Interview with Anne Nelson Sanford, Founder of LURK: Handmade Perfume From 100% Pure Essential Oils
I went years without using perfume because of the fragrance loophole in our regulation. According to the FDA, brands do not have to list what ingredients are in "fragrance" or "parfum." That means that one ingredient alone can hold hundreds of chemicals. This is why getting rid of fragrance is a great place to start in your journey on switching to safer products. Read more on that HERE. I had the great pleasure of meeting Anne Nelson Sanford, Found of LURK, to find the scent that was perfect for me and got an awesome glimpse inter her life as someone that is doing her best to live a cleaner, healthier life. I went home with two favorites that I layer and enjoy each on their own: RSW 005 and VLC V3. Read below for the full interview:
Perfumery is rare profession that you don't hear about often. When and why did you decide to get into perfumery?
I couldn’t find a natural fragrance that possessed the qualities I was looking for. The backstory is that I opened an apothecary in Florida in 2001 that sold only natural and organic skincare/body care products. I was always looking for natural fragrances to stock and the market was limited back then. So, I started dabbling with my own scents and was inspired to create something sophisticated, modern and a little bit edgy. I also wanted to blend something that didn’t ask the customer to compromise (from the standpoint of sophistication and complexity). At the time so many natural perfumes were either very heavy, very hippy or very spa. I felt there was a large gap in the market. There wasn’t a line of perfumes for the “modern organic lifestyle."
I moved to NYC in 2003 to take a job running a beauty showroom and that perfume seed that had been planted just continued to grow. The official launch came in September of 2012 after “incubating” the first five scents in boutiques around NYC for about two years. I had the opportunity to see if the perfumes and the brand would resonate with people. It gained this amazing little cultish following and it started getting some great press at the end of the summer in 2012. With that said it was all systems go from that point on. LURK has continued to grow steadily and has become an amazing little disruptor in the perfume market.
Why was it important to you to create a safe perfume?
It was important for so many reasons. First, natural perfumery is historically how perfume was created and is the authentic way of making scents. I was drawn to the idea of putting a modern spin on traditional craft.
Second, the advent of modern perfumery which utilizes synthetics, chemicals and engineered molecules has only been widely used for roughly the last 100+ years. In that time perfumery has gone from an art form to a mass marketing billion dollar business that creates and sells products that cause allergies, contain petro-chemicals (carcinogens), endocrine disruptors etc. Modern, synthetic perfumes are literally making people sick and more recent research is showing that perfumes are a significant cause of air pollution.
Third, I’m a firm believer in authenticity and that authenticity is true luxury. Why would anyone want to wear a perfume created with toxins made to smell like something beautiful when this can be created using the real thing? Especially when the real thing smells light years better than synthetic.
What standards does LURK have regarding the ingredients it will or will not use?
I use pure essential oils, resins, absolutes and C02 extracts. These raw materials are also fully vetted for purity, quality and authenticity (yes, plant essences can be faked, adulterated, diluted etc). In addition, our raw materials come from sustainable farms, are certified organic where possible and we never support/purchase oils that are running in low supply or are being harvested unethically.
I also use USDA certified organic jojoba as the base in my perfume oils. This oil is grown domestically on a sustainable jojoba farm in Arizona. For the Eau de Toilettes, I use a 200 proof USDA organic cane alcohol that is also domestically produced and is triple distilled for purity and certified by the US Pharmacopeia (USP). I do not use denatured alcohol, adulterated oils, fillers, chemicals, chemical fixatives, preservatives or GMO products.
You mentioned the dangers of denatured alcohol which, most eau de toilettes use. Can you explain this a little further?
Simply put, denatured alcohol, alcohol denat or SDS alcohol is alcohol (ethanol) that has chemical additives (most commonly methanol, but there are several other toxic additives that are used as well). The main purpose of the additives is to render the alcohol undrinkable. Sadly, this alcohol is used in skincare, body products and perfumes despite its toxic profile. As we know our skin absorbs everything we put on it and it is astounding to me that so many beauty brands and perfumeries use it.
I know you have also worked in branding, marketing and interior design; where do you get your creative inspiration for all these endeavors (including creating scents for LURK)?
My inspiration usually comes from one incredibly special oil and then I like to build/create a journey or structure around that essence. I am particularly attracted to many of the more rare, unique and challenging oils to blend. I love to start working with them and see how they react to, and blend with, other essences. I get really inspired by process as well. The twists and turns can be unexpected, enlightening, sometimes frustrating and always wonderful in the end.
When I’m designing, my inspiration usually comes from one color, texture or vibe and then I build around that. Both processes (design and perfumery) are about layering and I love that.
If I’m working on branding I get my inspiration from the products and ingredients. I love to build and layer copy that is inspiring, easy to understand and of course, draws in the consumer. Great branding has to communicate the vibe of the brand with the more laser focused “what” and “why” of the company and the products. Honesty is critical and the “feeling” is just as important. It’s beauty after all.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone switching to safer products what would it be?
Educate yourself and have fun doing it! I know that seems obvious, but so many people just dive in and then are really disappointed (not to mention out quite a bit of money). The process shouldn’t be daunting or stressful, make it a journey, take your time and your entire life will change because you will feel better, you will eat better (food always changes when the education process starts if it hasn’t already) and you will live better as a result.
Understand that this is an amazing change and its a gift you are giving to yourself. There are so many ways to accomplish this but to start, the key by finding great resources like blogs and retailers that really know their stuff and are consistent in their standards (The Detox Market is amazing). Utilize the sampling program that brands and retailers provide. Check out the many events that green retailers host, these are almost always educational and are a great way to ask questions, learn about ingredients, brands and safe products.