What is Fragrance?

Fragrance is a mix of more than 3,500 chemicals that give perfume, cologne and other personal care and cleaning products their distinctive scent. Fragrance chemicals can be toxic and exposure to them has been linked to a range of health problems, including dermatitis, rashes and reproductive harm. Companies don’t have to list fragrance ingredients on product labels because the combination of odor chemicals is considered a trade secret.

Perfume is a sweet-smelling liquid that people put on their skin to make themselves smell nice. The word can also refer to a fragrant extract of flowers or a plant, though the term aroma is more often used for these types of things.

The first perfumes were derived from natural aromatics, but modern perfumery developed around the late 19th century with the commercial synthesis of aroma compounds such as vanillin and coumarin. These synthetics allow for the creation of fragrances that would have been impossible to produce solely from natural aromatics. These chemically formulated odorants are known as the “base note” component of perfumes, and they provide the foundation for middle and top notes.

Middle and top notes are composed of aromatic extracts, which may be based on natural oils such as lavender or rose. However, many perfumers use synthetics as well to achieve the desired effects. For example, calone is a synthetic compound that gives the impression of ocean air and salt, and is often used to create marine or aquatic fragrances. Similarly, some perfumes contain a blend of natural and synthetic components designed to resemble the olfactory qualities of edible fruits such as orange or pineapple.

Fragrance oils and absolutes are made by soaking the aromatic extract in a solvent such as lower aliphatic alcohols, most commonly ethanol. The result is a clear, oily liquid that contains the fragrant compounds. A perfumer can then add the other odorants to the mixture.

There are three structural parts to a perfume: the top note, the heart or body, and the base note. A perfume’s top note is the odor that evaporates first after application or when opening the bottle. The heart or body of a perfume is the most lasting part of the scent, and it depends on the middle and base notes. Perfumes are often classified as part of a family of fragrances, such as floral, fruity or musky. This can be useful for consumers, as it provides a framework for comparing and purchasing perfumes that are reminiscent of the same type of fragrance.

The term perfume has a negative connotation because of the link to certain sexual diseases, such as AIDS. In addition, some perfumes contain harmful chemicals, such as phthalates and dioxins, which can cause health problems like allergic reactions. For these reasons, some consumers choose to avoid perfume and instead opt for soaps or body washes that don’t contain fragrance chemicals. However, some consumers still want to enjoy the smell of a perfume, and some soaps and body washes are available that do not contain phthalates or dioxins.