Perfume experts cannot stress this enough: what smells good on one person may smell different on another. It’s not just a matter of taste or preference or a matter of how the nose perceives a certain smell. Rather, it’s a matter of how the body reacts with the ingredients of a certain fragrance. The truth is that a brand of perfume can be the Number 1 best-selling fragrance across the globe but it’s not going to smell great on everyone because of each person’s unique body chemistry.
We’ve created this post here to help you understand how body chemistry affects perfume, before you go ahead and make any purchase. We’re pretty sure that the last thing you want is to smell bad on a date with the new scent that you just bought!
There are three major skin types, and each type reacts differently to fragrances. Dry skin is characterized by nearly invisible pores, low elasticity, and rough complexion. Fragrances easily evaporate on dry skin as there is not much oil for the fragrance molecules to adhere to. For fragrances to work well on dry skin, it is ideal to moisturize with an unscented – or similarly scented – lotion before spraying on fragrance to maximize its longevity.
Normal skin is characterized by an almost flawless complexion with few or no imperfections, and barely visible pores. As normal skin has more oil content than dry skin, fragrances have a better lasting power. The best skin type for fragrances to cling to is oily skin. Oily skin on the face may not be desirable, but on the rest of the body, it means better adhesion to fragrance molecules.
The effect of skin type on fragrances is especially remarkable with cologne and eau de toilette with flowery, citrusy or fruity aromas as these have light scents and high volatility. On the other hand, oily skin perfectly complements musky perfume as the oil molecules bond together to shape depth and character to the scent.
The role of pheromones in one’s body chemistry has arguable impact on how fragrance smells on one person. Pheromones are predominantly secreted in the neck and other erogenous areas, which is why they are commonly called “sex scent”. Each person has a distinct, unique smell that is attributed to pheromones. However, science research in this particular field still has much room for improvement, and many facts are debatable. Fragrances can either be compatible or incompatible with one’s pheromones – this explains why the same bottle of perfume can smell good on one person but not on the other. There are even some products which attempt to take advantage of this idea, but there’s still a huge debate as to whether it really works.
One of the more obvious factors that springs to mind when body chemistry is mentioned is Sweat. How much a person sweats depends on several factors such as diet, race, and physical activity. Asians are known to sweat less than Europeans, Africans, and Americans. People living in cool climates also sweat less than those who live in warm climates. When sweat mixes with fragrances, there results a reaction, which may vary among ingredients and brands of perfume and personal body chemistry. Summery scents such as orange and grass are found to mix well with sweat. These scents are actually amplified when mixed with perspiration, taking on a certain depth when the sweating subsides and only the scent lingers.
Examples of fragrances that do well with perspiration are Hermes Eau D’ Orange Verte, L’ Artisan Parfumeur Timbuktu, and Chanel Allure. On the other hand, there are also ingredients that smell foul when they get mixed with sweat such as blackcurrant leaf. In general, musk and wood also do not complement sweat, so these are better reserved for cooler weather or in much relaxed activities.
Diet and Personal Lifestyle
Unbeknownst to many, diet can have a tremendous effect on a person’s overall scent, which also interacts with fragrance. A person with a balanced diet – composed of meat, veggies, fruits, nuts, and dairy in recommended portions – smells differently from a person with a rigid diet of just one or two of the main food groups. Vegans and vegetarians smell different from people whose diet consists mainly of meat or fish. People who frequently eat spicy food also have a distinct, strong smell that can impart a spicy undertone to fragrances. Similarly, taking medication for prolonged periods can also alter the chemical makeup of the body, significantly affecting bodily scent.
A person’s unique body chemistry primarily explains why fragrances smell different from one to another. A brand of perfume can be a big hit in the market but if it doesn’t work with a person’s body chemistry, it’s definitely not going to smell good. Hopefully this article helps you better understand how body chemistry affects perfume. To choose a suitable fragrance, it is important to actually try the perfume personally instead of just yielding to recommendations and advertisements.
Many departmental stores in Singapore offer tester sets at their premises, which allow you to have a feel and whiff of the perfume before purchase. For those that do not have the luxury of time and would still very much like to order that perfume which you have been eyeing, our recommendation would be to get the mini version first. This way, you can still give it to a friend or relative, should you find that it’s not suitable for your body type.
References & Further Reading
- Beauty and the Bath has a similar guide on how body chemistry affects perfume, specially catered to women
- Smell, Pheromones and the Subconscious Influence of Scents
- Smithsonian Mag – The Truth About Pheromones
Also published on Medium.