Michelle Pfeiffer Created the First “Clean” Perfume Line—Here’s the Inspiration for Each Scent

Updated: Jul. 22, 2022

Most fragrances are made from any of 3,000 ingredients, but 90% of those may be harmful. Michelle Pfeiffer talks to The Healthy @Reader's Digest about her fine fragrance line, Henry Rose, and the high standards she sets for her fragrances' safer ingredients and evocative scents.

For decades, Michelle Pfeiffer has been known for portraying confident leading ladies. Whether in her breakout role in Scarface, an iconic Catwoman, and so many more, Pfeiffer has always had the kind of enduring aura you might wish you could bottle.

So… she did!

In 2019, Pfeiffer launched Henry Rose, a line of fine fragrances with not only deeply personal and sentimental scents, but an emphasis on transparency and strict standards for the healthiest ingredients. Pfeiffer talked to The Healthy @Reader’s Digest about the criteria Henry Rose used to become the first fine fragrance line verified by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), and her passion for powerful scents.

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Michelle Pfeiffer on creating Henry Rose

portrait of Michelle Pheiffe in a black sweater with perfume bottlesCourtesy Henry Rose

Pfeiffer’s interest in safe, quality ingredients stretches back long before 2019.

“I discovered EWG’s Skin Deep database over 25 years ago when researching safer products for myself and my family,” she says, “and soon thereafter learned that ‘fragrance’ can be listed as a single ingredient on an ingredient label, despite containing up to 3,000 different and potentially harmful ingredients. Because brands aren’t required to disclose what’s in their fragrances, there’s no way to determine the safety of any products that contain fragrance.”

Pfeiffer says this discovery actually led to her to stop wearing fragrances altogether, though she really missed it. So, instead of waiting for the perfect, safe perfume to hit the shelves, Pfeiffer took things into her own hands: she wanted to see if it was possible to create a fine fragrance that was competitive with others on the market, and met the strict standards of the EWG. “But,” she says, “I quickly learned why this had never been done before—because it was really hard! I couldn’t find anyone that was willing to commit to creating a fragrance that disclosed 100% of its ingredients. All I kept hearing from everyone was that I was just doing this a** backwards, and that nobody trusts celebrity fragrances.”

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Eventually, though, Pfeiffer says she found an open door with International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF). Because of the EWG’s strict standards as well as the standards of Cradle to Cradle (C2C), from which Pfeiffer also wanted to receive certification, she had her work cut out for her. Most fragrances are created from a list of about 3,000 ingredients, but these standards cut that list down to only 300.

Working from those limited options, Pfeiffer says she was amazed at what IFF’s perfumers were able to create. “I started out thinking we would create one fragrance,” she says, “but we were able to launch with five and have since expanded the brand to include 10!”

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Michelle Pfeiffer on her favorite Henry Rose scent

Selecting each and every scent for those 10 fragrances isn’t just about finding what smells good. For Pfeiffer, there’s a wellness component as well. “To me, fragrances have the ability to evoke memories, boost your mood and just make you feel better overall,” she says. “However, as much as they make us feel better, so many of them are potentially harming us with their ingredients. It’s these conflicting aspects of fragrance that ultimately led me to create Henry Rose, which proves that you don’t need to sacrifice the experience of fragrance for safety.”

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And the scents of Henry Rose are all about experiences (our editors got to sample). Pfeiffer says Fog reminds her of summers in San Francisco; Jake’s House brings her back to her grandparent’s house in North Dakota; and Flora Carnivora is inspired by an early memory of sneaking in her neighbor’s flower garden. Her favorite, Torn, is a “warm and familiar” scent that reminds her of how her father smelled growing up.

“All of the amazing scents bring me back to something,” she says, “which is a testament of just how strongly scent and memory are linked.”

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