Fragrance is a combination of chemicals that gives certain skincare products their smell. It is often a trade secret, so manufacturers don’t have to disclose what they use. It can include a variety of ingredients from natural and synthetic raw materials, as well as solvents, preservatives and dyes. In addition, fragrances can contain a wide range of scent chemicals that can cause problems such as skin irritation and respiratory distress.
The word fragrance is most often used in the context of perfume and cologne, but it can also be applied to other products that emit a pleasant odor, such as flower arrangements, cleaning sprays and body lotions. The word is closely related to aroma, which refers to the natural smell of a thing like a flower or fruit, and it can also be used to describe a person’s general odor.
A fragrance is a complex mixture of oils and other volatile organic compounds that produce a distinct smell or odour. It may be derived from natural essential oils or from artificial aromatic compounds. The perfume industry is one of the oldest of the cosmetic industries and was one of the first major industries to be established in Renaissance Italy. Recipes of perfumes written by monks at Santa Maria della Novella in Florence date back to 1221, and the personal perfumer to Catherine de Medici brought Italian refinements to France when she married King Louis XIII in 1519.
Perfumes are typically classified into 5 main groups loosely based on their concentration of aromatic compounds. The highest concentration is parfum or extrait, with the lowest being eau de cologne (EdC). However, many perfumes with the same product name and the same concentration actually differ in their compositions. For example, Chanel No. 5 is sold in different concentrations but its perfume and eau de toilette oils use completely different mixtures of fragrance chemicals.
The chemical makeup of a fragrance can be very diverse, but the key components are usually the top notes, middle notes and base notes. The top notes are the small, light molecules that evaporate quickly and give a person’s initial impression of a perfume or cologne. The middle notes, also known as the heart of a perfume, are the more substantial molecules that emerge after the top notes have dissipated. The base notes, or the sillage of a perfume, are the longest-lasting molecules and are responsible for the overall odour that is left behind after the wearer has moved through the crowd.
Fragrances can also be composed from different combinations of the same chemicals to produce a unique blend. A simple perfume might consist of just the top note, while a more elaborate composition might include all three sets of notes in an accord that is balanced and harmonious.
Although a fragrance contains chemicals, manufacturers are legally responsible for ensuring that the fragrance is safe for use, and they can be subject to recalls and bans if the ingredients have been shown to cause health problems such as asthma and dermatitis. The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) and the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM) work together to test ingredients for safety. In addition, the FDA’s Skin Deep database provides an easy way to see how a product scores for common concerns such as allergic reactions, endocrine disruptors and respiratory distress.