Finding your perfume...

You might be tempted by a dreamlike name, a chic brand, or a fancy bottle. But finding the perfume that will be a heavenly match for your skin owes nothing to chance.

‘I don’t know what to choose!’

‘What would suit me?’

‘They all seem the same’… At a time when perfumes are created by spontaneous generation, the choice is more and more difficult. The quest for a new perfume is quite an adventure! It is also the most invisible but not the least innocent transformation. Perfume is the ultimate signature, so we need to get it right. On top of this, we are demanding. We want light yet long-lasting, original but classic nonetheless, voluptuous but not heady. In short, one thing and its opposite. Above all, we don’t want to be disappointed!

First commandment:

Have a nose for it. How do you feel? What are the scents and moments that have counted in your life? Your favourite flowers? Which substance represents you? Do you want a perfume that stands out or, on the contrary, are you looking for a more discreet, sensitive fragrance? Are you looking for a different way to seduce? These are the questions we’ll ask at Senteurs d’Ailleurs. Be prepared! Here, Pablo, Stéphanie, Iulia, Nadir and Jean-Michel are experts and will try to get you talking. Just go with the flow. Through subtle indiscretions and candid discussions, you will express your ideal. The quest to find a perfect match is then theirs. Perfume is intimate, inherently intimate.

Test it ‘in vitro’.

Never judge a perfume sprayed on your clothes. Whether the fragrance is ultra-fresh or heady, it can only reveal the best it has directly on the skin, preferably in spots where body heat is the highest. These are the inside of the wrist (where the blood flows), in the crook of the arm, the back of the neck and behind the earlobe. Avoid the neck and the chest, however: your sense of smell will be briefly distorted by the alcohol that is released after spraying. A reflex you should banish is rubbing your skin after applying perfume in the hope that it will evolve more quickly due to the heat. This only irritates the skin and washes away the fragrance. You should also know that when you try a perfume, for the first few minutes you will only smell the most volatile essences (the top notes). These gradually fade making way for the components that give the perfume its true personality (the ‘heart’ of the perfume and the base notes). Ideally, you should wear a new fragrance all day or ask for a sample to try it several times. You will be sure whether you like it or not and whether it holds without ‘spoiling’. Finally, every skin has its perfume… It’s a matter of pH (potential of hydrogen, the skin’s acidity level measure).

Natural or synthetic molecules?

Today, natural perfumes are extremely popular. This refers to perfumes made with at least 85% of natural raw materials: flowers, bark, wood, fruit, aromatic plants. With increasing ecological awareness, this also means responsible and traceable sourcing. Did you know? There are roughly 4500 different raw materials in high perfumery of which only 500 are natural. One thing is certain, the way a fragrance influences our mind (called ‘aromacology’ or the science of how scent-related phenomena influence behaviour) is not related to the origin of the fragrance. Whether it is natural or synthetic, a perfume influences our emotions in the same way. Furthermore, some scents are impossible to extract naturally. This is the case of ‘mute’ flowers such as lilac, lily of the valley and Casablanca lily, flowers for which, despite being very fragrant, the only way to extract the odour is to reconstitute it synthetically. In some cases, the perfumer can also reconstitute these scents by mixing several ingredients. While it is true that natural materials bring added value, synthetics should not be considered as negative. For example, it is said that natural fragrances evolve over time, whereas highly synthetic fragrances are relatively monolithic.

It is also worth noting that a fragrance known to be ‘aldehydic’ is a fragrance containing synthetic raw materials that intensify the diffusing ability of the other components. This allows the entire fragrance to unfold and create a very characteristic trail. Good to know: many synthetic raw materials are derived from what constitutes natural products. ‘Isolates’ come from natural products, for example, indole (that is found in jasmine), geraniol (present in rose and geranium), linalool (in lavender and bergamot), vetiverol (from vetiver) along with some musk found in animal musk. The technique used is essential oil ‘fractionation’. Isolates cost roughly twice as much as the corresponding essential oil.

What is a Head Space? This method ‘captures’ the odour of a flower while it is still alive, whereas other extraction techniques (distillation and maceration) used to obtain raw materials are always made after the flower has been picked. The principle of this technique is therefore to absorb the perfume from the flower (in a glass globe) without cutting it, in order to collect the odorous molecule. They are then analysed to be reproduced in a laboratory. Another method is the ’biotech’ method where yeast is fermented on a natural product to produce a new odour. Or CO2 extraction with liquid gas, which makes it possible to faithfully reproduce the smell of fragile substances, such as spices.

Cologne, eau de parfum or eau de toilette?

Extracts have the highest concentration of perfume essence: on average 20% diluted in 98° alcohol. Eau de parfum has roughly 15% in 96° alcohol. Eau de toilette is made with 10 to 12% essence in 90° alcohol. While this 10% of fragrance concentrate is entirely synthetic, but mixed with 100% vegetable alcohol (e.g. from wheat or beetroot), the result is a 90% ‘natural’ eau de toilette. The matter of natural or synthetic is therefore not so clear-cut. Perhaps it has more to do with our values.

Posted in: Parfum, Style