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10 Strangest Perfume Ingredients

Updated on July 2, 2013

Roses, jasmine, and lavender are centuries-old staples of the perfume industry, but of course there are always perfumers who are interested in creating something new, something no one has ever smelled before. Sometimes they turn to unusual ingredients to do this, which conjurers images of a mad perfumer toiling his perfumery like the mad scientist in his laboratory.

1. Gunpowder

Using gunpowder as an ingredient sounds more like a marketing gimmick than something that would create a pleasant-smelling product. Power and danger are probably better-indicated by carrying an actual gun around than wearing this unisex perfume, Love by MCMC Fragrances.

2. Tennis Ball

Anyone who's ever popped the tab on a fresh can of tennis balls knows this smell. It's an interesting smell but it doesn't exactly leave you wanting more. Perhaps this one is designed for people who are really, really into tennis and want that nostalgic smell with them always. If that's the case, try The Soft Lawn by Imaginary Authors.

3. Brown Scotch Tape

This one I could almost grasp. Perhaps they are going for the nostalgia of sending and opening packages. And oh, the accompanying smell of cardboard! Cardboard by any other name would smell as sweet. Of course you could always wrap yourself in tape instead of buying this hard-to-find perfume by Comme de Garcons. This 2011 fragrance also features the note of industrial glue. Who could resist?

Photo by Pam Brophy
Photo by Pam Brophy

4. Starfish

Are starfish like roses to mermaids? Who knows. But if you want an easy way to see what a starfish smells like, try Crave by Calvin Klein. How exactly do you extract the scent of a starfish? If it's like the movie Perfume, that seems like it would be pretty cruel to the starfish. PETA why aren't you on this?

5. Popcorn

I'm a fan of popcorn flavored Jelly Beans but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't actually want to smell like popcorn all the time. I'm a person, not a movie theater. Chérie by Dior is one of several perfumes that utilize the smell of popcorn.

6. Cactus

What do cactuses even smell like anyway? Taking time to smell the roses is a popular expression, but no one I'm familiar with ever wrote verses about the olfactory merits of the cactus. Plus the prickles probably discourage most people from putting their noses up against it.

7. Asphalt

I have a certain fondness for the smell of gasoline so I could see someone enjoying the scent of asphalt, but what does it really say about you? "Hey, I smell like a freshly paved road!" Perhaps it has a corny symbolic meaning, that you are on a new path in life. Or perhaps it says you just got hired to do highway maintenance.

8. Goat Hair

Goat hair, or hair of goat, sounds more like an ingredient in a witches' brew than in a perfume. This perfume is the work of Anya McCoy and is called Anya's Garden. She combines goat hair with more normal ingredients like cedar and patchouli.

9. Galanga

Galanga is a weird-looking plant related to ginger that is used in African hoodoo. It's also used in several perfumes like Opium by Yves Saint Laurent. In hoodoo galanga is worn as a good luck and protection charm. Perhaps the perfume can do the same.

10. Hyrax Droppings

A hyrax is an adorable little rodent, a sort of combination of a rabbit and squirrel in appearance. Luckily for the hyrax, perfumers only need its droppings to derive musk and other scents. In fact, perfumers usually seek out fossilized versions of hyrax droppings from caves where the hyrax used to live.

I used the fun website Fragrantica to compile this list. The website lets you look up any reasonably well-known perfume's known ingredients. Some scents that almost made the list were bacon, BBQ, vinyl, and ink.


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    • profile image

      Letitia 3 years ago

      Cheers pal. I do apirtcpaee the writing.

    • mikielikie profile image

      mikielikie 4 years ago from Texas

      Hmmm.... Interesting hub. Great job