Lebanese Neroli Oil

Citrus aurantium amara

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Cheer up!
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Neroli oil has an intensely green and floral scent, reputed to cheer the mood and help to find inner peace. On the skin, the oil is toning, soothing and antimicrobial. It is also thought to be antioxidant, protecting the skin from external assaults like pollution or sun rays and improving cells ability to regenerate.



The bitter orange tree (Citrus aurantium amara) is an evergreen member of the Rutaceae plant family. A lot of different perfume and flavour materials are derived from it: fruits are used to flavour liqueurs, such as Grand Mariner and Triple sec, while the flowers provide neroli oil and orange flower absolute. Finally, petitgrain oil is obtained from its leaves and twigs.

Marie-Anne de La Trémoille (1642 - 1722) named the bitter oranger flower oil "neroli" after the city Nerola in Italy of which she was the princess. She loved to wear the oil as a perfume and created a trend in European royal courts - she would probably be called an influencer nowadays.

As its name suggests, this essential oil is produced in Lebanon.

Neroli is one of the few essential oils to be scientifically proven to increase serotonin production in the brain, which makes us feel contented and cheerful.

Lebanese Neroli Oil can be found in these products
Products with this ingredient
Lebanese Neroli Oil can be found in these products
A bottle of Salarium Lush perfume. The perfume is orange in colour and contained in a rectangle bottle featuring a black lid and label.
Neroli, rose and oudh
A bottle of Orange Blossom Lush perfume. The perfume is golden yellow in colour and contained in a rectangle bottle featuring a black lid and label.
Bergamot, neroli and orange flower


In search of regenerative neroli

Bright, uplifting neroli oil is renowned for its joyful scent and skin soothing properties, but a global shortage means Lush has taken important steps to ensure its use is as regenerative as possible.  

Neroli is one of the most cheerful oils used in cosmetics today. Derived from the beautifully-scented bitter orange blossom tree, this uplifting floral oil boasts a whole heap of beneficial properties that make it a real treat for hair, skin and soul.

Its use throughout history is well documented. In ancient times, neroli oil was used to treat the plague and relieve fever. Science might not have been up to scratch back then, but they were definitely onto something as it’s been proven to contain antimicrobial and antioxidant qualities. So while we might not need it to combat the plague any more, it makes a great addition to products with protective attributes, such as shielding skin from pollution and improving cells’ ability to regenerate.

Neroli oil became particularly popular in the 17th century, thanks to Marie-Anne de La Tremoille (1642-1722). She was the influential princess of an Italian city called Nerola, and loved to wear the oil as a perfume. Fashionistas of the day followed her lead, and it soon became a trend in European royal courts. Marie Antoinette and Napoleon Bonaparte were also reportedly big fans, using it as an everyday perfume and aftershave.

Today, neroli is still predominantly used as a fragrance, added to products because of its uplifting scent, which has been proven to increase levels of serotonin – aka happy chemicals – in the brain. And not only does neroli work really well with other fragrance notes, it also acts as a natural fixative that helps maintain the original composition of other oils used in a product, so fragrances stay true for longer.

Neroli tree
Neroli flowers

But despite its popularity, neroli is in short supply. It takes at least 1,000 pounds of orange blossom – from which it’s distilled – to make just one pound of oil. And the limited amount produced around the world has to be shared among the global cosmetics and aromatherapy industry (it’s even rumoured to be a closely-guarded secret ingredient in a very popular soft drink).

The oil is most commonly produced in northern Africa. Egypt is a major producer of neroli oil, but in any given year the whole country’s output will amount to around just 1,200kg. Lush, which has since 2005 predominantly obtained its neroli oil from family-run producers in Tunisia, uses around 700kg a year.

So it’s important for us to seek out increasingly regenerative sources, finding high quality oil for our range of neroli-based products in a way that supports the environment and benefits the people producing it. One new avenue we’re exploring is Lebanon. The Middle Eastern country’s long, hot and dry summers, peppered with short, cool rainy winters, make it an ideal climate for the bitter orange blossom tree, and indeed citrus products are one of Lebanon’s biggest exports.

Lebanon predominantly harvests the bitter orange tree to make orange flower water, which is widely used as a flavouring in desserts and as a natural remedy for some digestive complaints. While orange flower water is usually the by-product of neroli production, here, neroli oil is the by-product of the orange flower water, which makes it a particularly environmentally-friendly source – no additional stress is being put on the environment to make it.

But sustainability isn’t just about the volume of plants that are cultivated and subsequently harvested. It’s also about the wider areas in which these plants are grown – their wildlife, their ecosystems and the people that live within them. This is why it is important to work with likeminded producers in Lebanon and create a relationship that enables all of these things to flourish.

Bird hunting is a major problem in Lebanon, with some 2.6 million birds shot or trapped illegally during migration periods. Lush only purchases bitter orange tree blossoms from farmers in the country that guarantee their lands and orchards are designated ‘no hunt’ zones, and we work with BirdLife International – a global charity that works to protect hundreds of thousands of birds across at least 399 species throughout Lebanon and the rest of the world – to make sure these requirements are enforced.

Blossoms from these farmers are then taken to small-scale orange water producers – family-run businesses that have honed their craft in distillery over many generations, using traditional old-fashioned copper stills kept in gardens and sheds. Their expertise, skill and attention to detail guarantee the highest quality oils while supporting Lebanon’s local economies.

Our pioneering producer relationships won’t reduce the growing global demand for neroli oil, but they are an important step in creating regenerative relationships that benefit both customers and local communities.

Words by Rachel England