What Are Non-Toxic Perfumes? Here’s What To Know—And Which 10 To Try

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When it comes to the science of concocting, brewing, and creating perfumes and fragrances, much is still a mystery to the average consumer. We might know the top, middle, and base notes, but what’s actually going into the fragrances themselves? If you're curious about scents and formulations, chances are you've heard of "non-toxic perfumes," with brands claiming their ingredient list is "clean," and "free" from concerning additives. But, what makes a non-toxic perfume...non-toxic? Are they safer? Ahead, we dive into everything you need to know about a potentially more thoughtful and transparent approach to fragrances.

“The most difficult thing about this whole issue is that there is no legal obligation for brands to share their ingredients list,” Frances Shoemack, founder and CEO of perfume brand Abel, tells us.“Even when you know the ingredients to avoid, there is typically no way for you to know if [they’re] in your fragrance or not.”

The best non-toxic perfumes, at a glance:

A staggering 3,224 ingredients for fragrance coverage and 395 functional ingredients used to support a fragrance compound’s durability are listed on the 2022 edition of the IFRA Transparency List, which gives an inside look into the ingredients used by fragrance companies all over the world. These ingredients can be combined in multitudes of ways and feature hundreds of different chemicals.

Experts In This Article
  • Amy Christiansen, Amy Christiansen is the founder of Sana Jardin Paris, a non-toxic perfume brand.
  • Carina Chaz, Carina Chaz is the founder of DedCool, an LA-based vegan perfume brand known for its cult-fave fragrances, Taunt and Milk.
  • Faye Harris, Faye Harris is a co-founder of Eauso Vert, an eco-conscious and non-toxic perfume brand.
  • Frances Shoemack, Frances Shoemack is the founder and CEO of Abel, a perfume company.
  • Gaye Straza, Gaye Straza is the CEO and founder of Kai Fragrance, a non-toxic perfume brand.
  • Tanya Gonzalez, Tanya Gonzalez is a co-founder of Eauso Vert, an eco-conscious and non-toxic perfume brand.

The exception to this rule is the overarching umbrella of non-toxic fragrances—which are not only transparent almost to a fault about their ingredient lists, but adamant about only using ingredients that aren’t harmful. How to find them, exactly? Turns out, most non-toxic fragrance brands are super forthcoming about their ingredient list—which is a major beauty green flag (more of this, please!).

“Look for brands that disclose ingredients up front and known allergens that you feel may impact your relationship with the product,” say Tanya Gonzalez and Faye Harris, co-founders of fragrance brand Eauso Vert. “The key is seeking access to full ingredient lists and finding brands that can confirm their ‘made without’ list.”

Which ingredients should you avoid when choosing a fragrance?

So, what, exactly, are these harmful ingredients, and what makes them this way? “When it comes to fragrances, it's really important to avoid phthalates, parabens, sulfates, phosphates, and microbeads,” says Gaye Straza, the CEO and founder of Kai Fragrance. “Those ingredients are often used to enhance the scent and make it last longer, but they have been linked to health concerns.”

According to a report by Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, which examined these chemicals and ingredients, some of the main health concerns can include carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals), uterine fibroids, hormone and endocrine disruption, environmental damage, allergens, breathing issues, and migraines. “I always suggest looking out for non-toxic callouts on packaging,” says Carina Chaz, CEO and founder of Dedcool.

While there are myriad ingredients that could (and do) make the list, some of the most typical offenders are:


Man-made chemical compounds that are used in plastics, solvents, and personal care products. According to the National Institutes of Health, they can cause hormone and endocrine disruption, reproductive defects, and lower sperm count.


Artificial preservatives used to prolong the shelf life of cosmetics and fragrances. They can cause skin irritation (however, newer research shows the connection between parabens and cancer and hormone disruption is pretty weak).


These compounds, typically used to create lather in products, can cause skin irritation.

Butylphenyl methylpropional

A synthetic fragrance ingredient with a potent floral scent, also known as lilial or lily aldehyde. It can cause skin sensitivity.

Methylene chloride (dichloromethane)

This acts as a solvent in fragrances. Not only is it carcinogenic, but it can cause headaches, damage to the central nervous system, fatigue, and skin irritation.


Used as a preservative, and is carcinogenic.


They act as plasticizers, and have been linked to a host of issues including cancer, neurological damage, and skin irritation.


This colorless liquid is used to add sweetness to fragrances. According to the CDC, it can cause fatigue, eye and nose irritation, dizziness, headaches, and damage to the nerves, liver, and kidneys.

The biggest takeaway is this: We need to do our best to truly understand what is actually making up our products in general, and in our fragrances specifically. Because, really, the goal should be to use a product whose ingredient list contains more than the nebulous term “fragrance”—which, coincidentally, is exactly what non-toxic fragrance companies do. “I felt strongly about creating formulations which were free from nasties and as naturally leaning as possible,” says Amy Christiansen, founder of Sana Jardin Paris.

Depending on your scent preference, there are a host of non-toxic perfumes to choose from. Below, discover a few of our favorites.

The best non-toxic perfumes

Best spicy scent:

Eauso Vert, Sintra — $185.00

Alluring, sensuous and just the right amount of spicy meets floral, Sintra is crisp and arresting without feeling overpowering. It features top notes of bergamot oil, Italian lemon, and aquaflora; middle notes of lavandin, French mimosa, and ylang-ylang; while base notes of orris, vetiver, sandalwood, and sensual musk round it out beautifully.

Fragrance ins and outs:

  • The lavandin enfleurage is hand-picked at the flower head from the Provence region in France
  • The scent is on the stronger side, so a little goes a long way—which means the 1.7 fl. oz. bottle will last for quite some time
  • This fragrance, as with all Eauso Vert fragrances, is vegan, Credo Compliant and cruelty-free
  • The cap is made of a light natural wood that’s 100 percent organic and compostable, and they offer a pre-paid return label to ship your bottle back so it’s properly disassembled and recycled

Best sweet scent:

Dedcool, Taunt — $90.00

If you’re looking for a clean, easy to spray on and go type of fragrance, Taunt is it. The warmth of the vanilla and amber bottom notes melds effortlessly with the top notes of bergamot and fresh dew, and middle notes of floral and cassis. It smells almost like fresh, sun-warmed skin on the most relaxing of summer days, but better. One Sephora reviewer writes, “You’ll regret not finding this scent sooner! It’s not too overpowering to be worn every day. A little goes a long way and lasts for hours.”

Fragrance ins and outs:

  • The glass bottle features a unique barcode design
  • All Dedcool fragrances are genderless, vegan, and part of the Clean at Sephora curation of brands
  • Multiple Sephora reviewers caution that the scent can fade quickly, so, depending on how strong you like your fragrance, liberal spraying may be encouraged

Best woody/earthy scent:

Sana Jardin Paris, Sandalwood Temple — $145.00

If you’re looking for a rich, heady fragrance straight out of the bottle, Sandalwood Temple is the way to go. This woody bouquet is “sensual, earthy, and utterly addictive,” says Christiansen. One of Sana Jardin Paris’s best-selling scents, it’s made up of a fairly small assortment of notes, so a little packs a big punch. Top notes of bergamot, neroli oil Morocco, and orange flower water combine with a middle note of cedarwood, and base notes of sandalwood, vanilla, and guaiacwood, creating an earthy fragrance that’s reminiscent of a summer bonfire with friends. “You’ll always smell expensive,” says one reviewer on Credo Beauty’s website. “It’s intoxicating and the only perfume I buy. No matter where I go, someone always comments. It’s perfect.”

Fragrance ins and outs:

  • Every Sana Jardin Paris fragrance is vegan and sustainable
  • This scent is available in three different sizes, from rollerball to 50ml and 1.7 oz. to 3.4 oz
  • It can be overpowering, so use sparingly

Best citrus scent:

Abel, Golden Neroli — $85.00

One spritz of this fruity, tangy scent upon your skin, and you’ll instantly feel as if you’re traversing the orange groves of California. Top notes of neroli and matcha tea combine with middle notes of petit grain, ylang-ylang, and jasmine sambac, drying down to base notes of East Indian sandalwood and vanilla. The result is a delightfully rich and complex take on a time-honored, citrusy classic, all packaged up in a beautiful glass bottle with a metallic top. “The scent is sweet but not sickly, and has a lot of depth,” writes one Bluemercury reviewer. “Really thankful to have found a natural fragrance that works for me!”

Fragrance ins and outs:

  • Each Abel fragrance comes with a different notecard, personalized for each scent with a thoughtful poem or phrase
  • The bottle is on the smaller side, so it’s best to use sparingly
  • Abel donates 1 percent of all revenue from Golden Neroli purchases to the global nonprofit, Pollinator Partnership

Best fresh scent:

Váhy, Neon Neroli — $175.00

While Neon Neroli could technically be classified as a citrus scent, we’re denoting it as Fresh for its immediate ability to transport us to a seaside retreat. Top notes of neroli, bergamot, and orange meld beautifully with middle notes of orange flower, ylang-ylang and petitgrain, while the base notes of vetiver, vanilla, and Mediterranean sun bring a subtle warmth and depth. One reviewer calls it “happiness in a bottle,” and we’re absolutely inclined to agree.

Fragrance ins and outs:

  • All Váhy fragrances are cruelty-free and vegan-friendly
  • This is definitely a strong scent, so use sparingly. Váhy also recommends waiting about 30 seconds after applying to let the scent fully develop

Best floral scent:

Kai Fragrance, Rose — $80.00

Rich, heady, and alluring, Kai Rose calls to mind the most evocative and romantic of rose gardens. Kai’s original perfume oil of gardenia and white exotics is layered with rose absolute, creating an utterly alluring, statement-making scent. Straza says, “It’s not like your grandmother’s perfume—instead, it’s light, youthful, fresh, and intoxicating.” This is the type of fragrance that makes you wish Valentine’s Day happened year-round. One reviewer on Revolve says, “The most beautiful scent I have ever found. I am not a perfume wearer in general, but this makes me want to put it on every day.”

Fragrance ins and outs:

  • The 1.7 oz. glass bottle looks delicate, yet feels substantial and weighty
  • The fragrance comes in recyclable packaging
  • It can be intense or overpowering, so one spray is enough for all-day wear

Best clean scent:

Esas Beauty, Jasmine Beach — $40.00

“If you’re into something a little more subtle, Jasmine Beach has a really nice warm, clean, and escapist vibe,” according to Esas Beauty founders Seda Bilginer and Amanda Sichon, whose entire fragrance line is “scientifically formulated with 100 percent natural and organic ingredients and full transparency.” With top notes of mandarin, lavender, and seaweed; middle notes of jasmine, ylang-ylang and coconut; and base notes of orris root, tonka, and sandalwood, Jasmine Beach evokes the feeling of dangling your feet off the dock in the heat of summer. “My new favorite. Smells so clean and unique,” says one reviewer.

Fragrance ins and outs:

  • Esas Beauty donates 10 percent of all profits to The Ocean Cleanup
  • While the .33 oz. size is on the smaller side, the glass bottle is refillable
  • The fragrance comes in a 100 percent recyclable box

Best overall:

Abbott NYC, Exploration Set — $30.00

Each one of Abbott NYC’s eight different unisex scents is inspired by a different aspect of nature, from the crisp mountain air of Montana (Big Sky) to the rich, woody scents of Sequoia National Park (the aptly named Sequoia). While it may at first be difficult to choose your perfect match, that’s why they created their Exploration Set—miniature sprays of all eight scents (the two aforementioned, plus Mojave, Montecito, Crescent Beach, Telluride, The Cape, and Voyageurs). Founder Jose Alvarez says, “We’ve never felt limited in the types of scents we can produce or in their level of beauty and sophistication.

Crescent Beach is a wonderful floral and amber fragrance, and it’s been our bestseller this year at both Sephora and Credo Beauty. If you’re looking for a good woodsy scent, Sequoia is one of our most popular perfumes.” No matter which one becomes your favorite (or if they all do), they’re delightfully intoxicating.

Fragrance ins and outs:

  • All Abbott NYC fragrances are vegan and cruelty-free
  • The purchase of an Exploration Set includes a discount code for $23 off one full-size bottle

Best vanilla scent:

ducle rosie jane
By/Rosie Jane, Dulce — $70.00

Dulce, by By/Rosie Jane, launched just as the vanilla perfume renaissance was taking off in the fall of 2022. But unlike the vanilla spritzes we’d sneak in between lunch and geometry class, Dulce offers a more grown-up, complex take on the classic scent (in fact, we investigated what makes a vanilla fragrance “good” last month). Aside from vanilla bean, notes include wafts of chocolate, hinoki wood (for a bit of earthy-ness), and nude musk that make it feel like a perfume an adult should be wearing versus 14-year-old you. The ingredients contain none of the “baddies” listed above, and the formulation is cruelty-free, vegan, climate neutral, and the packaging is totally recyclable.

Fragrance ins and outs:


Best amber scent:

ellis brooklyn super amber
Ellis Brooklyn, Super Amber — $108.00

It seems like every fragrance Ellis Brooklyn releases is better than the last, but we keep going back to Super Amber, which launched August 2021, right before fall festivities started. Described as an “addictive scent that envelops like a cashmere blanket on warm bare skin,” Super Amber is definitely a more autumnal blend that combines sweetness with musk and a splash of woodsiness. What makes Super Amber especially unique is that it’s actually not formulated with top, middle, and base notes, and instead the blend of fragrances interacts to the individual’s skin chemistry—so everyone smells a little different wearing it.

Fragrance ins and outs:

  • Ellis Brooklyn, which lists out their ingredient ethos here, received the EcoScent Compass AAA rating, meaning all green, social impact, and environmental impact boxes have been checked
  • It’s PETA-certified vegan, and cruelty-free
  • The bottle is totally recyclable (it’s from glass)
  • It’s pretty strong, so start with a couple spritzes and see if you need to add more

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