Perfume has been rescuing last-minute present shoppers for decades. It’s your go-to staple for mum’s birthday, and yet every year it comes around you shudder at the price tag. There may be plenty of options at the lower end of your budget, but her favourite is guaranteed to destroy your credit limit.

The truth is, perfumes can get pricey. In 2014, Harrods launched the world’s most expensive fragrance, coming in at an eye-watering £143,000.

Clive Christian's No.1 Passant Guardant
photo credit: The Jewel Collective / Tumblr

Whilst most mere mortals stick to less extravagant options we find online or in shops, we’ll still have to brace ourselves to hand over the cash at the till.

Where does the cost come from?

You’re not alone in wondering about the justification for the price of fragrances.

The production process is partly to blame. Quality and cost relies on the primary materials used during manufacturing and, as levels of naturally occurring essential oils are in decline, the price of both has increased.

Basically, manufacturers are paying more so we also have to shell out in the shops. Luckily for consumers who want a nostril-pleasing perfume, there are still plenty of discount online retailers providing cheaper alternatives.

For the eco-conscious the main issue raised by a struggling supply chain is that of sustainability, and it’s enough to get us wondering about the true cost of the fragrance industry.

What about the environmental cost?

Yes, we’re talking about the environmental impact of perfume manufacturing. Moving forward, sustainability needs to become a focus for the industry, and not just because of the financial penalties.

The depletion of natural resources has the potential to cause long-term damage to the environment. The growth of essential oils is already dependent on several environmental factors like sun, rainfall and temperature. The more damage we cause, the worse the production cycle becomes.

Perfume shop visitor

How does this effect the industry’s future?

It’s not all bad news. Rising prices mean perfumeries are finally taking note, and changes to bring about a green revolution in the industry are starting to be felt.

The regulatory system of the cosmetic business is tightening as more attention is focused on environmental issues. The past couple of years have seen leaders calling for the industry to diversify and become more involved in primary production in an attempt to maintain levels of essential oils.

On top of that, eco-friendly refill bottles have been adopted by lots of brands – they reduce waste and make the retail price cheaper, too.

Hopefully these measures will translate into healthy growth of valuable natural resources, but consumers will have to wait and see how these changes affect retail prices in the years to come.