Featured Perspectives: The Truth Behind Synthetic Ingredients with Robertet’s Zoe Freedberg

Featured Perspectives: The Truth Behind Synthetic Ingredients with Robertet’s Zoe Freedberg

For us, fragrance isn't just something you spray. It’s a source of confidence, a comforting nostalgia, a bottled memory, an extension of oneself, a life’s work. Behind the scenes, there’s a long chain of people involved in the creation of your fragrance. 

We want you to meet them.

In this series, we’re collaborating with experts in the fragrance industry. You’ll hear from the Makers of your favorite Commodity fragrances, tastemakers from our partner perfume houses and representatives from well-known retailers. They’ll share advice and expertise to simplify your fragrance experience, or shed light on their topics of specialty.

This is a space for you to get more out of your fragrance journey, to become well versed in the world of fragrance. 

This is a unique platform for discovery. 

This is Featured Perspectives

From fragrance to fashion, Zoe Freedberg is an industry veteran. She’s currently the Director of Fragrance Marketing for the Robertet Group, the global leader in natural aromatic raw materials. Robertet sources plant ingredients and turns them into natural extracts for the company’s flavoring, perfume, and health and beauty divisions.

Ahead, Zoe gives her Perspective on navigating the fragrance process and whether natural ingredients are actually the better choice.

As an industry veteran, any advice for someone that’s new to fragrance?

It’s important to, what we like to call, “follow” your fragrance. Meaning, you should always evaluate a fragrance over time to see how it changes and evolves. The initial scent or your first impression may be entirely different hours—or even minutes—into wearing it.

How should people go about discovering their fragrance preferences?

Fragrance preference is entirely subjective! Ultimately, it should come down to emotion. If it evokes an immediate reaction—a positive one of course—then that’s a good sign.

That said, if you need some more guidance, food and taste preferences can be a good reference. If you’re drawn to, let’s say, spices, have a sweet tooth, or love zesty, bright cocktails, chances are that that can easily translate to fragrance as well.

If a fragrance smells good on one person, will it also smell good on another?

Everybody wears scent differently. What food you consume, stress levels, the other body products you use—all of these things can lead to a slight variation depending on the wearer.

‘Skin scents’ are super popular in the industry right now. Can you describe them?

We love skin scents! Skin scents can refer to a range of different things: it can refer to a fragrance that can only be detected when close enough to the wearer or one that either resembles or amplifies the natural scent of one’s skin and gives a nice soft clean skin effect. A great example of a skin scent is Commodity’s very own Paper fragrance.

Can you explain the differences between synthetic, natural and naturally-derived ingredients?

It ultimately comes down to both origin and extraction process.

Natural ingredients are derived directly from nature with minimal processing. They’re typically obtained via “steam distillation,” which yields the essential oils often used in perfumery.

Synthetic ingredients, on the other hand, are created in a lab.

Naturally-derived ingredients are where it gets trickier. Ultimately these are ingredients that have been taken from nature and are then modified or extracted, and may be used to artificially recreate an ingredient.

There’s a stigma that natural ingredients are always better when it comes to fragrance. Is this true?

Not necessarily! Naturals can certainly offer more complexity and nuance, and Robertet perfumers love to use them when they can, but they also present challenges when it comes to cost and crop variability. The smaller palette size can also be potentially limiting to perfumers.

Why do you think synthetic ingredients get a bad rap?

For me, this is just about misinformation. I think it started with people equating “synthetic” with “chemical,” which had incorrectly garnered the reputation for being bad or harmful. Synthetics ultimately got wrapped up in this anti-chemical movement, which we know is inaccurate.

Rather, all Robertet formulas, including those with synthetics, are IFRA compliant and extensively tested for safety.

*IFRA (International Fragrance Association) is a global organization committed to promoting the safe use and enjoyment of fragrance by establishing ingredient safety standards for fragrance creators to follow globally.

What are the latest fragrance industry innovations in the sustainable space?

We’re seeing so many exciting innovations in this space! Robertet, for example, is committed to expanding on traceability and transparency when it comes to sourcing sustainable ingredients, as well as continuing to expand our upcycled ingredient portfolio.

We’re also seeing brands look to ingredients sourced from regenerative farming or wild harvesting, and of course, packaging continues to evolve in really innovative ways.

Can you expand on ‘upcycled ingredients’?

Upcycling is the process of transforming by-products, or unwanted products, into new materials or products that ultimately produces zero waste. This is something Robertet continues to leverage in our fragrance creations and add to our portfolio.

How will Robertet continue to source ingredients responsibly?

Robertet was founded in 1850 and has been a pioneer in sustainable sourcing for the fragrance industry. We have a truly holistic approach to sourcing knowing that respecting social and  environmental values is not optional, but a necessary component in our sustained success.

Looking into the future, we continuously strive to safeguard the richness of the soil and sustain traditional farming practices specific to the local economies and to further promote and enhance local life.

Have a topic that you’d like to hear more about? We probably have the perfect person. Tell us what Featured Perspective you’d like to hear next in the comments!


  • I ordered the small scents box with three small sprays of paper
    Expressive and bold I love the white amber musk paper but it is way to light. I don’t smell paper in the medium and bold fragrance I’m confused I want to buy a bottle but I feel my nose is weak I can’t smell the medium that much but I like it but I want it to last. And why do you call it paper? It doesn’t have anything that reminds me of expressive paper

    Janet Turk
  • How do you ensure your products are cruelty free?

    Marian Stevenson

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