5 Repulsive Ingredients in Your Perfume or Cologne

Editorís note:†This post is a Care2 favorite, back by popular demand. It was originally posted on December 26, 2012. Enjoy!

People wear perfume and cologne to feel like they smell clean and fresh or sexy or elegant. It is meant to attract others, to make them want to be near.

So why does it contain crap and vomit?

Yes, those expensive scented serums for which consumers pay dearly often include repulsive ingredients that most of us would never willingly waft over our bodies or daub onto our pressure points. In these later days, these ingredients often come in synthetic form — cross your fingers that the brand you favor doesn’t use any of the genuine articles.

Synthetic or not, apparently these aromas get the job done, because people keep coming back for more. But would they if they knew the truth? Here is a splash of it.

1. Feces extracted from civet cats’ anal glands, simply called “civet.” The Straight Dope reports that the World Society for the Protection of Animals has investigated civet harvesting, and it goes something like this: “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). The WSPA says that Chanel, Cartier, and Lancome have all admitted to using civet in their products.”

2. “Castoreum, a leathery emission from the genital scent sacs of the castor beaver.” The beavers “are usually trapped and killed” for this substance.

Castoreum is “found in two sacs between the anus and the external genitals of beavers… Both male and female beavers possess a pair of castor sacs and a pair of anal glands located in two cavities under the skin between the pelvis and the base of the tail. Castoreum is a product of the trapping industry. When beavers are skinned for their fur, these glands are taken out.”

The castoreum and fur trades had a devastating effect on European Beavers, which were “hunted to near extinction.”

3. “Ambergris, a briny and vomitous by-product of the digestive system of” endangered sperm whales that comes from their “diseased stomachs.” Sometimes they puke it up, sometimes they poop it out. Either way it is worth bushels of cash and the genuine article is still prized in perfumes.

4. Infant excrement. I do not want to know where they get this — I’m imagining a posh, put-together woman ringing doorbells and saying “hello, do you happen to have any soiled diapers you’re finished with?”

5. Yet another sexual secretion, “musk comes from the gland of a male musk deer.” Between hunting and habitat destruction, the species is near extinction. As a result, musk is worth “3-4 times its weight in gold.

Related Stories:

What Gross Secret Ingredients are Hiding in Your Food?

7 Unexpected Ingredients You Might Be Eating For Lunch Today

Lucky Boy Finds Whale Vomit (Or Poop) Worth $60,000

Photo credit: Thinkstock Photo


Marianne Cole
Marianne Cole1 years ago

This article is FULL of misinformation on modern perfumery. All of the animal ingredients such as the castoreum and civet and musk deer gland secretion are extremely rare. Musk deer are now a protected species. It's an exceedingly rare perfume that would use any of these ingredients today, even though they were at one time used in vintage perfume.
Baby poop? Where do you guys get this stuff? This is ridiculous. Some natural flower smells such as jasmine have an indolic, fecal type fragrance, but it does not come from actual feces.
Ambergris from sperm whales is used only after it has hardened into a rock-like substance after many years of exposure in the ocean and has washed onto the shore and been found. Only tiny, tiny amounts would be used in a perfume.
It's silly perfume-hater nonsense like this that really ticks me off.

Amy D.
Amy D1 years ago

Will definitely change to vegan perfumes...thanks.

Sen Senz
Sayenne H2 years ago

Lush is ok. You'll love them, promise. Not tested on animals, no harsh chemicals, friendly for environment.

Past Member
caroline lord2 years ago

yes,quite repulsive;thank you for informing us abt this,but wouldnt it be more constructive and useful to publish a list of cruelty free perfumes

Anna Botha
Anna Botha3 years ago

This really is a bit silly. The days they used these substances in perfume are long gone. Nowadays they use things like synthetic civet and 'white musk', which is an imitation of the real thing. And where they got the baby poop bit from heck knows... Anyway, even when these substances were used, they were sterile and probably better for your health than the chemical stuff they add these days, although as a vegan I would have avoided them.

Phillipa W.
Phillipa W3 years ago

thanks. pass on these

Elizabeth O.
Elizabeth O3 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Valerie A.
Valerie A3 years ago

Poor animals. Thanks.

Neill Abayon
Neill Abayon3 years ago

Is this the reason why perfumes are so damn expensive? Good for me I don't wear any. I prefer to be natural and aside from getting toxic chemicals from those perfumes this is now the fact that most of them had came from these poor animals. Why not leave those animals alone. Humans will not die because of not smelling fresh or good to others.