Perfume, a substance, a topic, so relatable to us all, yet one that seems to have so many questions left unanswered, unspoken, and behind closed doors.
Yet, don't fret as we have gathered the top, frequently asked questions, and answered them for you, to put all that aside!
1) What does the word “perfume” mean?
Deriving from the Latin language, the word ‘per fumus’ translates as ‘through smoke’. It refers to the aromatic bubble of scent formed around you when you spray your beautiful perfume onto your skin, and closely links to its history!
The habit of indulging in perfume dates to the beginning of civilisation, rooting from ancient Egypt, approximately 2000 BC, where incense was used for beatification and ceremonial purposes, including as an offering at the burial of mummies. Moreover, perfume was believed to be sacred, as it was considered ‘the sweat of the gods’.
Likewise, in ancient Greece, perfume was popularly used and spiritually valued. It was thought to be a gift from the gods, and many perfumes were even named after Greek goddesses. Furthermore, the act of wearing perfume, was considered to be pleasing for the gods.
2) How are perfumes made?
An intriguing yet simple question, most commonly left unspoken, and seen as the ‘perfumer’s secret’. Nevertheless, in fact, it is very direct and simple. The magicians behind this form of art, the perfumers, in reality, are half artists, and half scientists.
3) What is a ‘nose’ in perfumery?
A nose, deriving from the French word ‘le nez’; is simply another way of calling the perfumer. Experts in creating perfume compositions, their nose acts as their most powerful tool, due to their fine sense of smell and skill in producing olfactory compositions. It is therefore, fitting that they, themselves, along with their work, are referred to as the ‘art of being a nose’.
With fewer noses in the world than astronauts, this complex and intricate occupation has a very high barrier of entry. In historical reference, becoming a perfumer was commonly a ‘family business’, as you either followed your ancestor’s occupation footsteps, or you studied chemistry, and apprenticed in the fragrance industry.
Guerlain, Chanel, Shisedo, Cartier, the list goes on. Each and every one, of the established and renowned ‘Houses of Perfume’, have a set of noses who assemble the raw materials, creating odorant compositions for their specific house. With fragrance houses growing annually, this assemblage, creates harsh competition amongst the houses and their noses.
4) What is the oldest perfume?
If answering the question most accurately, the first evidences of perfume production were in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, which in parts, is today's modern-day Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey. The art of perfume making was then picked up by the Persians and the Romans.
Yet if referring more specifically to what we know to be ‘perfume’ today, then the oldest is the “Queen of Hungary’s Water” or “L’eau de la Reine de Hongary”, created in 1370. With many myths circulating its history, the truth lying behind this legendary perfume has long been lost in the mists of time, merely leaving behind intriguing whispers of its past, secrets of who it was created for, and tales of the magical alchemists, and their recipe.
From our knowledge, it was created for the spouse of Charles Robert of Hungary, Elisabeth de Pologne. Commonly also referred to as the “Spirits of Rosemary”; the oldest surviving recipe reveals that the fragrance was basically a rosemary base, with thyme, macerated in wine spirit. Queen Elizabeth wore it almost every day, and it is believed that at the end of the XIII century, the recipe of the perfume was even called on the recommendation of doctors, including, Arnaud de Villeneuve and Raymond Lulle in Montpellier.
5) What is the most expensive perfume overall?
Clive Christian, No 1 Imperial Majesty. A perfume designed with perfection in mind, and one that LITERALLY, will make you feel a million dollars… This lavish and highly exclusive perfume holds the Guinness World Record for the most expensive perfume in the world, released in a 10-bottle run in 2005 at $205,000 for each 500ml bottle. Along with the enchanting ingredients of the perfume, such as Tahitian vanilla, and hints of Rose Centafolis, the bottle itself is worthy of your jaw dropping… Presented in a Baccarat crystal flacon, decorated with a five-carat white diamond, and an 18-carat gold collar, the price of this extra-vagant perfume also includes delivery in a Bentley!
6) What is the most expensive perfume as per the ingredients/ formula?
Joy by Jean Patou. Presented in 1929, as 'the world's most expensive perfume' right at the time of The Great Depression, and at a time when the market of luxury fashion crashed. Jean Patou's house could only survive perfumes, thus Joy was received as an antidote to depression and the pessimism surrounding it.
With a rather simple bottle, this Floral Aldehyde fragrance for women ranks among the most expensive perfumes due its formula. Consisting of, 28 dozen roses, and 10,600 jasmine flowers, which require in producing ONLY a single bottle, the formula also includes other rare ingredients, such as florals, like Tuberose, and Orange Flower, along with musky notes: Ambergris (the sperm of whales), and finally traces of citrus and woody nuances.
Created by talented Spanish perfumer, Henri Almeras, the care, and intricacy put into its production, leaves no surprise why this fragrance still remains extraordinary and timeless. With time, Joy attained enormous success and became the second bestselling perfume of all time, following the unbeatbale Chanel N°5.
7) Eau De Parfum (EDP) or Eau De Toilette (EDT)?
We’re most familiar with these two, yet in fact, the list of variations doesn't end there, with an overall of 6 main variants that you should know about. Yet no need to be confused any longer!
Starting from Eau Fraiche. Although not commonly seen on the market, this variant has the lowest percentage of alcohol, between 1-3%. The best performing fragrances of Eau Fraiche usually last up to 2 hours, maximum. It is a great variant for people with sensitive skin, as with low alcohol %, majority of the volume is just water, and hence can be applied onto the skin without the fear of much irritation.
Next, Eau de Cologne. Similar to Eau Fraiche, with slightly better performance, and 2-4% of alcohol. It’s scent also usually lasts for up to 2hours and is worn for freshness. EDC’s commonly come in bigger bottles, and the idea is to spray on a good volume and keep reapplying it. Expect strong citrus and herb notes to pop in the EDCs for freshness and brightness.
Body Mist. Popularly sold in fashion brands such as Victoria Secrets, they consist of 7% alcohol, and usually last around 2 hours, so you will need to top up throughout the day to retain the scent to last longer. It is commonly recommended to spray on after your shower.
Now, Eau de Toilette. One of the most popular concentrations of fragrances, with an alcohol percentage of 10-15%, and good performance, lasting from 2-3 hours and is cheaper than EDP. EDT derives from the French term “faire sa toilette”, translating as ‘to get ready’, and is usually worn as a day fragrance.
Eau de Parfum. Another popular variant, which has an alcohol percentage of 15-20%. It has high concentration, and lasts a strong 4-5 hours, hence the bottle lasts longer. EDPs are suitable for most occasions, and due to its strength, a few sprays should last you the entire evening, so you don't even need to reapply!
Finally, Extract Parfum. One of the strongest concentrations of fragrance, and thus the most expensive. It has an alcohol percentage greater than 20%, so you can be rest assured that this scent would last you all day, between 6-8 hours! Due to its premium price, most people don’t indulge in parfums… yet it should be noted, that they are great for people with sensitive skin, as they have lower alcohol percentage, and hence don’t dry the skin out.
8) Are you wearing your fragrances correctly? Our tips to wear your perfume like a PRO!
There are a few habits that we all have when applying our perfumes, yet some are merely ‘old traditions’, and not necessarily correct…
For instance, where should you spray your perfume? Perfume wears best in areas that are exposed most to the air; such as the pulse points of the neck, the wrists, or your inner elbows. These areas are also usually warmer, which helps the fragrance to be projected more. It is also important to note, that perfume doesn't last long on dry skin, so an unscented moisturiser is useful to use prior your scent application, to avoid olfactory interference.
Another tip we’d like to share, is…don't rub, just spray! I’m sure I’m speaking to most of you, when I say that we have sprayed a scent onto our wrists, and then have rubbed them together… well actually this is wrong in application. Rubbing your wrists together, you create friction, heating the skin, which thus produces natural enzymes that change the course of your scent. Therefore, to preserve the crispiness and the veracity of your perfume, ensuring it lasts longer too, then simply spray your wrists lightly, and let your skin indulge and soak up the aromatic liquid on your skin!
9) Is it ok to spray perfume onto my hair?
Following from the previous question, ABSOLUTELY!
This is most relevant to those who live in hot climates, as you are more prone to sweating, and so your natural oils are likely to destroy your perfume faster. Thus, instead of spraying directly onto your naked skin, your alternatives are spraying your hair, or clothes! Easy and long lasting too! Be prepared to turn heads, as you walk by, with the swift breeze diffusing your perfume, leaving a trail of your specific smell.
10) Why can't I smell my perfume but others can?
In simple terms, everyone’s noses are different, and this is called ‘olfactory adaption’. The process of smelling is rather simple. When you first smell the fresh spray of the perfume on your skin, the scent receptors in your nose, transmit a signal to the limbic system of your brain. This is when you decide how you feel about the scent, do you like it, love it, or not at all your taste! Following the branch of ‘liking the fragrance’, as you continue wearing the scent, with its presence, your brain slowly becomes more comfortable with the smell, and gradually you become immune to the aroma on you.