Perfume Shops

In this guide we investigate, score and rank the ethical and environmental record of 13 perfume retailers

We also look at toxic chemicals, animal testing, shine a spotlight on the ethics of Boots and give our recommended buys. 

About Ethical Consumer

This is a product guide from Ethical Consumer, the UK's leading alternative consumer organisation. Since 1989 we've been researching and recording the social and environmental records of companies, and making the results available to you in a simple format.

What to buy

What to look for when buying perfume:

  • Does it sell vegan perfumes? There are many animal welfare issues with perfume, so look out for shops that stock vegan perfumes. Keep an eye out for the Vegan Society logo.

  • Does it sell toxic-free or organic perfumes? Potentially hazardous chemicals are used in the secret 'fragrance' part of the perfume, making it very difficult for consumers to know exactly what they are spraying on themselves. Look out for organic certification logos such as the Soil Association. 

Best Buys

The following retailers stock vegan and cruelty-free perfume, as well as some organic lines:

What not to buy

What to avoid when buying perfume:

  • Is the company avoiding tax? Don't buy from retailers that avoid corporation tax. For more information visit our Boycott Amazon campaign.

  • Does it sell animal tested perfumes? Testing on animals for cosmetic purposes has been banned in the EU, but many companies still test on animals to sell into markets outside Europe e.g. China where animal testing is mandatory. Look out for the leaping bunny logo from Cruelty Free International.

Companies to avoid

We suggest avoiding these companies that received a worst rating for likely use of tax avoidance:

  • Amazon
  • Boots
  • Superdrug
  • The Perfume Store
  • Selfridges

Score table

Updated live from our research database

← Swipe left / right to view table contents →
Brand Score(out of 20)

Animal Aid

Company Profile: Animal Abuse Injustice and Defence Society
14.5

Honesty

Company Profile: Honesty Cosmetics
13.5

House of Fraser

Company Profile: House of Fraser Plc
8

Debenhams

Company Profile: Debenhams plc
5.5

Selfridges

Company Profile: Selfridges Retail Limited
5

John Lewis

Company Profile: John Lewis Plc
4

Superdrug

Company Profile: Superdrug Stores Plc
3

Boots

Company Profile: Boots UK Ltd
2

Amazon

Company Profile: Amazon.com Inc
0

What is most important to you?

Animals
Environment
People
Politics
Product sustainability

Our Analysis

This guide looks at who sells vegan, organic and animal friendly perfumes. It is also part of our Amazon boycott campaign and our Alternatives to Amazon series, so in addition it includes tax avoidance rankings for all the companies featured.

The shops listed in the guide all sell a range of perfumes. For a guide to individual perfume brands please see our guide to perfumes. 

Image: Perfume shops
Logo: Vegan Society

Who sells vegan perfumes?

Many perfumes use animal products. This fact is often hidden as they are included in the fragrance element of the ingredient list for each perfume. The fragrance element is subject to copyright laws and therefore companies do not need to publicly disclose the constituent parts. In the UK it is usually listed in the ingredients as, 'Perfume' or 'Parfum'.

Many of these have now been replaced with synthetic alternatives but without independent verification (such as the Vegan Society ethical label) it is impossible to know.

Some of the animal products potentially used include:

  • Ambergris which comes from the stomachs of sperm whales.
  • Musk is a secretion that male musk deer spray from a gland near their genitals to attract female deer. 
  • Civet is a territory-marking scent from civet cats, which they secrete from a sac close to their anus.
  • Castoreum  is a territory-marking scent from beavers, which they secrete from a sac close to their anus.
  • Hyraceum is the dried excrement of the hyrax, an African guinea pig-like animal, and is gathered from the wild by hand.

Of the brands on the table the following sell perfume marketed as vegan:

  • Amazon
  • Animal Aid shop
  • shopvegan.co.uk
  • Green Valley Trading Company
  • veganhealthandbeauty.com
  • Honesty Cosmetics

Who sells toxic free perfumes?

Toxic chemicals are a notable issue in the perfume sector. As with the use of animal products potentially hazardous chemicals are used in the fragrance part of the perfume making it very difficult for consumers to know exactly what they are spraying on themselves.

We have rated companies on their toxics policies and expect companies to have policies that at least covers the use of use of the following two ingredients:

  • Diethyl phthalate, a solvent used to bind together different chemicals within cosmetics and fragrances. It can disrupt hormone production in humans and have a negative impact on organ function. There are currently gaps in the research into further impacts on human health.
  • Parabens, a family of preservatives widely used in cosmetics, can mimic oestrogen and act as potential hormone (endocrine) system disruptors.

Here's which companies on the table scored a negative mark for their policy (or lack of) on toxics:

The Perfume Shop, Superdrug, Amazon, Boots, Debenhams, John Lewis, House of Fraser, Selfridges, Honesty Cosmetics, Green Valley Trading, shopvegan.co.uk, and veganhealthandbeauty.com.  

More on how we rate companies for their toxic chemicals policies >

Who sells organic  perfumes?

The following shops featured on the table sell a selection of organic perfumes

  • Debenhams stock Aveda (owned by Estée Lauder) 
  • shopvegan.co.uk, Green Valley Trading Company and veganhealthandbeauty.com stock Florame and Pacifica organic perfumes
  • Animal Aid stock Nunyara solid perfumes

Are perfumes tested on animals?

Animal testing is also a big issue in the perfume market. Despite testing on animals for cosmetic purposes being banned in the EU, many companies still test on animals to sell into markets outside the EU e.g. China where animal testing is mandatory.  

We would therefore expect all the companies in this market have an animal testing policy. 

Here's how the companies scored on Animal Testing (from our table):

Ethical Consumer's best rating: Animal Aid, shopvegan.co.uk, Green Valley Trading Company veganhealthandbeauty.com, Honesty

Ethical Consumer's middle rating: Superdrug, Debenhams

Ethical Consumer's worst rating: Amazon, The Perfume Shop, Boots, John Lewis, House of Fraser, Selfridges 

Logo: Cruelty Free International Logo

Of the companies featured on the table the following sell BUAV/Leaping Bunny accredited perfume: 

  • Amazon
  • Animal Aid
  • Honesty Cosmetics
  • shopvegan.co.uk
  • Green Valley Trading Company 
  • veganhealthandbeauty.com

Tax avoidance

Amazon has been the subject of a boycott call from Ethical Consumer for over two years due to its tax avoidance. 

Below you can see how each company on the table rated for likely use of tax avoidance strategies:

Best Ethical Consumer rating: John Lewis, House of Fraser, Honesty, Animal Aid, shopvegan.co.uk, Green Valley Trading Company, veganhealthandbeauty.com

Middle Ethical Consumer rating: Debenhams

Worst Ethical Consumer rating: Amazon, Superdrug, The Perfume Store, Boots, Selfridges

Company behind the brand

Boots sells over a third of all perfume bought in the UK. The company is owned by the US company Walgreens Boots Alliance. Its scores badly across the board, scoring a worst Ethical Consumer rating for all it's policies. It also has subsidiaries in Thailand and Russia, which are (at the time of writing) considered oppressive regimes by Ethical Consumer.

Want to know more?

If you want to find out detailed information about a company and more about its ethical rating, then click on a brand name in the Score table. 

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