“Peppermint scent increases activity in the brain area that wakes us up in the morning,” says Bryan Raudenbush, a psychologist at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia. His research has shown that exercisers run faster
and do more push-ups when exposed to the scent.
Jasmine is a sleep aid. “Our research has shown that the scent of jasmine in your bedroom leads to a more restful night of sleep and a greater level of alertness the following day,” Raudenbush says. Other labs have found that the scent increases the brain waves associated with deep sleep.
Lavender is generally relaxing. Exposure to lavender scent can decrease heart rate. “Use the scent for unwinding at bedtime”, suggests Avery Gilbert, a sensory psychologist in Montclair, New Jersey. “Or take several whiffs to recharge yourself during work breaks.”
Vanilla aids weight loss. Rachel Herz, author of ‘Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell’, finds that it works as a replacement for the pleasure that you would get from eating sweets—but without the calories. “This is not a scent you would use if you had an empty stomach, because it’s likely to just make you hungrier,” she says. “But if you’ve had a healthy lunch, it can help curb the craving for a candy bar afterward.”
A scent can evoke a long forgotten thought and a perfume can unleash a floodgate of emotions. Nancy Varghese discovers the world of perfumes and what makes them linger in our midst with the art of perfumery and its various facets
“You know, they ask me questions. Just an example: “What do you wear to bed? A pajama top? The bottoms of the pajamas? A nightgown?” So I said, ‘Chanel N°5,’ because it’s the truth… And yet, I don’t want to say ‘nude.’ But it’s the truth!”
It was the year 1960 when icon Marilyn Monroe said these words that catapulted Chanel N°5 to the league of the most popular and elite brands of perfumes in the world. The message was crystal clear: wearing a perfume is like putting on a second skin, one that speaks your personality and states your identity.
The origin of the word perfume comes from the Latin phrase, per fumum, meaning ‘through smoke’. Interestingly, between the 16th and 17th century, perfumes were used primarily by the wealthy to mask body odors resulting from infrequent bathing. Partly due to this patronage, the perfume industry was created.
Most often, people don’t realize how scents and smells subconsciously affect their lives on a daily basis, from freshly brewed morning coffee to the salty sea breeze. The evocative power of a scent is quite dramatic which can bring memories rushing back, especially when it is the fragrance of perfume. The human mind is capable of associating fragrances to people you have been around and recall times spent with them. More than the scent itself, it is the emotion behind the scent that triggers memories. Studies have shown that two different individuals may be exposed to the same scent but their noses will not detect the same fragrance. This is because a large part of determining the likability of a perfume is the person who wears it. Each of our bodies has a different chemical balance and the chemistry of one perfume may not be compatible to another.
Personality of an individual also plays a crucial role in judging perfume. If you’re an outdoorsy person who is fond of sports or hiking in the woods, a musky and rich perfume may not be the best option for you because your body would rather adapt to a light and earthy scent.
While people respond differently to the scents they’re exposed to, some ingredients are universally loved by the masses and they have their own distinct ways to affect moods.
Finding your signature scent can be a task and the perfume industry has gone one step further to help you in the process. Penhaligon’s Perfume House in Singapore guides you through a plethora of scents and fragrances, asking you to rely solely on your nose to discover the scent that suits you best. The experience is thoroughly enjoyable and has slowly gained popularity.
The best accessory that a woman can wear is her smile and her perfume is the confidence she radiates from within. Nothing describes it better than celebrities who have launched their own personal scents. From Beyoncé, Britney and Bruce Willis to Jay-Z, Justin Bieber and Jennifer Aniston; launching your scent has become a trend in the industry. Advertising has risen dramatically in the recent years with stars like Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman exuding grace and style in glamorous perfume commercials that make consumers want to ‘smell as good as the stars do’.
While people sharing a culture tend to share common associations with scents, a particular perfume is said to evoke different emotions in every individual exposed to it. “Scents can have positive effects on mood, stress reduction, sleep enhancement, self-confidence, and physical and cognitive performance,” says Theresa Molnar, executive director of the Sense of Smell Institute, the research and educational arm of the perfume industry’s Fragrance Foundation.
An odour has no personal significance until it becomes connected to something that has meaning. With your initial encounter, you begin forming nerve connections that intertwine the smell with emotions. The capacities for both smell and emotion are rooted in the same network of brain structures, the limbic system. The olfactory center also interacts directly with the hippocampus, a brain area involved in the formation of new memories.
Due to this, aromatherapy has gained significant popularity as alternative medicine for psychological and physical well-being. Plant materials and aromatic plant oils are used to apply, massage, inhale or immerse in water to achieve the desired effect of calm and serenity. Spas and resorts offer the concept of aromatherapy, including scented candles, to encourage their customers to relax and relieve them of work stress.
Primarily in the regions of the Middle East, one can’t help but stop to take a whiff of the lingering scent of oud perfumes that leave a trail behind the wearer. Roja, founder of Roja Parfums says, “We have an enormous Middle Eastern clientele. For three years, I spent a couple of weeks per month in the Middle East, where I started to learn as much as possible about oud. I would stay at the Grand Hyatt in Dubai, where they often held weddings. I could always tell by the smell of the bakhoor (woodchips soaked in fragrant oils) whether the wedding was a good one or an aspirational one. Traditionally, Middle Eastern clients will mix oud into their skincare, bath or body products. Most will use oud as a base for other fragrances, due to its extraordinary ability to hold scent.” The tantalizing effect of oud is slowly, but surely spreading to the international perfume industry, for people who take to the rich and authentic feel of the Arab world.
Tales of perfume in the city are incomplete without mentioning the spray-happy perfume spritzers of nearly every mall you step into. They greet you warmly and their smile invites you to try on the latest scent of the season. They are convinced that you will fall head over heels with that one gush of perfume on your skin. By the time you’ve made your way to your destination in the mall, you already smell like ‘the romance of the night’, ‘the first breeze of spring’ and ‘the enigma of the dark’, all in the span of 20 minutes!
THE DO’S AND DON’TS OF PERFUME: