The FDA definition of perfume includes the chemical components of the product, which are used to give a fragrance its signature. Fragrances are not limited to perfume, as they can also be found in other products such as bathing foam, deodorant sprays, and body lotions. Perfumes are composed of three structural parts: the top, middle, and base notes. Each of these parts affects how the consumer perceives each other. The top note contains small molecules with a fresh, tangy smell. Common top notes are citrus fruits and light fruits.
The fragrance of a perfume is first perceived about 30 minutes after application. The scent of the fragrance lingers longer if it is applied in a layer. Most perfumes have base notes (or ingredients that act as a preservative) that can enhance the scent. Common base notes include amber, patchouli, cedarwood, oakmoss, and musk. A pleasant fragrance is known to improve a woman’s mood, reduce stress, and increase happiness quotient.
Another ingredient of note is hedoine. This ingredient mimics the smell of petrichor, a flower found in the Amazon. After the creation of L’Eau D’Issey by Parfums Christian Dior in 1992, ozone became an incredibly popular ingredient in perfumery. Aside from ozone, sandalwood is the oldest known ingredient in perfumery. Its characteristically creamy milky scent combines with the strength of vertical, dense wood, giving perfumes a sensuous tone.
The five main families of perfume are Floral, Oriental, Woody, and Aromatic Fougere, with a modern oceanic category for a unique fragrance. Fragrances within each of these families are further subdivided into their own subgroups. For example, Chanel No.5 is classified as an aldehydic floral and belongs in the Soft Floral subgroup. Similarly, amber scents fall under the Oriental group. The Floral Oriental family includes Hermes Rouge.
The most common synthetic ingredients in perfumes are linalool, coumarin, and labdanum. These synthetic compounds are derived from terpenes and give a perfume its distinctive aroma. They are used to mimic natural scents, but they are not as readily available. Aside from synthetic aromatics, many perfumes contain ingredients derived from flowers, such as sandalwood. However, orchid scents are usually synthesized.
The use of perfume dates back to the ancient world. Perfumery was popular among the monarchy. King Louis XIV, known as the “perfume king,” had a floral pavilion built in his palace filled with fragrant oils. A flower bowl was placed around the palace, and the royalty was greeted by visitors doused in rose water. Perfumery continued to evolve throughout history. With its development, Grasse became a major producer of perfumes.
Although synthetics are cheaper than naturals, they have several disadvantages. They require long synthesis processes and low availability of precursor chemicals, and their overall yield is lower than naturals. Another disadvantage is their low odor threshold. They should also be diluted in perfume to avoid unpleasant effects such as overpowering odor. In addition, synthetics are prone to degradation due to heat, harsh solvents, and oxygen. They are also odorless once they have been exposed to oxygen.