Scientists Find Plant-Based Substitute for Perfume Ingredient

A compound derived from the digestive secretions of sperm whales is no longer needed in perfume.

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Canadian scientists have found a plant-based substitute for ambergris, a costly perfume ingredient made from the aged gut substance of endangered sperm whales. Known for its distinct musky odor, ambergris is used in high-end perfumes to make the scent last longer on skin and fabric. In addition to being expensive—merely one gram of ambergris can cost upwards of $20—the fact that it comes from an endangered whale species has led to concern over the compound’s impact on sperm-whale populations. As a result, scientists from the University of British Columbia are hoping its cruelty-free replacement, a lab-grown compound derived from balsam fir trees, offers a sustainable solution that would protect both whale populations and balsam firs from depletion.

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