Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Biology of Fragrance

I bought a new perfume today (Eau de Parfum) that I love and it got me thinking about fragrance. I find the whole process very interesting, so I thought I'd post a little information on the subject.

There are many different fragrance types:

Soie de Parfum/Perfume extract: The most concentrated, perfume contains the highest level of aromatic compounds which is around 15-40% concentrate. Because of its strong concentration, perfume should be used in moderation.

One of my favorite perfumes:

Eau de Parfum: Contains about 10-20% perfume concentrate. This is the most popular and common form of perfume. It provides a long-lasting fragrance and generally doesn’t cost as much as perfume.

This is what I bought today. It's called Flirtatious! (figures, lol) and I got it at Kohls. Kohls has a whole line of Flirt! cosmetics, they all seemed so enticing, so I also bought thickening mascara and blush.

Eau de Toilette: Has around 5-15% perfume concentrate. This makes for a light scent that doesn’t linger as long as the more intense extracts. It's usually intended as a refreshing body spray which can be re-applied throughout the day, without the smell being too strong.

Eau de Cologne: Usually 3% or less perfume concentrate. Sometimes used interchangeably with the term eau de toilette. However, this concoction began as the name of a light, fresh fragrance mixed with citrus oils and was made popular by Napoleon. Some perfumers today have a version of this called Eau Fraiche.

You may also see the term Parfum de Toilette. Most companies use this term to describe a concentration that is either the same as Eau De Parfum, or between Eau De Parfum and Parfum. Other companies use the term to describe an Eau De Toilette concentration.

To further confuse matters, some companies use different notes, or different proportions of notes, in the different forms of fragrance they offer. In addition, some companies reserve costly fragrance oils for their parfum, and use synthetic substitutes in lighter concentrations.

There are also top, middle, and base notes to a perfume. Top notes provide the first scent impression of a fragrance once it has been applied to the skin. They are usually lighter, more volatile aromas that evaporate readily. Their scent usually lingers for between 5 and 30 minutes. Middle notes, sometimes referred to as “heart notes”, make up the body of the blend. They may be evident from the start, but will usually take 10-30 minutes to fully develop on the skin. They are the notes that classify the fragrance family (floral, oriental, chypre, etc, see below). Base Notes are those with the greatest molecular weight. They last the longest, and are also important as fixatives, that is, they help slow down the evaporation rates of the lighter notes, giving the fragrance holding power. Common base notes include oakmoss, patchouli, woods, musk and vanilla.

A fragrance which does not have traditional top, middle and base notes is usually described as "linear".

This is why it's always a good idea to apply the perfume that you like to your skin, wait 30 minutes, and then smell it to see how your body chemistry has changed the smell of the perfume. You may still like it, or it may have changed so much that you hate it! Your own body chemistry affects how different notes react on your skin. Anything that affects the "natural" smell of your skin, such as stress, hormonal changes, your current diet or medications, might change how a perfume smells on you. You'll be amazed at the difference in smell 30 minutes makes on your body.

Finally, there are fragrance families. These are "aroma groupings" of related scents. There is more than one classification system in use, but many list 7 major families: For women the classifications are; Greens, Florals, Aldehydics, Chypre, Oriental, Fougère & Tobacco/Leather. There are traditional (floral, woodsy, leather) and modern (floral, green, oceanic, citrus) fragrance families.

The way I usually find my fragrance is that I spray on the one that I like the smell of first. Then I wait, and see if I still like it on my skin. I also ask the hubby if he likes it before I buy it, because he can be pretty sensitive to smell and I hate to wear something he doesn't like. I generally stick with sweet, fruity smells because that's what I usually get the best feedback from and what I think smells best on me.

On a side note, I really wish more fragrances came with an atomizer. I just love atomizers! Something about using the spray pump, it just makes me happy. Every now and then, I'll put perfume in one of my favorite bottles that has an atomizer.
This fragrance called Tease at VS smells really good:

So, what's your favorite perfume/fragrance? Do you change it often? How did you come upon it?


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