What it means to be a vegan perfume
At Filigree we pride ourselves on creating uncommon fragrances that are all-natural and certified vegan. We are often asked what it means for our perfumes to be vegan. A person that identifies as vegan does not consume meat, seafood, eggs, dairy, or honey; does not wear or purchase clothing derived from leather, fur, wool fibers, or silk; and does not use or purchase products that contain animal products or have been tested on animals. For a perfume to be considered vegan, we follow those same principles for our fragrances.
Does not contain animal products
Not everyone is aware that a perfume may contain animal ingredients to provide an animalic note in a fragrance. There are five materials derived from animals; three of the five require direct extraction.
Castoreum is exuded from the castor sac (scent gland) of North American beavers. Despite what you may have seen posted on social media, castoreum is not used as a common flavoring in processed or packaged foods. However, castoreum was traditionally used in the production of leather tanning, and its presence in fragrances can impart nostalgia of a leather note.
Musk was traditionally exuded from the scent gland of the deer musk. Thankfully most (if not all) musk in Western fragrances is synthetic since the discovery of synthetic musks in the late 19th century. Today natural musk is derived from the gazelle, but plant materials such as ambrette seed and galbanum resin also contain musk-smelling compounds.
The civet produces musk from its perineal glands. The musk note is more commonly known as civet, and it is harvested either by killing the animal and removing its glands, or by scraping the secretions from the glands of a live animal. Synthetic civetone is a close reconstruction of true civet and is used in commercial perfumes due to public outcry of animal cruelty.
Ambergris is the byproduct of a sperm whale. In lay terms, ambergris is whale vomitus that has been hardened and repeatedly washed by ocean water. The only way to harvest ambergris is to search/comb beaches, but take note: in the United States and Australia, possession of or trade in ambergris is strictly banned. However in most countries, including the UK and the rest of the EU, it is perfectly legal to salvage ambergris from beaches and sell it. Commercial fragrances use the synthetic ambroxan in their perfumes due to the often exorbitant price of true ambergris.
African Stone / Hyraceum
The hyrax is a herbivore that lives mostly in Africa and the Middle East. Incredible but true, its closest relatives are the elephant and sea cow. Hyraxes create large piles of dung and urine that, over time, petrify and age to form hyraceum. The material is tinctured in alcohol, imparting a scent described as a combination of musk, civet, castoreum, and tobacco. Harvesting hyraceum does not require any direct harm (or contact) of the hyrax, making it an ethical, natural animalic note in perfume.
To be vegan is to abstain from all animal products, including silk and wool due to the unethical means of acquiring the materials. Vegans also abstain from honey and beeswax since the bees are often disturbed – sometimes destroyed – during the manufacturing process. In perfume, beeswax is sold as an absolute and is derived through solvent extraction. One cannot be certain that no bees were harmed during the extraction process without third-party certification of ethical, humane manufacturing. Unlike the other materials listed, beeswax in perfume does not impart any animalic note to a fragrance, possessing only its intended honeyed aroma.
What about amber?
It is a common misperception for people to associate amber with ambergris, but they are wholly distinct and separate fragrance ingredients. Amber as a note in perfume is meant to be an aromatic resinous substance. We create our own amber using a time-honored recipe of labdanum and vanilla. Fossilized amber oil is obtained by processing fossilized resin over high heat until it yields an oily substance. The oil has a smell similar to creosote that is best appreciated at a 1% dilution of its original concentration.
Not tested on animals
By and large many personal care products sold in North America, Europe, and Australia are not tested on animals. In China, however, companies must meet government regulation which requires animal testing in order to sell all imported cosmetics, new cosmetic ingredients, and “special use” cosmetics (e.g., hair dyes, deodorants). The China Food & Drug Administration (CFDA) classifies perfume as an “ordinary cosmetic,” and companies who wish to sell their perfume in China must adhere to the regulations put forth by the administration. The application for a perfume requires a testing report from a cosmetics testing institution approved by the CFDA. Some of the following testing requirements may be required for the report:
- Physiochemical and microbiological testing
- Acute oral toxicity and acute dermal toxicity
- Acute dermal irritation and acute eye irritation
- Dermal sensitization
- Dermal photo-toxicity test & dermal photosensitivity
- Sub-chronic oral toxicity and dermal toxicity
- Teratogenicity test
- Authenticity test
- Chronic toxicity and carcinogenic test
- Safety evaluation of using tests of cosmetics on human body
The aforementioned tests all involve animal testing. Until the CFDA no longer mandates any of these testing requirements for cosmetics, any company that sells in mainland China cannot promote (or promise) cruelty-free products. But take heart, dear reader, for all is not lost: Hong Kong is an autonomous territory in China and does not require animal testing on cosmetics.
Here at Filigree animals are incredibly important to us. We have never used animal products nor tested on animals, and we remain committed to these tenets. To that end, we will never sell our perfumes where regulations require any animal testing.
All our perfumes are Certified Vegan by Vegan Action, demonstrating our commitment to animals and our passion for a cruelty-free lifestyle. We are also proud to be a member of the Vegan Trade Council. Our perfumes intersect luxury and veganism, resulting in premium fragrances that respect all creatures great and small. Shop with confidence that the perfumes you wear from our collection are 100% natural, use certified organic alcohol and organic jojoba oil, are cruelty-free, and contain no animal products whatsoever.