Synthetic musks are fragrance compounds with an animalistic, sensual and sweet scent. They are highly valued in perfumery as lingering base notes and fixatives for other perfuming ingredients.
Natural musk is mainly extracted from the musk deer glands, an endangered animal living in the upper regions of Eastern Asia. Loved in perfumery, natural musk is also very important in Indian and Chinese traditional medicine, thought to be a cure for depression and anxiety, as well as being a great aphrodisiac and stimulant. Despite some regulations and controls signed in 1979 (CITES convention), musk’s trade still exists, legally or illegally, and is incredibly cruel. It's not only musk deers that are concerned but every animal secreting the desired substance, such as civets, muskrats, European beavers (for castoreum, a type of musk) or sperm whales (for ambergris).
Muscone, the main aromatic constituent of musk, was discovered in 1904, helping to develop synthetic versions over the following decades. There are now many types of synthetic musks and some of them (namely nitro musks and polycyclic musks) have been reported or banned for their concerning - if not toxic - impact on the environment and human health.
At Lush, we use several different synthetic musks, all of which belong to the macrocyclic lactones type. They are more expensive and less stable than other molecules available but have so far proven to be safe for health and the environment. As with any of our ingredients, we closely follow states regulations and stay abreast of any new data.
When possible, we also use ambrette seed oil or labdanum and galbanum resinoids as natural, cruelty-free alternatives to the popular ingredient. Their amber, warm and sensual scents are indeed often compared to musk.