Perfumery and veganism

Cruelty-free, alcohol-free, organic and, of course, vegan, the designations have been blooming on perfume labels for the past few years. Together, let's make the difference.

Modified on
May 18th 2022

Samuel Fillon

Releon8211 @ Canva

Several labels have been awarded by associations, among them V-Label and Eve Vegan in France, which certify the suitability of a product for use or consumption by a vegan individual. For instance, Lolitaland by Lolita Lempicka has been certified "vegan" by the association One Voice . Many of you may wonder what it means and how it differs from a non-certified. Here is a quick overview on the use of animal notes in perfumery during the age to clarify these grey areas.

For many centuries, noses have heavily worked with animal fragrances. Musk, for example, is a fragrance extracted from Tonkin musc, an Himalayan chevrotain. This substance was widely used until the beginning of the 20th century to the point where it became an endangered species. In 1973, officials had to prevent the extinction of the species through an agreement, the Washington Treaty. Since its effective date, even though poaching may still occur, there is hardly any chance of finding traces of natural musk in a perfume bottle. However, synthetic musk, with its distinctive "clean" aroma, is commonly found in modern fragrance compositions, yet, as indicated by its title, there is no direct or indirect connection with the poaching of Himalayan chevrotain.

The same applies to the civet, an East African feline whose perianal glands give off an intense fur smell. Unfortunately, the civet was only bred with the promise of a tragic fate, as the essence was extracted by curettage. Henceforth and for several decades, this fur smell is exclusively produced synthetically and former perfumes which required this natural fragrance have since been reformulated. Finally, castoreum, extracted from the anal glands of the North American beaver, can still be used theoretically, but has also been reconstituted synthetically.

Then, where does the animal component remain in perfume? Some exceptions still include natural animal-based raw materials as : hyraceum, beeswax and ambrettolide.


Fossilised urine dropped by the hyrax, a small African animal. Once dissolved in alcohol, the hyraceum produces an animal odour similar to the smell of civets.


Beeswax can be extracted by using ethanol to obtain a sweet, delicate and gourmand fragrance. A unique feature making the difference and the signature of some fine creations.


This synthetic musk became an alternative to a gum secreted by a variety of cochineal. Problème donc pour les puristes. While this may be a concern for the purists, it's fine for the rest of us.

However, even in these cases, one must be aware that between the natural molecules, which are expensive and have an unpredictable availability, there are now almost always synthetic alternatives. So, perfumeries systematically promote and use them, therefore, perfumes are de facto mainly vegan.

Further reading : On peut encore trouver quelques parfums aux notes animales sur