Have you ever wondered why a certain scent has a calming effect on you? Why a scent makes you feel good, or bad for that matter? Not to be underestimated, your sense of smell is one of the most powerful senses you have. Closely linked to both your memory and emotion, what you smell can have a huge psychological impact. As perfumers are understandably and wholeheartedly dedicated to providing a positive association between a scent and the way it makes you feel. We recently caught up to talk all things Aromachology, to understand how we can use fragrance during this unprecedented time to, not only smell great, but to also explore how we can use it to improve our mental well-being.
what is Aromachology?
Put simply, aromachology is the scientific study behind the psychology benefits of aromas (literally aroma+psychology). It delves into the psychological impact a smell can have on the brain. Often confused with aromatherapy, aromachology focuses on the reaction different aromas we are exposed to have on our nervous system. Whilst linked to the health of our mind, aromatherapy is actually more about a holistic healing treatment, using natural plant extracts, to treat common ailments. The essential oils used in aromatherapy have long been linked to calming effects they have on our emotional health.
How does perfume fit into this?
Whilst in aromatherapy, the aromas come just from essential oils, aromachology looks at aromas as a whole, including both natural and synthetic ingredients (the combination of both are commonly used in perfumery). When we look at perfume in particular, we often refer to how certain fragrances play into our scent memory. Your brain logs scents like you would a diary entry – smell a perfume and your memory will register this so the next time you smell that same scent, it may take you back to that first experience, be it positive or negative. Likely a fragrance may remind you of a person – an intimate embrace you exchanged where the scent lingered on your nose. Often the scent you associate with your mother, father or home would be one of security, nostalgia and happiness. There’s a reason why many soldiers during the World War II took handkerchiefs scented with their loved one’s perfume – so they could feel close to them during terrible and often lonely times. It is moments like this that help us truly understand the power perfumes can have on our mental well-being.
But if fragrance is so personal, how can we have a collective reaction with others?
Certain smells can provoke a certain collective reaction amongst a group of people. This is likely due to cultural and societal norms. Take lemon, for example. This evokes the feeling of freshness for many – maybe due largely to it being so commonly used in both personal and household hygiene products. The same could be said for peppermint and its association with feeling cool, clean and invigorated, likely down to it being so widely used in toothpaste.
What fragrance ingredients should i avoid if I want to improve my mental well-being?
This is largely going to be very personal and it is going to depend on your own association with a smell as to whether it promotes relaxation for you or not. There is no real written rule, however, over the years, perfume houses have found fragrance families a great way for exploring different emotions and this might be a good place to start when exploring which scent is going to be best for your mental well-being.
MARINE FRAGRANCES - BEST FOR TO RELAXATION & CALMING THE MIND
Inspired by warm destinations and salty seas, marine fragrance promote tranquillity and a sense of calm to busy minds. A dose of nostalgia for the wearer, marine scents will tap into your subconscious scent memory and transport you on a personal journey – likely to a holiday setting. Often also referred to as aquatic fragrances, they are clean, fresh and versatile in nature, perfect for relaxing the mind, bringing a sense of freedom and peace to the wearer.
Try out 40 Knots by Xerjoff, it represents the pleasure of yachting and cruise on mesmerizing Mediterranean Sea, and mirrors the colorful marine life of open waters. Captivating colors of swordfish, gilded sun and glimmer of millions of gold coins of sunshine on sea surface, smell of freedom and weightlessly dangling on deck of a sailboat. An unique perspective bottled in an abstract aquatic format.
FRUITY FRAGRANCES – BEST FOR AWAKENING & ENERGY
Fruity fragrances are often fun and playful and can be very energising in nature. Citrus fruits, in particular, such as lemon, bergamot, orange and lime can have an uplifting effect on your mood. Perfect for the daytime or as a pick-me-up whenever you are feeling a bit sluggish, citrus scents can lift your mood in one simple spritz. Try Erba Pura by Xerjoff. Is a delicious and modern blend of Mediterranean citrus and sweet fruits layered over a warm and sensual amber oriental base. The extended heart and base of the perfume holds a little secret... a rare molecule extracted from a rare Indian herb. Thanks to this extraction technique called “PURA” this Fruity Floral elixir has a long lasting velvety effect and is perfectly abstracted, highlighting a person’s aura.
FLORAL FRAGRANCES - BEST FOR PURITY & RELEASE STRESS
Conjuring up Spring blooms and freshly cut bouquets, there is nothing more uplifting than fresh flowers (probably the reason why they are linked so heavily to romance and gifting – because they have such a feel-good association). Each flower tells its own story, but it is white blooms that seem to resonate most with us when it comes to peacefulness, purity and achieving a sense of calm in our lives; and this can certainly be applied when it comes to floral fragrances too. Flowers such as jasmine, magnolia, white iris and neroli flower have long been considered ‘clean’ aromas, thus promoting a cleansing of the mind and relieving stress. Try out Spring Flower by Creed is an attempt to bottle the glamor and fashion of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Much like the erstwhile starlets of the silver screen, the style and grace of this scent is a timeless classic. Flirtatious floral/fresh top notes intrigue the senses, softening into delicate florals and sensual musk. Embodying pure femininity in its bright pink bottle bedecked with a bow, Spring Flower is the star of any wardrobe.
WOODY FRAGRANCES - BEST FOR FEELING SECURE & REASSURED
Characterised for their rich, earthy aromas, woody fragrances are ones with the overarching scent being attributed to notes of woods, roots and in some cases, leaves. Think sandalwood, cedarwood, patchouli, birch and vetiver. Woody fragrances have the ability to give you that cocooned feeling, helping you to feel grounded, deeply rooted and tapped into that inner strength. Ingredients such as vanilla, ambergris and musk, whilst not woods themselves, are often found within woody fragrances to help enhance the rich aromas of this type of fragrance. Each provide a slightly different output, with musk enhancing the cocooning effect, ambergris drawing out the more mineral elements of the woody notes and vanilla providing a softness.
Try out Au Coeur Du Désert from Andy Tauer, The heart of the Maghreb desert. The enchantment of infinite space. Sublime, oriental, spicy, woody, balsamic. AU COEUR DU DÉSERT is the metamorphose of L’air du désert marocain into a luxurious extrait de parfum (20%). The richness of the extrait concentration accentuates the sublime elegance and natural beauty of warm woody amber notes.
It is important to note that many fragrances sit across multiple fragrance families and therefore you can reap many different wellness benefits from one single fragrance. Look out for the specific ingredients of a fragrance and tap into what you are hoping to get out of your fragrance before investing. Once you have chosen your fragrance, it is important that you establish a ritual in order to help create an association within your brain. For example, if you have invested in an energising fruity fragrance, start with a morning spritz to awaken your mind and to help it to associate that scent with the start of your day. Fragrance will forever be about experimenting and having fun so don’t forget to take time to enjoy every new scent journey.