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London - How much thought do you put into the perfume that you spritz on in the morning? Do you have a signature scent? Or a fragrance “wardrobe” that you select from according to your mood?
Probably not. But what you might not know is that the perfume you choose can actually change, rather than just reflect, your state of mind.
Forget drinking a strong coffee or having a soothing bath - research suggests that a squirt of the right scent could prove the most effective pick-me up (or relaxant) of all.
Will Andrews, lead scientist at Procter & Gamble’s fragrance lab (the people behind Hugo Boss, Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci scents) explains: ‘Smell elicits very strong emotions and senses. This is because the olfactory bulb, high up in the nose and the first part of your body to detect a smell, links directly to the limbic system, the part of the brain associated with emotion, behaviour and motivation.
“So before signals from your nose can be processed by the more rational side of the brain, you have an innate, primitive response to what you’re smelling.”
We learn to respond to certain scents - checking for fire when we smell burning, anticipating good weather with the waft of freshly-cut grass - as well as building up a personal scent library, which triggers memories and emotions.
If you ask a group of women to smell an aftershave, their reactions may vary wildly, depending on whether they first smelled it on their father, boyfriend or boss.
‘That said, there are groups of scents that we have either evolved or been socialised to have broadly similar reactions to,’ says Professor Tim Jacobs, Smell Expert at Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences.
Here, he and expert perfumer Lawrence Roullier White explain how scents can shift your mood...
“Not only does it smell good enough to eat but it’s associated with rewards and pleasures in childhood - ice cream, biscuits, cakes and so on,” says Professor Jacobs.
Some experts also think it is the closest scent to the smell of breast milk. So, vanillin - the ingredient in vanilla - has been shown to have relaxing effects on heart rate.
TRY: “Jean Paul Gaultier’s Classique which nice rounded vanilla in its base,” says Lawrence, “and Guerlain’s Shalimar, created in 1921, is probably the most famous vanilla fragrance of all time.”
Or try E. Coudray’s Vanille et Coco built on a base that combines vanilla with sandalwood and tonka beans, which enhance the scent.
SEDUCTIVE: WHITE FLOWERS
“White flowers, such as tuberose, contain molecules called indoles, which are also found in animal pheremones,” says Professor Jacobs. So while our rational mind smells flowers, the primeval part of our brains recognises the scent as a marker of attraction, associating it with sexual arousal and activity.
TRY: Perfumier Dominque Ropion has created the perfect balance of “carnal” lust and “milky sweetness” in Frederic Malle’s modern tuberose Carnal Flower.
For something that won’t break the bank, Lawrence suggests Madonna’s Truth Or Dare, one of the very few High Street fragrances to use tuberose, the most expensive natural flower oil in the world.
‘In the UK we’re conditioned to associate citrus scents with freshness,” says Professor Jacobs. “The British Empire absorbed the Indian tradition of washing your hands with lemon.”
TRY: Christian Dior’s L’Escale a Portofino, packed with lemons and orange blossom, delivers a citrus hit. As does Jo Malone’s classic Grapefruit.
“Carthusia’s Mediterraneo is another instant pick-me-up,” says Lawrence. “It was created in 1390 on Capri and uses lemon and crushed leaves.”
But the best scent, says Lawrence, is Jean-Claude Ellena’s Bigarade Concentre.”It’s happiness in a bottle!”
SOOTHING: LAVENDER OR ROSE
“Lavender contains linalool which is shown to be a relaxant,” says Professor Jacobs. The scent of roses has also been shown to have a soothing effect on the sympathetic nervous system, which governs the body’s fight or flight response, decreasing breathing rate and blood pressure.
TRY: Penhaligon’s Lavandula uses lavender, grown 1 000ft above sea level for a smoother, purer aroma. And Yardley’s English Lavender is almost unbeatable value for money and uses leaves grown in the south of England.
For Rose perfumes you can’t beat Chanel No 5. It uses notes of May rose and smells light and fresh.
ENERGISING: ROSEMARY OR PEPPERMINT
“Rosemary contains thymol, a stimulant,” says Professor Jacobs. And peppermint has been shown to enhance physical performance.
TRY: If you need a spring in your step, Lawrence suggests an eau de cologne: ‘Most of them have rosemary in their top notes and every granny used to have a bottle of one of the most famous unisex fragrances, 4711, which is still available from most chemists.’
Union’s Quince, Mint and Moss has lovely mint notes. - Daily Mail