Perfumes and other fragrances have been a staple of civilization for centuries. Since ancient times, people have relied on scents for beautification purposes, to convey information about themselves, and even to trigger memories. Choosing one perfume over another can be a highly personal activity and can be influenced by current preferences, past experiences, and even our genetic makeup. Particular components of a fragrance and the performance of the scent after reacting with our individual body chemistry can help us select our signature perfumes. Armed with the right information, we can identify the scents best suited to our personal tastes or buy the perfect perfumes for friends and loved ones.
Why Perfumes Smell Different on People
If you've ever enjoyed a particular perfume on someone else and then tried it on yourself, only to be confused when it didn't smell the same on you, you're not alone. There's a scientific basis for the perfume's perplexing behavior. While a certain perfume may have the same fragrant notes in it, wearers' individual body chemistries can heavily influence how it reacts on the skin. Hormones may also have a say in how any perfume behaves. In fact, a perfume may smell different on the same person at two different times during the month. Diets can even dictate how perfumes smell and how strongly they linger after initial application. Individuals who favor savory or flavorful dishes may find that their perfume picks up wisps of these scents as they seep through their pores.
Perfume on the Brain
Our sense of smell is inextricably linked to the body's limbic system. Since our limbic systems are associated with moods, memory, and emotions, the experience of a scent can be as multifaceted and intense as it is personal. Along with triggering memories and feelings, natural scents and artificial fragrances can subconsciously help us decide who we like and even who we love. They may also contribute to our health and influence our behavior. Peppermint, for example, supports brain activity and sends signals to the body to start moving. Lavender is used in aromatherapy as a natural relaxant because it's been shown to calm heart rates. Perfumes are typically tied to personal identity, and as such, wearers can become emotionally attached to fragrances, especially if they are closely associated with particular people or events in their lives.
The Personal Experience of Scents
The reaction to any particular scent can be a deeply personal experience guided by preference and influenced by past experiences. For example, people who have good childhood memories of baking cookies with loved ones may respond positively to perfumes that have notes like vanilla or cinnamon in them. In contrast, someone with asthma may be repulsed by a cologne with hints of tobacco in it because it reminds them of choking or difficulty breathing. Recent research has suggested that our preferences for certain scents may also be encoded into our genes. Given this, if you're buying a fragrance for someone else, it can be helpful to find out which perfumes or colognes their close relatives prefer.
Choosing Perfumes for Yourself or Another Person
While the sheer volume of choices on the perfume market can make choosing the perfect perfume seem nearly impossible, there are a few tricks that can make the selection process easier. When choosing a fragrance for yourself, eschew paper strips and sample it by spraying it on your skin instead. Applying the fragrance directly to your skin allows it to react with your body's natural chemistry and gives a fuller portrait of how the scent will develop over time. If you're buying a perfume or cologne for someone else, consider their favorite scents and use them to choose the prefect fragrance. Look for perfumes or colognes that contain those same scents as notes. Similarly, you can also learn the names of the fragrances they prefer and research them to discover what their components are. A perfume that contains the same notes is likely to be a hit with the recipient.