The role of fragrance, perfumes.

I don't know if you can see it clearly but you are strongly hooked on your sense of smell. From all senses, this one is crucial when you want to live among decent people ”- Coco Chanel.

I don't know what exactly the designer meant by saying these words. Did she make being "decent" dependent on the smell you exude?

France apparently was not the cradle of perfume but its history is full of extremes in the area of fragrances. Louis XIV - was the Sun King and made France a superpower during his reign but certainly smelled worse than an old goat, which made it highly uncomfortable for the courtiers and the royal entourage. King Henry IV, who reigned before the Sun King "smelled such brutally that his contemporaries moved away in shock." [1]. Perhaps for this reason his mother-in-law, Catherine de Medici, surrounded herself with Florentine specialists who produced intense perfumes that her opponents called poisons. Maybe she was just trying to survive with the smelly son-in-law and the attempts to kill him were just a side effect of the treatment. Also the residences of the French monarchs (Versailles or Louvre) smelled worse than the Paris sewers because everyone from this "noble" society did its business where was standing. It was believed that frequent washing shortens life. No wonder that in such circumstances in the gentlefolks’ world arose a need to help the sense of smell. Nobody was going to wash, so it was necessary to create a system masking the odour of faeces and unwashed bodies. The answer to this need were perfumes sprayed abundantly on everyone and everything around (including lapdogs). However, the intense smell could occur to be life-threatening. During the political changes, when France turned from the monarchy to the republic, a citizen smelling like a flower was immediately suspected of an unpopular aristocratic background at the time and could have ended befriending with the guillotine. Fortunately, to compensate for the negative attitude towards perfume, the French Revolution introduced a fashion for washing, maybe not just crazy daily baths but at least regular hygiene of hands, feet and face. The later empress of the French, Josephine combined the two in one, took a bath and perfumed herself intensely. Her spouse - the venerable emperor Napoleon, during his daily spa, had his head rubbed with an eau de cologne. He also liked to swig it from time to time.

History of perfume: from embalming a corpse to Chanel No 5.

The need to be surrounded with nice fragrances was not born in the cloaca’s stinking Louvre. Perfumery practice were known since antiquity. In ancient Egypt, during embalming process, a corpse was emptied of smelly organs and replaced by the fragrant myrrh, flowers and herbs. Alive Egyptians rubbed their bodies with aromatic lotions and oils. The same was done in ancient Greece and Rome. Here is the description of the ancient perfuming procedure. "He immerges his feet and legs in strong Egyptian ointments, anoints his chin and breast with thick palm oil, and both arms with a decoction that smells like mint, eyebrows and hair with marjoram, knees and shoulder essence of crushed thyme" [2]. The perpetuated description shows that it was a very complicated procedure that reminds me the formula of an aromatherapy massage. It is not weird. In the early days, perfumery and pharmacology were related fields. By fuming and rubbing with herbal mixtures, people protected themselves in times of plague and cholera epidemics.

In antiquity, and even in the Middle Ages, they care about hygiene and used baths to remove not only dirt but also bacteria and viruses. Unfortunately, according to the doctrine of the Catholic Church established during the Council of Trent in the 16th century, the public baths were considered immoral and closed. The era of stink and epidemic downed. To protect one's aesthetic senses and to compensate for the lack of sanitizing functions provided by the baths, there came developed of an interest in intense, bad smell-covering scents. “It was a common believed that if someone smelled stronger, was more immune against plague, cholera and typhus. It was also assumed that the body's natural odor was a barrier against plague. On the other hand, water was considered a possible seedbed for diseases. Since washing, as it was believed, caused disease, it was replaced with carrying scented capsules in the pockets or hanging camphor charms on a neck. Censing with aromatic substances was also regarded as therapeutic measure against hysteria." [1]. We see a reference to aromatherapy again. Camphor - is a remedy known for home treatment of colds, especially coughs, and the floral waters, mainly used in that times, have a calming effect.

Rose water, used for centuries in Europe, is owed to the famous Persian scientist and physician Avicenna, who in the 10th century AD extracted the essential oil from rose petals. Perfumes came to Europe along with the Crusaders. Initially, the perfumes were scented small bags filled with flowers and herbs but it wasn’t fully effective. For example, king Henry VIII Tudor liked to decorated himself with such pouches to mask unpleasant smell of a festering wound on his leg. That measure didn't help much, so it shouldn’t be surprising that his last wives' feelings were more towards the king's courtiers. In the 14th century the first modern perfumes consisting of a combination of essential oils and alcohol were created. In fact, it was a mixture of rose water with the addition of rosemary based on an alcoholic solution.

Perfumes belonged to luxury goods because a lot of raw materials that were used to produce them. Synthetic equivalents of some ingredients appeared in the late 19th century (Belle Epoque era) making perfumes cheaper and therefore more accessible. “Here's an example: for 1 kg of jasmine extract, around 8 million hand-picked flowers are used and the price for a kilogram can be as high as 30.000 marks *. Meanwhile, synthetically produced equivalent costs just 10 marks **." [3].

Coco Chanel introduced a revolution to the world of clothes. She also started it in the world of perfumes. The couturier wanted her clients to wear a scent as well, so that the scent would be something permanent. Rose water, similarly to eau de cologne based mainly on natural components, was not a really persistent fragrances. It lacked a pinch of chemistry and  Coco Chanel was extremally generous with it. Her classic Chanel No 5 - it was: "a composition of jasmine, sandalwood and vetiver roots with an scandalously high percentage of aldehydes at that time." [4].

Nowadays, synthetic equivalents are everywhere. To a large extent, it is also used for marketing purposes to deceive our senses. Perfumes of recognized brands, although synthetic, are very expensive and again are classified as luxury goods.

Back to nature.

"Perfume is a breath of heaven", wrote Victor Hugo. On the other hand, Coco Chanel  claimed that: “There is no elegance without perfume. They are an invisible, unforgettable and unmatched accessory.”. Nevertheless, an ancient Roman writer, philosopher and politician Cicero stated the complete opposite, saying "A woman smells good when she does not smell at all.".

How to find the balance between a natural fragrance and a nice scent?

Using synthetic toilet products every day, we often forget what their real counterparts smell like. What is the aroma of real jasmine, patchouli, cedar wood? Does a popular car air fresheners in any way resemble the scent of pine? In my opinion, the human sense of smell, attacked by increasingly stronger, chemical stimuli, is overwhelmed. It becomes dull, just as hearing deteriorates from excessive listening to loud music. As a result, we merge with more and more fragrances, smelling more and more strongly, mistakenly assuming that if we don’t feel them, others will not smell them either. Sometimes, dealing with someone who is over-perfumed may be just as awkward as with someone unwashed. I’m recollected an eloquent scene from Szczepan Twardoch's book “The King” (original title "Król"), where the main protagonist went on a date with a girl to a theater. The infatuated young man wanted to smell the bride's perfume but he was unable to do it because in the row in front of them sat a lady abundantly sprinkled with perfume that obscured everything. Aside from the varying degrees of sensitivity to the sense of smell in different people, the fact that we do not smell the perfume on ourselves, may mean that it is well suited to us.

By joining nature with a pleasant scent, we can make our own perfumes at home, using natural oils, combined with a little alcohol as a fragrance fixer solution. In the case of spray perfumes, you may dilute the oils and alcohol with a little water or floral water. For perfume in a roll-on bottle, it is possible to use fractionated coconut oil as a diluent.

Below there are some examples that can be modified as you like because everyone has different preferences when it comes to fragrance. At this point, it is only about showing the possibilities of combining aromas.

A set that soothes the senses:

lavender, ylan ylang, neroli, pine, cedar.

A set stimulating the senses:

clove, orange, lime, mint, patchouli, rosemary.

A strong, male set:

vetiver, bergamot, lemongrass, myrrh, sandalwood, patchouli.

We may play with the aromas:

combine the spicy fragrances of cedar, sandalwood, myrrh with the scents of invigorating citrus: orange, tangerine, lemon or lime, spiked with mint, or, instead of citrus, use seductive floral aromas: neroli, geranium, ylang ylang or magnolia.

Maybe the fragrances will not be as persistent as their synthetic equivalents but they will give us pleasant, natural scent. Instinctively, we will choose the aroma of plants whose properties will be the most favourable for us at the moment. In this way, we not only express ourselves, mask the unpleasant smell but also take advantage of the aromatherapeutic properties of oils. However, we will fully benefit from their therapeutic benefits using only natural essential oils not their synthetic equivalents.

The smell affects the senses. The sense of smell was originally supposed to warn us of a danger before we saw or heard it. A person's smell can either attract or repel us. Aromas affect the sphere of our emotional feelings. The scent of citrus fruit will have an invigorating effect, the scent of flowers (e.g. neroli, ylang ylang, jasmine) will have a calming effect.

If we have a problem with excessive sweating and the so-called "odour under the armpit", instead of blending with perfumes in the style of the courtiers of Louis XIV, it is better to use a natural antiperspirant. Natural - means it does not block perspiration, only balances its pH. An example of a deodorant that does not block the body's natural processes of cleansing the body of toxins but only balances the bacterial flora of sweat, is the product of Forever Aloe Ever Shield - a deodorant based on aloe vera’s pulp.

Smells speak.

The aroma can lead to associations that illustrate the effect of a given plant on our senses.

Here are some associations that came to mind when I thought about relevant aroma:

1 / orange - the smell of joy,

2 / lemon - smell of vitality,

3 / rosemary - fragrance of wisdom,

4 / rose - the smell of love,

5 / frankincense - the fragrance of spirituality,

6 / mint - smell of concentration,

7 / lavender - the smell of peace,

8 / ylang ylang - the fragrance of relaxation,

9 / spruce - the smell of a soothing connection with nature,

10 / thyme - fragrance of balance,

11 / tangerine - carefree fragrance,

12 / patchouli - fragrance of seduction.

I encourage you to look for your own combinations of fragrances and create compound perfume that match the needs of our soul. Let's combine the nice smell of a given plant with its properties that can help us deal with, for example, the emotional sphere. Let the aromas speak to us.


[1] Source: Andrea Hurton "Erotic perfume or secrets of beautiful fragrances" (original title: “Erotiek van het parfum: hemelse geuren in heden en verleden”), Real Press, Warsaw 1994, page 38.

[2] Source: Andrea Hurton "Erotic perfume or secrets of beautiful fragrances" (original title: “Erotiek van het parfum: hemelse geuren in heden en verleden”), Real Press, Warsaw 1994, page 30.

[3] Source: Andrea Hurton "Erotic perfume or secrets of beautiful fragrances" (original title: “Erotiek van het parfum: hemelse geuren in heden en verleden”), Real Press, Warsaw 1994, page 50.

[4] Source: Andrea Hurton "Erotic perfume or secrets of beautiful fragrances" (original title: “Erotiek van het parfum: hemelse geuren in heden en verleden”), Real Press, Warsaw 1994, page 65.


* it is over 15 thousands EUR

** it is about 5 EUR


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