What Is Perfume?


Perfume is a mixture of fragrant essential oils or aroma compounds, fixatives and solvents used to give the human body, animals, food, objects and living-spaces an agreeable scent. It was originally made to attract a prospective mate by appealing to the olfactory senses. It has since become a highly recognizable part of world culture, with a multitude of applications ranging from cosmetics to air fresheners and even perfume-laced bath salts. Perfume is a complex chemical formula that must be carefully stored to prevent it from spoiling or becoming unusable due to exposure to heat, light, oxygen and other chemicals.

A small amount of a perfume can have a lasting effect that can be detected by the nose or other senses for hours after it has been applied. It is important to avoid rubbing your wrists together after application because this can cause the scent to fade quickly. Fragrance compounds tend to deteriorate and lose their concentration over time unless they are sealed in an opaque container. They also have a short shelf life and can start to smell off or become rancid when exposed to moisture, sunlight or other chemicals.

Perfumes are usually grouped into different olfactory families, such as floral, oriental, woody or fresh fragrances, to make it easier for individuals to select their favorite. Traditionally, perfumes containing the scent of flowers were considered feminine and those with the smell of incense or spices masculine. Today, ‘pour homme’ and ‘pour femme’ are the French terms used to denote which perfumes are meant for men and women respectively, although this differentiation is more often based on contemporary cultural and marketing trends than actual gender-specific characteristics of the perfumed oils themselves.

In the 9th century, an Arab chemist wrote the Book of Perfume and Distillations, which described many methods and recipes for creating oils and perfumes from natural ingredients such as flowers, fruits, herbs, grasses, roots, seeds, woods, resins and animal secretions (like musk and ambergris). However, the availability of synthetic chemicals in the early 20th century revolutionized the process by making it much faster and cheaper to create new fragrances.

The fragrance of a perfume is a combination of three structural parts: the top notes, middle notes and base notes. The top notes are the first to be perceived, and they evaporate more rapidly than other parts of a perfume. They consist of small, light molecules that smell strong and fresh and often contain citruses, fruit or light herbs.

Middle notes are the next layer to be recognized, and they are the heart of a perfume. They have a stronger smell than the top notes and are blended with more delicate olfactory compounds to balance the overall impression of the fragrance. The middle notes typically include lily-of-the-valley, jasmine and rose oils.

Finally, the base notes are the longest-lasting, and they provide the foundation for a perfume’s character. They are derived from the synthesis of multiple chemical compounds including calone, linalool and coumarin, and they have a deep and sensual aroma.