Scent preferences are deeply personal, particularly when it comes to natural scents. Cilantro is a perfect example. While millions of people (primarily in Asia and South America) smell and consume this herb with delight, adding fistfuls to local dishes, others (often Europeans) say the aroma “has been compared with the smell of bug-infested bedclothes."* Gross.

Natural scents are especially polarizing among skincare users. Certain clients seem to understand that natural scents will smell different from synthetic options, yet still pleasant (it's just not an apples-to-apples comparison). Other clients seem to use the same criteria when judging synthetic v. natural aromas, often preferring the former. We get it – even almond milk, arguably a modern grocery store and coffee shop staple – ruffled feathers at first, not winning out over cow's milk. It's an acquired taste, as most natural scents are acquired odors. Synthetic scents have become a central component of our cultural lexicon, so change takes time.

But LXMI is committed to being a pioneer in this category. So little is known about synthetic fragrances in beauty, as companies do not have to disclose ingredients as ‘trade secrets’. But more than 95% of the chemicals in synthetic fragrances are derived from petrochemicals, such as benzene derivatives and aldehydes, "and these fragrances often contain parabens, phthalates and synthetic musks that can disrupt hormones, cause reproductive problems and are even linked to cancer."** We can't think of a fragrance that smells lovely enough to offset this risk.

So LXMI is using a natural aromatic extract scent in our Sephora launch, Crème du Nil. Our primary note is a Nile Valley-inspired green aloe, to reflect the origins of our key ingredients – Nilotica Reserve, Hibiscus and Vanilla – that give work to low-income women.

However, we seem to have struck a chord with this choice. Even though we tested the formula extensively prior to launching, and the natural scent consistently impressed testers (including our retail merchant partners), the feedback has varied dramatically.

The aroma certainly has fans. Recent reviews include comments such as...

  • "I enjoy the fresh, earthy scent."
  • "I found the scent fresh."
  • "It has a nice, mild scent."
  • "It has a fresh, really subtle vanilla scent that is barely there."

But the scent has some vocal adversaries as well...

  • "Can't get past the smell"
  • "I don't like the smell of the product at all"
  • "Kind of a weird plant smell"
  • and our favorite, "If you want to reminisce the smell of the last time you visited a petting zoo, this might be for you."

Points for creative comparisons :). Some of these comments were so extreme that we repeated our quality control measures to make sure our batches were still fresh – everything checked out.

To make matters more confusing, there is a contingent that doesn't smell anything all!

  • "As far as the scent, I honestly didn't even notice a scent."
  • "there are no harsh scents...this is flawless."
  • "there was no smell"

So as a new brand, what do we make of this feedback? First, even though we could easily solve the issue with a crowd-pleasing synthetic, we are sticking to our guns and remaining natural. It's more important than money, and we want to be a part of the solution, not the problem. Second, even with the aforementioned point of view, we want to assure our early adopters, supporters and enemies alike, that we hear you. We appreciate your feedback. We are doing more research and promise to keep blending.

In the meantime, for those of you on the fence about giving Crème du Nil a chance, please remember the big picture: this product is clinically proven to brighten, moisturize and even your complexion, and it will #givework to marginalized women in the Nile Valley, who desperately need opportunities. Surely those benefits are worth a second sniff?

*NY TIMES **Natural Living Ideas

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