A BIT OF HISTORY:
What is Musk and why is it so sought after? Well, probably because it is one of the most sexy, sensual, pheromone-inciting scent ingredients in all of perfumery! Not only that but, it is a great fixative… giving perfumes a long life on the skin. Musk odor is not only highly sought after in perfumes, but in everything from laundry soap to air fresheners.
The use of musk in fragrance dates back to antiquity. Musk is the name originally given to a substance obtained from the gland of the male musk deer. It has been used as a popular perfume fixative since ancient times and, because of its scarcity, is one of the most expensive animal products in the world. No other natural substance has such a complex aroma. It is usually described abstractly as animalic, earthy and woody. (1)
Unfortunately, to obtain real musk oil, the deer is killed and its gland, also called a "musk pod,” is removed. This practice has, over time, driven this animal almost to extinction. It is now on the endangered species list and is protected.
As a result of this, since the late 19th century, nearly all musk fragrance used in perfumery has been made through synthetic processes. Although, most recently even the synthetic “musk” molecules have become a problem because they have been found not only to have carcinogenic properties, but also because of the inability to break down easily they have been discovered in human and environmental samples and are accumulating in our ecosystems. As we speak, there is a heated public debate on the use of these synthetic materials with many of them being banned or restricted. (1)
(1) Rimkus, Gerhard G. (Ed.); Cornelia Sommer (2004). "The Role of Musk and Musk Compounds in the Fragrance Industry". Synthetic Musk Fragrances in the Environment (Handbook of Environmental Chemistry). Springer.ISBN 3540437061.