Do you prefer alcohol-free perfumes? Water-based perfumes are on the rise


Do you love perfumes but can’t stand heady smells? Water-based perfumes may be for you.

While the water-based perfume category has become more popular lately, alcohol-free perfumes aren’t entirely new. We find them again in 2014 with the revival of the French apothecary brand Buly 1803 and the creation of the first water-based perfume, Eau Triple. Since then, others have hit the market, giving those who might be averse to fragrances a pleasant, barely present scent.

What are they exactly? As the name suggests, these are fragrances created by using water rather than alcohol to distill aromatic oils. Christopher Brosius, perfumer and founder of CB I Hate Perfume, only uses oil and water for his perfumes and explains this because water evaporates more easily than oil. The result is a fragrance that may be more subtle, but it smells more natural than alcohol-based fragrances that may be packed with synthetics.

“Mine always come out of the bottle exactly as I designed them,” says Brosius. “The story begins immediately.”

He further explains that alcohol-based perfumes have a distinctive smell that takes some time to “burn off” before you can properly smell the notes. Fragrances with oils, on the other hand, have a richer interpretation of scent although he notes that they are even weaker to smell as they rely on the warmth of the skin for the scent to evaporate. Brosius adds that they don’t lend themselves well to spray formats; the best way to apply them is to apply a few drops at a time to specific areas of your body.

Since water and oil do not mix well, creating water-based perfumes usually requires special emulsion techniques. Fashion designer and founder of her eponymous fragrance brand, Behnaz Sarafpour, for example, creates her three water-based fragrances – Pure Rose, Pure Neroli and Pure Jasmine – through a process where freshly cut flowers are distilled at steam. “The result is a light, natural fragrance that contains small amounts of essential flower oils without the use of synthetic emulsifiers,” Sarafpour explains.

Dior’s latest fragrance, J’adore Parfum d’Eau, is the latest water-based fragrance launch on the market and is formed through a nano-emulsion technique where water and flower oils are mixed under extremely high pressure. The result is a soft mist that subtly settles on the skin.

You can find many types of notes in alcohol-free perfumes, but cosmetic chemist Ginger King says popular scents you’re likely to find include floral and fruity notes because they’re lighter and tighter.

A huge plus, King says, is that they’re great for sensitive skin. Sarafpour agrees and explains that without the addition of alcohol or synthetic ingredients that could cause irritation, water-based perfumes are safe for people with synthetic fragrance allergies.

Another advantage is that they are lighter, which King says makes them ideal for those looking for a lingering scent. But don’t let the sweet aroma fool you; that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t last as long as an alcohol- or oil-based perfume. Although most perfumes contain alcohol to make their scent last longer, Brosius contradicts this popular thought and argues that a water-based perfume is less volatile than alcohol on the skin, which makes it last longer.

If your interest is piqued, here are four water-based scents to try.

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J’adore Parfum d’Eau, Dior’s first foray into water-based fragrances, is similar to the original Eau de Parfum, but with a softer twist. D’Eau is an aromatic floral fragrance that features a subtle yet long-lasting blend of orange blossom water, solar sambac jasmine, Damascena rose and magnolia.

Buly 1803

The OG water-based fragrance, Buly 1803 has been setting the plan for years. It’s a lovely blend of tuberose, clove, musk and vanilla for a warm floral that isn’t overly sweet.

CB I hate perfume

This rose scent is made with real Moroccan rose absolute balanced with Indian black tea. The result is a quiet burst of floral aroma that will win you over even if you claim to dislike rose scents.

Behnaz Sarafpour

Made with only rose petals and water, this all-natural scent smells like exactly what it’s like to be in a rose garden – fresh, earthy and only subtly sweet.


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