A Couple Scientific Scent Tidbits
As a soapmaker, scent is a very important part of what I do. Certainly a primary function of soap is scent removal, but the scent of the soap itself is equally important. Have a look at the dizzying array of my bath salt or lotion fragrances if you doubt me.
Thus, it’s important for me to understand what scents people will like, and why they like what they do. It’s fascinating really, and it’s all very scientific. We all know from experience that our sense of smell is very powerful; well there’s a tremendous amount of research that backs all this up. Here’s some scientific scent stuff I thought I’d share.
Psychology of Fragrance Use: Perception of Individual Odor and Perfume Blends Reveals a Mechanism for Idiosyncratic Effects on Fragrance Choice (Lenochová, Vohnoutová, et al.)
In this study, the researchers challenged the common notion that fragrances make life more pleasant because they mask our natural odors. In a series of three experiments, the authors found that fragrances in fact interact with our natural scent, combining to create an odor that is more pleasant than either a perfume or natural body odor alone.
Furthermore – and this is the cool part – it seems that people tend to gravitate to fragrances that enhance their own specific natural scent. This may be why people want to sample a perfume on their own skin before buying. The perfume will apparently smell subtly different depending on who is wearing it. This research deals specifically with perfume, but I think we can infer that the same applies to scented bath and body products like soaps and lotions. I guess mint chocolate chip smells good on me!
Speaking of perfumes, here’s another scientific scent tidbit– the phenomenon of olfactory fatigue, which is something we’ve all experienced but for which we may not have known the scientific name. Basically, our sense of smell adapts to ignore scents we’re exposed to for a prolonged period of time. The theory is that our brain is trying to prevent sensory overload, and allow us to remain vigilant for fragrances that are new.
I mention olfactory fatigue in the context of perfume because if you’re wearing it, you need to be aware that this happens. After a while, you’re not going to be able to smell what you’re wearing. Keep in mind though, that the others you encounter will probably be able to, so there might not be a need to use more.
Here’s a neat tip: you can refresh your sense of smell by getting a whiff of coffee. Apparently, perfume counters sometimes keep a supply of coffee beans on hand so that people can recharge their senses and keep on sniffing.