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All about Perfumes

Updated on March 26, 2015

All about Perfumes

The alchemy of fragrances.

In the article I will draw your attention to the secrets and alchemy of fragrances. Also I will separately focus on perfume practices in different parts of the world. How has the perfume theory developed? What actually is this liquid that people all over the world praise so much? What is the expert advice on how to choose personal fragrances and what is aroma therapy? If you are interested in all this - than the article is a right place for you.

In fact numerous studies have proved that perfumes effect mood, health and even character of an individual. People wearing specific perfumes start to attain particular set of characteristics, either positive or not so. Thus choosing an aroma one should know better what spirits he will deal with. I hope the article will be useful and informative for you and will help in deciding your perfume. Enjoy the post!


Introduction: Overview of Perfume

Literally every nation has it’s long-standing traditions of treating and healing the body and soul with aromas. Archeological finds and texts prove that people began to use fragrances many thousand years ago during the ancient civilizations, namely Mesopotamian, Etruscan, Egyptian, Persian, Indian, Roman, Greek, and other. According to historical texts various spices and herbs like coriander, myrtle, almond, bergamot and numerous flowers were used in fragrance practices. It is believed that perfumes originated in Mesopotamia round 2nd millennium B.C. and that they were extracted by a chemist woman. However some archeological finds refer to Cyprus as a cradle of perfumery. Though, perfumery as a new commercial brand started no earlier than in late 1800s - when new and crucial for that period fragrant chemical compounds were synthesized and let into mass production. Those fragrant chemical compounds were first of all coumarin and vanillin. The word perfume stands for ‘through smoke’ and comes from Latin.

Every perfume brand has its own and unique fragrance recipe (chemical formulae) secret. However the basic idea behind each perfume secret is that all perfumes consist of (fragrant) essential oils, aroma compounds, solvents, and fixatives – as the key elements. Aromas can be either naturally extracted from flowers, citruses, trees, plants, (even animals), etc. or synthetically manufactured. The naturally extracted fragrances and essential oils are supposed to be more expensive and have a more positive effect on health. Nevertheless synthetic essential oils of high quality prove to be as good as the naturally extracted ones.


Worldwide Perfume Practices


India has its own unique traditions in fragrances, incenses, and oils. Most traditional Indian “perfumery” is based on incense technologies. Unlike other fragrances, incense release their scent only when burned. Thus incense sticks are the more commonly used perfumery means in India. Incense are used in Indian religious ceremonies and for personal use. It is believed (and also scientific evidence exists) that some incense fight harmful bacteria and are good for health and immune response. The most common component of Indian incense is sandalwood, bergamot, lime, patchouli, bdellium, etc. Some incense are combined with essential oils. They are also used for physical and spiritual purification and for meditation practices. There are different types (likewise in perfumery) of natural odorants, here belong: wood and barks, resins and gums, leaves, seeds and fruits, roots and rhizomes, buds and flowers, and animal derived material. By the way, such incense sticks known as Joss sticks are also traditional fragrance in China. There they are also used for religious ceremonies and festivals.

Iran and Easter tradition.

One of the early documents dated before 10th century A.D. on extracting fragrances belong to Arabian chemist (Al Kindi). The book contains numerous recipes and technological details which by all means were implemented latter and contributed to development of perfumery as what we know today. Further details and sophisticated insight into the study of aromas were made by Avicenna (Persian scientist and chemist). He made a grate contribution into development of perfumery chemistry and understanding of philosophy of plants, scents, human senses, etc.

Perfumery in Europe.

Perfumery starts to become popular in Europe (in Italy, Florence, France, Hungary, etc.) by early middle ages. It is said that they were introduced by monks. Perfumery developed predominantly in Hungary and Italy first and then was introduced further to France. In the middle age Europe perfumery served hygienic purposes first of all. As the hygienic situation was very specific in Eastern Europe during these years, essential oils helped to fight some illnesses and insanitary disorders. It was no earlier than by late 19th century that perfumery started to receive aesthetic attention. HenceFrance andItaly become central perfumery houses and a new epoch of aromas developed. Among the perfumery houses are: Dior, Givenchy, Gucci, Guerlain, Elizabeth Arden, Nina Ricci, Revlon, and many others


Perfumery Theory

There is a number of perfume sub-classes which depend on fragrance concentration contained in the aromatic mixture, i.e. solvent. Here belong: perfume extract - with the highest concentration of aromatic essence. Then normally comes esprit de perfume, eau de perfume, eau de toilette, eau de cologne, perfume mist, and lastly splash and after shave – with the least concentration of aromatic fragrance. However this scale of fragrance oil concentration is not a must for perfumery industry. Perfumery brands (houses) decide their own concentration percentage that makes their product unique.

The solvent itself usually is a pure ethanol or ethanol-water mix. But it is not necessarily that only ethanol be used as a solvent. There are other neutral fragranced oils that work perfectly as solvents. Here belong jojoba, coconut, liquid waxes or other oils where perfume oils are diluted.

Aromatic compounds of perfumes can be made of perfume oils or natural essential oils. Thus perfumes vary by quality and intensity of aromas and their longevity.

Note: Ethanol is commonly known as alcohol, spirits, drinking alcohol, ethyl alcohol, or pure alcohol. It is a colorless, flammable, volatile liquid. Also it is classified as a psychoactive drug.


Fragrance Categories and Expert Advice on Wearing Fragrances

Hardly there can be anything immaterial as difficult to describe in word as fragrances (likewise music). However there are such perfume connoisseurs that in words draw the sensual picture of aromas. So that when you read you imagine how the perfume would scent like. As elements of perfume aromas consist of top, middle, and base notes of fragrances - perfume descriptions interpret this scent gradation into words. These sophisticated connotations can really spread spells and make you literally rave for that particular scent. Perfumery is a passion, a passion for sensual impressions!

Perfumery for women is normally called Eau de Perfume, while that for men – Eau de Cologne. There are also characteristic female or male aroma elements that belong to a particular scent family.

The scent notes are real philosophy and art! The first impression that we receive comes from the top scent notes, then middle noted unwind and the base notes crown the perfumery accord. When applied, wait at least half an hour to grasp the true scent of the perfume – as base notes do not reveal themselves at once. If you have a fine sense of smell you will be able to distinguish all three scent notes and their accord as they alter and infuse one another. In fact meticulous chemistry and research underlie every perfumery product.

I have already mentioned that perfumes belong to scent families, professionally speaking to olfactive families. These are categories of fragrance types – for example do they scent like flowers or wood, or something else? Usually it is the main note or scent that would attribute the perfume to a particular olfactive family – as every fragrance would have a mix of different scents present in it. This classification is one of the base ones. Further descriptive details would be required to compose a more comprehensive impression of a perfume. The traditional olfactive family would include the following categories: single floral, floral bouquet, ambered (oriental), wood, leather, chypre, and fougere. However in mid 1900s further categories were introduced, namely: bright floral, green, ozonic (or aquatic, oceanic), citrus, fruity, and gourmand.

Every person would inherently tend more towards particular scents, for example floral or leather, or some other. The correctly matched perfume adds mystery to the person’s image while inaccurately worn perfume may make it comic. There are perfumes that are worn never but at late evening parties, there are also specially day-time fragrances, and so on – depending on the season, time, mood, clothes, occasion, and the overall personality. Now most cosmetic shops use a so-called fragrance wheel classification of fragrances. It lays all key scent categories in a well structured visual succession.

The sources of scents as I have already mentioned above are plants, flowers, buds, leaves, citruses, fruits, etc. Now I’d like in more detail speak about this perfume sources. Cascarilla, cinnamon, sassafras root, safrole, etc. – belong to bark category. Rose, jasmine, mimosa, tuberose, ylang-ylang blossoms, clove buds, osmanthus, narcissus, and other belong to flowers and blossoms category. To fruits and citruses: apples, cherries, berries, vanilla, lemon, lime, oranges, and many other. Twigs and leaves: patchouli, lavender, violets, citrus, rosemary, tomato or cucumber leaves, etc. Seeds: coriander, nutmeg, cocoa, anise, cardamom and other. The wood category includes rosewood, sandalwood, pine, cedar, and many other. Also oakmoss and treemoss have become very popular recently. Do not be surprised to learn that in perfumery even petrified excrements of animals as well as deer musk and odorous sacs of civets, mongoose are used.



Aromatherapy is also an ancient aesthetic-medical practice. Aromatherapy belongs to an alternative medicine practice which is based on fragrance and essential oil effect on health, mood, etc. Some essential oils prove to be very effective against harmful bacteria, illnesses, and stresses. The methods implemented in aromatherapy are: direct inhalation, aerial diffusion, and as topical applications (in the form of baths, massage, etc.).

How to apply perfume

How to Choose a Fragrance

How To Make Your Perfume Last Longer


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