What Is Really In Your Perfume?

Ladies, what are some of the reasons we use perfume? To smell clean? To feel fresh? To feel elegant, classy and attractive? To feel confident?

These are just some of the reasons I – and I’m sure you – wear perfume, especially on an evening out.

But it begs the question: Why does perfume contain so many repulsive ingredients if its aim is to make us feel desirable?

See, perform isn’t all hearts and flowers. In fact, expensive scents around the world, which many of us pay a small fortune for, contain their fair share of repugnant ingredients that most of us would never spray over our bodies, if we actually knew they were in there.

But because we aren’t aware of their existence, we cover ourselves in questionable ingredient after questionable ingredient. And it’s time to stop.

More recently, brands have got their act together and have swapped genuinely awful ingredients for synthetic ones. But they’re still largely abhorrent – and sometimes even cruel. Let’s take a look at some of the main offenders that are probably in some of your perfume.

Be warned, though, because this is not for the faint of heart!


Yes. Feces.

The feces found in perfume is usually extracted from a civet cats’ anal glands. This is not only disgusting, but it’s also incredibly unfair on the animal.

The World Society for the Protection of Animals has been investigating the reality of civet harvesting, and had this to say on the matter:

“The animals are kept in tiny cages for years. Every few days the keepers scrape the civet out of the anal sacs, a painful procedure (not to mention one of the world’s worst jobs).” Some expensive luxury brands have admitted to using civet in their products.


You know what feces are, but do you know what castoreum is?

“Castoreum, a leathery emission from the genital scent sacs of the castor beaver.”

Like extracting feces, extracting castoreum is also a cruel procedure; beavers are normally trapped and then killed.

Both males and females possess the castor sacs, and both are targeted. Castoreum, then, is actually very much a product of the trapping industry. Beavers are skinned for their fur, and the glands are removed.


Ambergris sounds unusual – and it is.

It’s also pretty disgusting.

And it’s also used in perfume.

So what it is it? Ambergris is a vomitous by-product of an endangered sperm whales’ digestive system. It comes out of their disease stomachs, sometimes as a result of them puking it up.

Other times, however, the sperm of whales excrete it.

Either way, once it’s out, it’s transferred to some perfumes.

Even to this day, it’s prized as the real deal by perfume manufacturers.

Infant Excrement


I mean, seriously.


Although we do not know how perfume manufacturers manage to extract infant excrement, we also do not want to know. Ignorance really is bliss sometimes.

But however they get it, get it they do – and you’re the one who wafts yourself in it as you get dolled up for an evening out.

Not cool at all.


Musk sounds kinda cool. It sounds like dusk or a musky smell, and reminds one of summer.

The reality, however, is very, very different.

And very dark.

Musk is actually a sexual secretion (did we really expect anything less?) that is extracted from the gland of your average male musk deer.

Sadly, male musk deers have been hunted for so long now and so extensively that they’re nearly extinct.

Because of this, musk is thought to be worth around “3-4 times its weight in gold.”

Which explains why my last perfume cost me so much money. Huh.

Dimethyl Sulfide

Dimethyl Sulfide has a really scientific name, and it’s actually one of the most powerful chemicals used in the perfume industry. Before its chemically altered to make you smell nice, it emits an odour very similar to a bag of raw onions.


It’s actually found in onions and asparagus (which makes your urine smell funny), and it’s used in your perfumes to strengthen geranium oil’s rosiness.

It also replicates the smell of the beach.

Costus Oil

Costus oil is nowadays banned – and for good reason.

Almost extinct in its native India, it was also reported to be sensitising, which is probably the prime reason it was banned for good.

A few years ago, however, it was a very common ingredient in perfumery.

But what did it smell of? Wet dog hair.



Mercaptans are a group of chemicals.

Very foul-smelling chemicals.

Their odour is so bad that it’s often compared to rotting cabbages. It’s also found in human gas. So why on earth is it used in many perfumes?

There is no clear reason as to why the perfume industry feels the need to use mercaptans, but they do at least manage to downplay its overpowering smell like the jolly good sports they are.


If you’ve read the popular novel Perfume, you’ll know all about the mad genius perfumer who murdered virgins and extracted their scent so that he could bottle it in his perfumes.

He was certainly mad alright, and that kind of lurid behaviour belongs in fiction.

Only, a fragrance lab decided to capture a virgins’ scent without actually killing them first. There was no bloodshed involved, and they got the scent using polymer needles.

The perfume was a limited quantity set. You can probably buy a bottle for thousands of dollars if you really wanna.

Otherwise, you’re just gonna have to stick with whale vomit like the rest of us…

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