The Benefits of Perfume

Whether you use it as a personal scent or to enhance your clothing, perfume can make a difference in the way that others perceive you. A wide variety of natural and synthetic chemicals are used to create the fragrances we know as perfume, and their use dates back thousands of years.

Perfume is a combination of fragrant essential oils or aroma compounds, fixatives, and solvents in liquid form that are applied to the skin for the purpose of emitting and diffusing a pleasant, often floral or fruity, odor. Some perfume ingredients are animal products, such as musk from the glands of a male deer or hyraceum from petrified Hyrax feces, while others come from plants or are manufactured in laboratories using a wide range of organic and inorganic chemicals.

A perfume’s ingredients are mixed to create a fragrance that is characterized by three structural parts: top notes, middle notes, and base notes. Top notes are the initial, most-short-lived smells that your nose notices immediately after application. Middle notes are the heart of a perfume and provide the body, or sillage, of the scent. Base notes are the last smells that linger on your skin after evaporation, often lasting more than an hour or two. Fragrance notes are grouped into categories called families, with the most common being citrus, floral, and herbal.

Some perfumes also contain blending and fixing agents that smooth the transitions between the different layers of a perfume. Many of these are derived from plant-based aromatics, such as linalool and hydroxycitronellal, while others are produced synthetically. These odorants are used as a replacement for expensive botanical materials, such as the tincture of coriander seeds and its extracts (petitgrain oil, neroli oil, and orange oil).

Synthetic aroma chemicals are sometimes preferred because they can be more closely matched to a particular scent concept than their natural counterparts. For example, a synthetic compound called Calone imparts the fresh, ozonous metallic marine scent that is popular in modern perfumes.

In addition to smelling good, there is some evidence that perfume can help to boost confidence, alleviate anxiety and depression, and increase self-esteem. It can also have a social and cultural significance; many women recollect their mother’s signature scent, and people tend to associate certain fragrances with certain individuals they have known for a long time.

While no scientific research has yet been done to verify a claim that perfume can cure illness, it is known that the wearing of a perfume can cause allergic contact dermatitis in some people, especially those with sensitive skin. Fragrance-containing cosmetics are the second leading cause of such dermatitis, after irritant contact dermatitis. Perfumes are particularly hazardous to children, because they tend to have higher sensitivity levels. In general, perfumes are not recommended for children and adolescents. In addition, the chemicals in perfumes can be harmful to the environment and may trigger asthma in some people. In an effort to limit the number of environmental and health hazards, some manufacturers have begun using safer chemicals in their perfumes.