and present owner. There are people on the forums who take their scents pretty seriously, too. If you are looking for niche scent inspiration or want to learn about fragrance.
There are many organic cruelty-free brands – but do they make good scent?
You may ask, what about the oh-so organic eco-alternative lifestyle brands from the German-speaking lands?
Ah, okay. I will always be honest with you here. I use Weleda products. You may be into their anthroposophic world view or not and worry their products wash more than just your hair, but they make a good product, and Rudolf Steiner was certainly an educated man with some very novel ideas. I confirm from personal experience that anthroposophic medicine sometimes works, and it is actually very big in German-speaking countries. I think their skincare and shower gel are some of the best things happening to eco-loving mankind, but their scent (and shampoo, for that matter) are insufferable.
Some brands have yet to be tried
The Mandarine Eau de Cologne by ethical “ethnobotanical” Swiss Company Farfalla is on my list of fragrances to try. I am not that keen on mandarine alone, so let’s see. At 30 EURO for 50ml its on the more expensive side, too.
Taoasis, a German vegan and ethical company, makes a number of fragrances under their “Baldini” brand. While that sounds like a cheap fast fashion brand, the six fragrances seem bloody expensive (20 EURO for 15ml) but if they are really perfume, then okay. They will also sell you a tester set for 10 EUROs, so fair play to them. Might try. They are all called MyTao, so picking out the lemon here might be challenging.
Last not least, Neal’s Yard… their essential oils are good, their perfume mixtures are so-so. Just not very exciting or fresh or in any way distinctive. I tried, I really tried to like them, but to no avail. I find fragrance from ethical organic companies generally a bit one-dimensional, which is why I started looking for specialist perfumers that are cruelty-free. Usually I look like a geek-bum on a good day outside my uniform, so at least my scent should be sophisticated.
But now… Let’s look at some scents!
My recommendation will be heavily citrus-biased with a second place going to frankinscense and incense-type smells which I love.
Around the same time, I was deeply into incense and subsequently, introduced to Tauer Perfumes. As far as I know, Tauer makes their scents in small batches in Switzerland, doesn’t sell to China, and is cruelty-free. They cost a lot, but one spritz, and whoa! It lasts three days and nights. You’ll look in vain for citrus here, though. My favourite is Andy Tauer Perfumes No 2: L’air du Desert Marocain. A heady mixture of incense, rose and amber. It has cumin and petitgrain (a bit like Bigarade Concentree) but is much more intense. After four years in a cool and dark place (this heady one doesn’t see the light of day too often) it keeps is scent quite well. Good investment buy. Okay, so that’s the most expensive one dealt with.
Santa Maria Novella
No less classy and to which Tauer is a mere start-up, is Santa Maria Novella, or, in its full glory, Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. They’ve been going since 1612, and know a thing or two about scent, as well as all sorts of healing liqueurs and potions, though body care and scents are their best sellers nowadays.
I tried three Colognes in these beautiful halls.
Colonia Russa: a rather young fragrance from 1901, this is supposedly a male frangrance but smells indistinguishable citrussy-old man-like. Base notes describes it as citrus, flower and leather. Should’ve been called sugar daddy perhaps.
Acqua di Sicilia: The name says it all – this should be a cornuccopia of citrus. A relatively new fragrance from 1997, a blend of lemon, mandarin and bergamot, this should have been a winner. Sadly, after two hours it was like I never sprayed it on. Fail.
Colonia Santa Maria Novella: Also with a lot of citrus top notes, but old lady boudoir comes through quickly. I think it’s Neroli. It was originally craeted for Catherine di Medici in the mid-1500’s, so does have some patina.
They are easy to buy and sell worldwide in their own concessions (except China), and they have an online shop in the USA. Nothing beats going to the original pharmacy in Florence if you get the chance, though! For a high-end shop, they are friendly despite quite a lot of people coming to just look.
Farmacia SS. Annunziata dal 1561
Another Florentine classic that claims to have been making lotions and potions for even longer than Santa Maria Novella, and are still a family business. Their tiny shop in the centre of Florence is much more modest, although kitted out like a traditional pharmacy, too.
Sadly, it was closed when I visited (Sunday), but some years ago, I bought this beauty in Rome at CampoMarzio70. It has top notes of lemon and bergamot and some Eucalyptus – its classed as a male fragrance, but I find it is suitable for women, too. Campomarzio70 is a great perfumers shop, by the way! Despite the touristy location (one is right by the Pantheon) they have a great choice of niche fragrance, let you try to your heart’s content and won’t rush you.
Le Couvent des Minimes (parent company not cruelty-free)
The monasteries of the old world is where all organic scent cookery is at! Le Couvent des Minimes makes about eight fragrances, of which Eau des Minimes is a classic Eau de Cologne. I read on several blogs that they are cruelty-free and vegan, so went and bought one. It was also quite cheap, about 25EURO for 100ml, and unobtrusive. Sadly, as I later found out, its parent company is L’Occitane, who, although they report on their website not to test on animals, they sell in China and have research carried out by Chinese contractors in order to retail in China.
Korres is an organic brand from Greece that you can find in every pharmacy in Greece as well as its own stores in Greece and Europe. They make a number of Eau de Toilette and Colognes well worth a try. They’re not on the PETA list, but to my knowledge, they do not sell in China and they stopped using Johnson&.Johnson as their US distributor.
The Eau de Toilette I tried were not really my thing, but I found a cologne that I love, because it’s fresh and a little bit different: Ginger Mint Eau de Cologne! It was also incredibly cheap, about 18 EURO for 100ml, but as with all Korres products, they love to change their product lines with lightning speed, so if you find it and like it, buy one more.
French niche brand founded and owned by a chemist (of the scientific kind) with a long experience in scent creation. I have their “Yuzu fou” which used to be pretty good value back in 2013. Launched in 2008, it is a unisex fresh scent. Basenotes gives “Yuzu, Kumquat, Orange bigarade, Mint, Verbena absolute, Green bamboo, Neroli, White musk” as its fragrance notes. All or most ingredients are reported to be natural. With my pedestrian olfactory experience, I can certainly smell yuzu and lime-orange, but there is something harsh-toilet cleanerish about it, too. It gets mixed reviews, and although I have it, it’s not something I would put on every day to feel good, but it’s good to have it on the “citrus” rotation.
Update: I have contacted them in July 2018 and received the following message: “… To answer your questions, we do not sell in China yet but we are looking for a disponibility in 2019. Concerning tests on animals, we do not do it at all.” So… not right now, but things may change. I have given Yuzu Fou another try and found to like it, but it’s not mellow like my now off-limit Bigarade Concentree, Orange Sanguine or Arancia di Capri (which I will still use until empty but not re-buy).
The Question Marks
These are rather small brands, all French, who do not appear on any of the aforementioned cruelty-free list but make and sell nothing but fragrance and to whom I have turned in my search of cruelty-free scent. I have scoured their websites and also contacted them to ask about animal testing policies, so I will update this accordingly. You can buy them in selected niche perfumeries – see below.
L’Artisan Parfumeur (not cruelty-free)
I admit I have none of their perfumes. They are also French and offer a huge range of Eaux des Toilettes and room scents. I loved their “Ananas Fizz” which I wasn’t fast enough to purchase in 2013, which, according to basenotes, has “Victoria pineapple, Citrus fruit, Lychee, Frangipani tree, Vanilla” in it. I was also told that “Bahiana” is superior to it, but that’s subjective. Good luck in finding them both in one place.
UPDATE: Now owned by Puig, sadly, they are no longer cruelty-free
Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier
Independent niche perfume house based in France. As mentioned, their “Bahiana” was recommended to me instead of Artisan Parfumeur’s Ananas Fizz. It smells of, according to Basenotes, “Brazilian Orange, Hesperidia, Woods, Musk, Coconut”. We’re moving from crisp citrus into Pina Colada notes here, but every now and then I enjoy the sweeter nuances of this scent.
Update: I contacted them in January 2019 about their animal testing policy. They confirmed they are cruelty-free and none of their perfumes or components are tested on animals, bit no statement on selling in China. From what I can see from their website, they are privately owned and they do not have points of sale in China.
Another small family-owned producer, this time from Bologna in Italy. They released their first fragrance in 2010. I have bought “Tangerina” after the owner of a really good niche perfume shop told me they are cruelty-free. I’ve contacted them just to be sure. Prices are about 150-170 Euro for 100ml of Eau de Toilette, and they are super niche – even Basenotes has only a handful of reviews, which are mostly positive, with some neutral.
What next for cruelty-free scent?
Please, if you know a good light/fresh/citrus cruelty-free scent, let me know! I go through lots of scent, and I have a few bottles of Turkish lemon cologne that I have not yet mentioned. First I will try to check whether they are cruelty-free before making recommendations, but let me just say, they came with me as a souvenir a couple years ago… they are great for work, especially if you want to make your hands and arms smell nice. And, now in 2020 they make the best smelling hand sanitizer.
I also bought some essential oils and will try my hand at making cologne again. I am currently using Ressources Naturelles organic oil, which seem a good balance between quality and price, and have in the past used Neals’ Yard oils. I’ve also tried Primavera recently. I like them because they are all organic, but I cannot say much about the stability of their fragrance, sas most were citrus – and they haven’t deeply impressed me.
I have not tried Neumond yet! Lately I bought some French essential (organic) oils from Pranarom which were okay and above all, phenomenally cheap.
The Small Print
Disclaimer: I mention a lot of brands and products here, with a lot of links, none of whom are affiliate links. They will just serve for your information, however, I will declare this “advertisement”, just to be on the safe side. However… everything I have mentioned here I have paid for myself. You can call me stupid for not trying to make money out of this, but I have a little problem with giving an unbiased review when I have an interest to sell at the same time.
This post was first published in July 2018 and updated in May 2020.