Karen Timson

To describe perfume, you might say it is a scented liquid made from essential oils from plants, flowers, spices, or aroma chemicals that are applied to the body to give a pleasant smell.

But how does it work? What is a ‘perfume’?

All perfumes, of a good standard anyway, are designed to have a three-part-smell which unfold over time once applied to your skin.

The first ‘note’ your perfume offers you are the top notes.  If your perfume were to be an orchestra, these notes would be the delicate, gentle glistening notes from say the harp. These you smell immediately and may only last a short while. This is because they are made of smaller molecules which evaporate more quickly from your skin. The next layer of your perfume to unfold are the middle notes. These notes are the ‘heart’ of your fragrance, the piano or the strings and they are probably the notes that you remember most about your perfume. They are larger molecules and therefore take approx. 4+ hours to evaporate from your skin.

Finally, your perfume will gift you the big base notes. The bigger molecules. The finale. The magnificent double bass, the heavy, dark weighty notes that resonate and will defiantly stick around until last encore of the night and the final bow has been taken.  This can many hours, even days if blended well and thoughtfully and will hopefully leave you wanting a repeat performance.

So how do we then detect all the different notes once in our bottle of fragrance?

All the raw materials are diluted in alcohol and the reason is an aesthetic one. Alcohol spreads out the smells so that you can distinguish them. Without it you would experience a jumble of smells. Smelling it would be like hearing your perfume orchestra play all the notes at the same time, the various notes indistinguishable. Your nose would not be able to register the independent notes. The alcohol acts as your perfume orchestra ‘conductor’ allowing each note to be smelled and enjoyed, just as the perfumer intended their perfume symphony to be performed.

But what about your chemistry? Does your skin affect the way the perfume behaves?

Yes, it will, and it is affected by your skin, whether it is oily or dry. Whether your skin temperature is cool or warm. Top notes will evaporate faster from warm dry skin than from cool and oily skin.

Therefore, we apply perfume to our pulse points – where the blood vessels are nearer the skin surface therefore making it warmer allowing the molecules to evaporate and work their magic on our olfactory system. Play on maestro.