Scents and Sensibility
There is no denying that we love to smell good and we like being surrounded by good smells, hence the multimillion dollar perfume, body scent, and home fragrance markets. And for good reason. We process scent in the limbic system of our brains which happens to be one of the most primitive parts of our brains. Here we connect scents in our minds with other memories, having a profound affect on us. Think of freshly baked cookies, a tree during the holidays, or the air in spring time filled with the scent of blooming flowers…you probably just connected those thoughts with some distinct memory from your past. Negative scents have the same affect but I won’t mention those here…yikes! But ultimately, scents are powerful!
We have been applying the essences of natural elements to our bodies in order to smell better for centuries. This was important early on because we also did not bathe as frequently and therefore smelling good was a status symbol signifying higher rank or wealth. The ancient Egyptians were well known for applying scents to their bodies and burning incense. Today, the market for fragrances is big business.
Coco Chanel is said to have created the first designer fragrance with Chanel Nº5 in 1921 (other designers at the time were producing fragrances, but Chanel was the first to put her name on it) and from there, the designer fragrance industry was born. This lucrative market is significant in that it generates the most income for many design houses because the cost to create fragrances is small compared to how much revenue is actually generated from the sales (i.e., there is a very large markup, particularly compared to other fashion products). In most cases today, the packaging costs more than the actual liquid fragrance inside. The fragrance industry has seen some major developments in the 20th century particularly with the development of synthetic scents. Synthetics allow for cheaper production because using real natural essences is costly and time consuming, and with synthetic fragrances, you can achieve a similar affect with a much lower cost.
My first memory of fragrances was in junior high/middle school when having a designer fragrance was all the rage. The one I remember having was Calvin Klein’s Obsession. After that, I was hooked on scents and went on to collect several fragrances, having as many as about 10 at one point (overkill, I know!). In high school, my favorite was Thierry Mugler’s Angel and then in college it was Quelques Fleurs by Houbigant. Later, I moved on to Coco Mademoiselle, Gucci Guilty, and have now settled on Chanel Nº5. As I mention all of these fragrances, the memories of that time and place in my life come to mind, and some of the memories are so vivid and clear.
I’m sure this has always been the case, but it seems like many people today have a problem with knowing how much scent to put on and how strong their scent actually is - this goes for both men and women. Have you ever been around someone and their scent was so strong, you got a headache? As positively impactful as fragrances can be, they can also be quite disturbing to others if the scent is not perceived as pleasant. Recently, I was at a Broadway musical (Kinky Boots, by the way, it was amazing!) and someone around me had on such a strong scent that I did not find to be pleasant and I was so distracted by this scent, it was hard to focus on the stage! I realize no one wants to smell bad, but putting on so much fragrance is just as offensive as bad body odor.
My advice is that you need 2 sprays of fragrance…MAXIMUM! This should be applied to your neck area (or face for men using after shave) and wrists. The idea behind this is that when having a closer encounter with someone, they may smell the fragrance (and hopefully enjoy its light subtlety) rather than everyone in your walking path! I am not a believer in the “spray and walk away” method because the fragrance is meant to be applied to the skin, not your clothing and hair. If you’ve used a scented body wash and scented lotion, you do not need any other fragrance piled on top of all of that. It’s nice when someone compliments you for smelling good but if this is constantly the case, you are using too much - just think for every person that likes your scent, there is likely to be another that finds it unpleasant. Fragrances also go bad over time as the chemicals break down and the scent is compromised (about 2 years). Therefore, you should only have 1 or maybe 2 fragrances that you use at a time - maybe you like something for day and something else for night or you like to change with the season. But buy a new one when the old one runs out rather than having a collection of a dozen or so. And keep in mind that if you bathe regularly and use deodorant, like most Americans do, you do not need a ton of fragrance…you smell fine!