I have this curious way of imagining people as perfumes (yup, I never claimed to be sane). So, what comes to mind with Michelle Pfeiffer?
A smoky, slightly resinous fragrance, swirling with a dash of darkness, enveloped in an icy white fog.
Where the romance of sunset meets the edge of twilight.
A perfume that I would want to wear for calling upon some inner reserves of strength.
Perfume for a day when I need to be bold and stand out from the crowd.
When I want to look life straight in the eyes and take control of a situation.
And then a discovery set from Henry Rose perfumes landed on my table.
Henry Rose perfumes: A moniker that combines the names of the Hollywood legend’s two children.
Henry Rose perfumes: Five gender-neutral perfumes based on Pfeiffer’s favorite memories. And each one as unusual as the woman herself. These categorically differ from generic perfumes that would get lost in a crowd.
Henry Rose perfumes: The first fragrance line to be endorsed by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). This agency monitors toxicity in the beauty industry very, very carefully.
The perfumes are also certified by Cradle to Cradle, which vets ingredients and products for environmental sustainability.
What’s the big deal about a “safe” perfume?
Why is this last one so important?
Ever since I started consciously reading a beauty product’s ingredients before giving it real estate on my skin, one particular aspect has always stood out: “Fragrance.”
Since the FDA doesn’t ask brands to disclose precisely what materials go into a “fragrance,” it’s a word that can hide almost 4,000 ingredients.
So, this simple term has become the most exploited in the beauty industry, having become a catch-all for everything in the formula a brand would rather keep hidden.
Perfume houses, in themselves, never disclose their ingredients, hiding behind the iron gates of “trade secrets.”
Therefore, we create most of our perfumes using a potentially toxic blend of ingredients like petrochemicals and phthalates, which have known links to hormone disruption, allergic reactions, and many other health issues.
Which is what led Pfeiffer to stop wearing perfumes more than a decade back. This mindfulness was the joint result of becoming a mother who was worried about her children’s health and having her father and best friend simultaneously diagnosed with cancer.
The awareness sparked a decade-long journey, replete with disappointments, rejections, and rude awakenings, as even her celebrity power failed against an industry that refused to change. To become more transparent.
She joined hands with International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF) — a fragrance house that designs scents for many of the world’s largest brands. IFF agreed to work with EWG and Cradle to Cradle, carefully weeding out all unsafe ingredients to help her create Henry Rose.
Which was definitely not easy.
Usually, perfumers can draw upon a palette of more than 3,000 ingredients; now, they were left with less than 300. Ingredients that are safe and sustainable.
Though, one has to note that Pfeiffer hates calling Henry Rose perfumes a “natural” fragrance line. As she explains, it’s not about being “natural,” “clean,” or “organic” — these having become the most clichéd terms that the beauty industry tosses out at the drop of a hat.
Instead, Henry Rose perfumes disclose 100% of their ingredients on their website and bottles, setting a new standard for the beauty industry.
And in keeping with the EWG code, every single ingredient is free of substances banned or restricted by the US or international government agencies or other authoritative public health bodies, such as the World Health Organization.
So, in short, a Henry Rose fragrance is not trying to be natural or organic. It’s being transparent, safe, and sustainable.
Which is a first for the perfume industry.
But what about the Henry Rose perfumes themselves? Are they good?
Thankfully there’s utter gorgeousness here.
Because, ultimately, we want to smell good. It’s OK to be evangelical, but I also don’t want to limit myself to essential oils or crunchy-granola-type scents.
I want to feel good. Feel luxurious. Pampered. Indulged.
Basically, beautiful inside and out.
All Henry Rose perfumes tick all these boxes. And more.
The bottles are clear, super-sleek, and come packed in a chic gray box — the elegance belying their environmental-friendly creds (90% recycled glass with soy-based caps, all packed into bio-based, biodegradable boxes).
And then there’s the wearability and sillage (the trail of scent left by a perfume). Natural fragrances are not known for either.
However, a Henry Rose fragrance gives me an average wearability of 5-6 hours, which is impressive in my book. As a comparison, Chanel’s No. 5 would give me a wear-time of 6-7 hours.
Fog — which Pfeiffer describes as “San Fransisco in summer” — has become my clear favorite. And just today, I have been stopped four times to ask what I am wearing. Once was in the middle of a busy Starbucks!
Pfeiffer’s favorite is Torn, which is all about summer sunsets and notes of vetiver and patchouli. And 39 other ingredients — each of which is clearly listed on the website.
Go, take a look for yourself and tell me what you think.