Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Natural Fragrances

By Jody Villecco, September 25, 2008  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Jody Villecco
For over two years now, we have been conducting research for our Premium Body Care Standards, carefully determining exactly which ingredients will be allowed and which will be exempted from the new standard. With over 300 body care ingredients currently classified as unacceptable, you can imagine that it has been a long process: at our desks spending countless hours delving into the nuances of personal care ingredients; at meetings with experts, generous in sharing their information and brimming over with passion; and through journeys far and wide to see firsthand how these products and their ingredients are made. One of the most challenging areas for us to research has been fragrances, primarily because there is no official definition in place for natural when it comes to fragrances. Furthermore, the testing and verification of fragrances is quite complex, which has made it difficult for us to determine if a fragrance in a product is 100% natural or not. To help us better understand these issues, we decided that we needed to see the process of distilling 100% natural fragrances (essential oils) firsthand. Memorable among this experience was the beautiful opportunity this summer to witness the rose harvest and the subsequent distilling of rose essential oil. As the days start to bring a chill in the air, my mind wanders to the misty field in Bulgaria where Rosa damascena plants grow seemingly to the horizon. It is early morning because the peak hours for rose picking are from 5am to 10am when the plant oils are strongest. There is a noticeable scent of rose in the air, and workers — many with blossoms in their hair — are scattered throughout the field with huge sacks of pale pink flowers. We attempt to help with the harvest, and quickly realize that we must develop the skill for grasping the blossom at the precise place and pulling with the right force to collect the delicate flowers. We are painfully slow novices, although our hands become faintly scented with rose and we are happy (as it seems are the other workers) to be in that field, on that morning. At the manufacturing facility, this morning’s harvest, all 60,000 kg of it, is strewn in sacks surrounding the copper distilleries. Unbelievably, it takes 3000-4000 kg of rose blossoms to make 1 kg of rose oil. This year, conditions are dry, so the yield will be lower. Although the steam distillers run 24/7 during the harvest season, the oil is released only once a day. In what seems to be a special daily ritual, we are allowed access to the locked room where we get to see the release of the gallon or so of rose oil that day, a magical event akin to uncorking a special bottle of wine. At the end of it all, here is what I am most struck with:
  • Wonder, gratitude and respect for how hard people work to produce the products and ingredients on our shelves.
  • Awe over the immense amount of flowers needed to make a small bit of essential oil. This, and all other essential oils, are concentrated plant essences, to be used wisely.
  • Visible realization that if everything in the process is carefully tended to—from field to manufacture to storage—the end result will be a high quality product. This tenet could be applied to all kinds of products, in body care products and throughout the store.
As we continue work with Premium Body Care—we recently hit the mark of having approved over 2300 products that meet Premium Body Care—we hope to be able to offer a greater selection of products that are filled with such high quality ingredients, including natural fragrances.
Category: Whole Body




villeccoj says ...
@Katherine Currently, Kiss My Face soaps meet our baseline quality standards for body care. We have always offered the highest quality body care products available and to take our existing standards one step further (if you would like, link to: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/products/whole-body-standards.php ), we recently launched a set of even stricter Premium Body Care Standards. Our hope is to eventually have all of our body care products meet our premium standard, but this will take some time because it can take a manufacturer up to three years in order to properly reformulate a body care product, and we do not want to rush the process. The Whole Body Premium Standard is a dynamic standard. It is our first push to take action, yet with new information and as the industry makes available higher quality and cleaner ingredients, we will raise the bar accordingly.
10/28/2008 11:51:22 AM CDT
villeccoj says ...
@Katherine In our Premium Body Care, for safety reasons and philosophical reasons, we only allow 100% natural fragrances derived from essential oils and components of essential oils. For this reason, the Kiss My Face soaps (except for the pure olive oil variety which is unscented) do not qualify for Premium. As you have noted, the fragrance terms on personal care products can be confusing, and some manufacturers are using misleading terminology such as, “botanical fragrance” or “herbal fragrance”, both of which can actually be synthetic. In general, it is reasonable to assume that if a manufacturer is not stating “essential oils”, then the fragrance is synthetic. When in doubt, it is best to ask the manufacturer for more information, like you did. We have spent a lot of energy and time evaluating the fragrances in the products that qualify for Premium. If you are looking for a Premium quality soap, I would recommend soaps made by Alaffia, Pangea, EO, Indigo Wild, or our new Whole Foods Market organic soaps.
10/28/2008 11:51:40 AM CDT
Katherine says ...
Upon investigating the ingredients for kiss my face soaps they state that the fragrances they use are "synthetically derived from natural sources," what does this mean. Would this qualify as premium body care or not by your organization's standards?
10/25/2008 11:03:26 AM CDT
Katherine says ...
what about kiss my face soaps? the ingredient list mentions fragrances as well. are they artificial also? if so i thought they were as they mention in their advertising "obsessively natural"
10/24/2008 10:07:53 PM CDT
Katherine says ...
Thankfully there are retailers that understand consumers like me who desire truly natural and make these products available.
10/31/2008 10:35:31 AM CDT
Karen Cilman says ...
I would love it if you would develop or offer a leave-in hair conditioner with no fragrance. this is very hard to find (almost impossible). thanks! Karen
09/27/2008 5:38:01 PM CDT
James Pettigrew says ...
I too recently had a similar experience shopping for soap at Whole Foods Market. I am pleased to see that my favorite market will soon be offering "whole soaps" as well. I expect my vendor to contribute to our "whole" lives - helping us bring common sense to our eating and bathing.
09/27/2008 11:54:43 AM CDT
Jaleen says ...
I hope you will offer more FRAGRANCE FREE products!
09/26/2008 6:03:23 PM CDT
hsiaw says ...
@nellie If you're interested in us carrying a particular product in our stores, let Guest Services in your local store know. We carry different products in our stores based on local demand and availability.
09/29/2008 4:31:14 PM CDT
amy says ...
I am always looking for QUALITY fragrance free and unscented personal care products. I am very pleased with the new line of dryer sheets which come in an unscented version. The difference between them and Bounce's "unscented" versions is noticable. My laundry is soft, static free and free of toxic chemicals! I have not found a satisfactory shampoo or conditioner for dry, color treated hair. Also if there is any way to group the unscented products together rather than scattered throughout the highly scented aisle they are on, (especially shampoos, soaps, etc), those of us with fragrance sensitivities would certainly buy more!
09/29/2008 3:44:18 PM CDT
Elena says ...
I am so glad to hear about this. I am looking to dump ALL toxin laden personal care products. I am happy Whole Foods is getting on board with this.
09/26/2008 10:20:26 AM CDT
Kirstin says ...
This post couldn't be more timely. I was just at Whole Foods earlier today and while on the check out line, I noticed the Whole Foods Glycerin Soaps. I was about to purchase some but then read the ingredients and saw "fragrance" listed. What exactly is the "fragrance" in these soaps?
09/25/2008 1:53:17 PM CDT
hsiaw says ...
@Dale Our 365 Everyday Value line is designed to provide customers with high quality products at budget-conscious pricing. We meet our basic Whole Foods Market bodycare standards with these products. Look for product development in our Whole Foods Market brand that meets the premium standard soon. First up, Organic Triple Milled Bar soaps launching in October.
09/29/2008 4:30:35 PM CDT
Kirstin says ...
Thank you so much for getting this information for me so quickly! I really appreciate it.
09/25/2008 7:54:06 PM CDT
nellie says ...
i wonder why you guys dont carry Essiac concentrate; not the Flora kind. t.u.
09/29/2008 10:25:19 AM CDT
Dale says ...
I was excited about the premium products research and promotion, however, I have noticed that none of the 365 products meet the required criteria? What is wrong with this picture?
09/25/2008 7:51:51 PM CDT
hsiaw says ...
@Kirstin I just heard back from our Bodycare Category Manager, Lecia and here's what she has to say: "The 365 Glycerin soaps are a value product and thus contain artificial scents rather than essential oils. When manufacturing products there is a big cost difference between natural and artificial scents, but we will be offering customers another option very soon! The customer can look for wonderful Organic and Essential Oil scented soaps in our Whole Foods Market brand that will be launching in our stores in October."
09/25/2008 2:21:02 PM CDT
Jill says ...
Hi! I was wondering if you can use essential oils in candles.
11/29/2009 7:36:17 PM CST
Janice says ...
www.agapeandzoe.com has a line of natural, phthalate-free perfumes. They're excellent!
09/29/2010 7:39:55 PM CDT
Clara says ...
I always used to buy naturally scented products, but after reading The Perfect Scent by Chandler Burr I have begun to question whether natural scents are better. I had noticed for some time that natural scents weren't necessarily better for my allergies, so that was point one. Point two is that natural scents are often extracted using hexane, the same chemical used in dry cleaning. Third, I was appalled to learn how many flowers or plants are used to make small amounts of fragrance. In a changing climate, where water and farmable land are becoming scarcer and the world faces food shortages, I don't think it makes sense to use so much land for scents. It may be that creating synthetic fragrance molecules uses a lot of water (probably, as most manufacturing uses a lot of water) but at least it won't use so much land.
01/21/2011 8:07:03 PM CST
parfum says ...
You like to wear perfume? You can not match the perfume which you want to use? or You want to know where the original perfume and fake? Now You'll find all the answers about the perfume here, feel more confident & more smart in choosing a perfume. Check out: http://perfumetypes.tumblr.com/post/12914501235/perfumes-alcohol-and-women
11/23/2011 6:33:00 PM CST
Luce says ...
I am seeking a rose oil that is not cut with any solvents as it is for a patient with high sensitivities to any solvents. It must be pure. Do you carry such an oil and if so- who is the company, so we can purchase the correct brand when we come/ Thanks!
11/06/2012 7:27:11 AM CST
Luce says ...
I am seeking a rose oil that is not cut with any solvents as it is for a patient with high sensitivities to any solvents. It must be pure. Do you carry such an oil and if so- who is the company, so we can purchase the correct brand when we come/ Thanks!
11/06/2012 7:27:14 AM CST
Teri says ...
I've recently been introduced to an essential oil product and am wondering if Whole Foods carries it. It is called "Peace and Calming" and is produced here in the U.S. It has a wonderful fragrance.
11/23/2012 11:28:22 AM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@TERI - Our products vary between store locations so I would encourage you to reach out to your local store to see if they carry this oil. You can find a list of contact information at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/list.
11/23/2012 2:17:49 PM CST