Episode 25: Karen Gilbert on Fragrance in Natural Skincare

2018-12 natural skincare fragrance

We are excited to welcome fragrance industry expert and practitioner Karen Gilbert to Green Beauty Conversations because Karen not only works actively as a perfumery trainer but also has a wealth of experience in the world of natural skincare.

Karen, who is also a trained aromatherapist, started her perfume industry career with one of the large fragrance houses, IFF, as an evaluator of fragrance in products ranging from luxury brands to functional household cleaners.

In the late 1990s, Karen joined Neal’s Yard, a UK company that was a pioneer of natural ingredients in skincare. Karen developed their in-house training arm and was key in helping retail staff understand the therapeutic and holistic benefits of naturals, including fragrance, in Neal’s Yard products.

Who better then to pass on some practical advice to the Formula Botanica community about using fragrance in natural skincare?

We learnt a lot from Karen in this packed interview which covered topics ranging from why fragrance can be contentious in the world of natural skincare formulation to scent having the power to create a direct intercession with our emotions and memories.

As natural skincare formulators, we might think of fragrance oils primarily for their therapeutic benefits. However, as Karen points out, fragrance is usually a customer’s first impression of a personal care product and can influence their purchasing decisions.

Perfume, fragrance or scent, whichever term you like to use, has its own semiography. As natural skincare formulators, we’d be wise to understand how scent can sway our potential customers. In this expert series’ interview on Green Beauty Conversations, Karen shares her deep industry knowledge and offers a host of practical examples and tips on how best to work with fragrance in natural skincare.

Listen on iTunes Listen on Stitcher Listen on YouTubeListen on Spotify

Perfumery industry insider and trainer @karengilbert shares her expertise and gives practical tips on using fragrance in natural skincare on the #greenbeautyconversations podcast. #fragrance #essentialoils Click To Tweet

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • about how our brain processes our sense of smell and why it’s important to understand this in developing fragrance blends for our skincare formulations;
  • how odours trigger emotions and memories which in turn can cause us to react to certain scents positively or negatively based on our individual experiences and backgrounds;
  • why fragrance in natural skincare is as important for its aesthetic reasons as for any therapeutic benefits;
  • why scent development needs to take place at the same time as product formulation and why you need to treat scent as an equal partner to other natural ingredients;
  • about how consumers have certain expectations of how personal care products should smell and why you need to take that into consideration when formulating; and
  • why going fragrance free or using unusual fragrances in natural skincare products might require you to educate your potential customers about your brand’s ingredient choices.

Key practical takeouts on working with fragrance in natural skincare include:

  • Learn how to evaluate the smell of your product bases and raw natural ingredients such as carrier oils and natural extracts. In this way, you can make more informed choices about the right fragrance blends to work in harmony with, enhance or perhaps even mask your base product’s aroma as well as provide any desired therapeutic benefits.
  • Be aware that the same fragrance blend won’t necessarily have the same odour profile nor be experienced the same way by a consumer across a range of different products. An emulsion, an oliogel, a micellar water, a balm, an exfoliator and so on all have different properties, viscosity and different consumer uses which influence how the scent is experienced.
  • You may need to adjust your fragrance blends or even product formulae to ensure your target customers will enjoy the scent of your products before, during and after use on their skin.
  • Learn to think like a consumer again – not a formulator! To understand how fragrance works in your product you must evaluate it using the product as a consumer would. Test your chosen fragrance blends as they perform in your products from first opening of the tube or pot, to application and evaporation or wash-off. Make detailed notes on the fragrance’s performance to guide any reformulations needed.

More on Karen Gilbert and her Online Perfume School:

Karen runs her online perfumery school as well as some live classes during the year. One of her online courses deals specifically with how to formulate fragrance in skincare products.

Live classes:
Karen is running an Early Bird offer until 24 December on her January courses in London. Click the links for course details.

Perfume Business Bootcamp 21-22 January, 2019, central London, UK: two-day class on the business aspects of starting and creating a fragrance business.
Bespoke Perfumery Masterclass, 23-25 January, 2019, central London, UK: three days of live practical perfumery creation teaching you to create custom perfumes and during which Karen can help you on your projects.

Online courses:
Online Perfumery School: various perfumery courses, including ‘Creating Fragrance for Skincare Products‘.

Follow Karen Gilbert here:
Karen Gilbert website.
Karen Gilbert on Instagram.
Karen Gilbert on Facebook.
Karen Gilbert on Twitter.

Listen, Download and Subscribe to Green Beauty Conversations

Thank you for joining us for this episode of the Formula Botanica: Green Beauty Conversations podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please share, subscribe and review on iTunes or Stitcher so that more people can enjoy the show. Don’t forget to follow and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Leave us a comment


Gemma Ortega Perez | Formula Botanica

Gemma Ortega Perez was Formula Botanica’s Relationship Manager between 2015 – 2019. To read more about the Formula Botanica team, visit our staff page.


Leave a reply

Copyright Herb & Hedgerow Ltd. 2012-2024 All Rights Reserved. Terms & Conditions | Privacy Policy | Earnings Disclaimer Herb & Hedgerow Ltd is a company registered in England and Wales. Registered number: 07957310. Registered office: Wadebridge House, 16 Wadebridge Square, Poundbury, Dorchester, Dorset DT1 3AQ, UK. Please do not post anything to this address.


We love receiving your emails. We try to respond to all messages within 2 working days, but are often much faster!


Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?