What Is Fragrance?


Fragrance is a combination of oils that can be used to give a product or a room a pleasant aroma. These oils can be natural or synthetic. Fragrance is often used in perfumes, colognes, and other products to give them a distinctive smell. Fragrance is used for a variety of reasons, such as promoting health or increasing attractiveness. Fragrance can also help create a specific mood or emotion. For example, a perfume with strong notes of jasmine can be used to promote relaxation.

Perfumes have been created and worn for thousands of years. Archaeological excavations and ancient texts show that perfume was used in some of the earliest human civilizations. The Romans were particularly fond of perfumes, and gladiators used scented creams to enhance their appearance before battle. Later, as Christianity emerged with its severe and simple attitudes toward adornment, the use of perfume fell out of favor. Nevertheless, in the 20th century, perfumes returned to popularity, and the art of perfumery became an international industry.

Modern perfumes are classified according to their concentration level, the scent family they belong to, and the individual fragrance notes within them. The highest concentration level is parfum, which contains up to 30% of the aromatic compounds found in a perfume; eau de parfum consists of 8-15% of these compounds; eau de toilette has 4% to 8%, and eau de cologne has 2% or less. The scents of a perfume can be described in terms of top, middle, and base notes.

Top notes are the initial scents that appear right after a perfume is applied to the skin. These include citrus, fruity, and herbal scents. Middle notes are the scents that emerge after the top notes fade, and they can consist of floral, woody, or spicy smells. These are the main scents in a perfume, and they provide its structure. Base notes are the final scents that appear when the middle notes disappear, and they usually add depth to the perfume. These can include tobacco, amber, and musk.

Fragrance manufacturers use complex chemical compositions to produce the fragrances in their products, and these compounds can be natural or synthetic. They must pass rigorous testing to be approved for use in perfumes. These tests, which are carried out by the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) and Research Institute of Fragrance Materials (RIFM), include hazard identification, dosing and exposure assessment, and skin sensitivity.

Historically, many perfumes have been praised for their sexual and anal odors. The great French perfumer Jacques Guerlain once claimed that a perfume should smell like “the underside of my mistress,” and his Jicky and Shalimar fragrances are renowned for their indolic qualities. Christian Dior’s perfume called Eternity was allegedly formulated to smell like a woman’s anal region, and some of the more raunchy perfumes of the 1980s were laden with synthetic fecal notes. While anecdotal accounts of perfume as a chemosignal for attraction and reward are abundant, little empirical research has been done on perfume from a neurobiological or behavioral perspective.