A perfume can have the power to transform your day. It is important to choose the right perfume for you and your lifestyle. There is not one perfume that works for everyone at all times, so be sure to try several fragrances before selecting the perfect scent for you. Perfume is a complex combination of ingredients that can be created using natural or synthetic products. Natural perfumes are composed of natural oils sourced from plants and flowers, while synthetic perfumes are a mixture of aromachemicals that are synthesised in a laboratory by perfume chemists.
The first step in the production of a perfume involves collecting and transporting plant and flower materials to the manufacturing center for processing. Oils are extracted from the plant or flower material by various methods, such as steam distillation, boiling, solvent extraction, enfleurage and maceration. These oils are then combined to form the fragrance of the perfume.
Once a fragrance is complete, it must be tested on the skin to determine how well it blends and how long it lasts before it can be sold. Fragrance testers apply the perfume to blotter strips and fabrics, as well as on their own skin to determine how it performs and what kind of effect it has on each person’s body chemistry. This testing process enables the perfumer to tweak the composition of the perfume, ensuring that it will be pleasing to most people.
Perfumes are often categorised according to their concentration or the amount of perfume oil in the bottle. The higher the concentration, the stronger and longer lasting the scent. A perfume can also be categorised according to its olfactory structure, which is described in musical terms. The olfactory structure is comprised of three notes that develop and intensify as the perfume wears: top notes, middle notes and base notes. Top notes are the first to be detected, releasing their aroma as soon as the perfume is applied. Middle notes emerge after the top note has dissipated, a phase that can last up to an hour after the perfume is worn.
In addition to the way a perfume smells, its effect on a person’s mood and physiological responses can be influenced by the context in which it is worn and how it is perceived. Certain odours are able to elicit an immediate emotional response, which is due to the associative learning and neural effects that odours can have. For example, the odour of freshly baked bread may have an association with positive emotions.
In the Renaissance and until the nineteenth century, both men and women wore perfume, but the spread of germ theory caused a decline in the usage of perfumes, and wearing them became increasingly gender-specific. As a result, sweet floral blends were regarded as feminine and sharp woody, pine and cedar notes were viewed as masculine. By the early twentieth century, perfume wearing had been confined to prostitutes and the declasse (Classen, Howes and Synnott 1994). Only in recent decades has the wearing of fragrance become less sexist and more universally accepted.