Fragrance, in its most raw form, has the power to elicit all sorts of emotions.
Don't believe us?
Think about how nostalgia affects your mood – the memory of spending time picking apples with your granddad can make you smile involuntarily. Now think about how the smell of apples can spontaneously incite that nostalgic moment. It's because the olfactory system – your sense of smell – is directly connected to the limbic system, the part of the brain responsible for interpreting memories and emotions.
And once we know that to be true, we can start to get smarter with our scent choices.
Azzi Glasser, master perfumer and creator of The Perfumer's Story, qualifies this thinking: 'Odours are developed in the cerebellum by the limbic system. As a result, specific odours have the ability to trigger strong emotions, which enhance our behaviour and mood.
'As such, fragrances are one of the most powerful tools one can use to enhance, entice, manipulate and motivate both yourself and those around you. The human sense of smell works on a cerebral as well as physical level.'
Think a simple scent can't alter your path in life? Think again.
With Azzi's help, we've compiled the perfumes with potentially life-changing powers. But first, we need to ask some important questions.
Can a perfume…
Get you more sex?
Sophie Beresiner, ELLE Beauty Director
'There are people at university I definitely wouldn't have 'invited in' had they not intoxicated me with their cologne. Yes, that was a period where disinhibitors (alcohol) featured more heavily, but the nostalgia I still get from a waft of Dior Fahrenheit for Men reaffirms my stance.
As such – and I won't prevaricate here – I was first attracted to my signature scent by one promise: be more sexy. Iso E Super is the synthetic single note in Escentric Molecules Molecule 01, apparently with pheremonic qualities that make you more attractive to the opposite sex.
Initially, wearing it made me more attractive to the same sex, in that women chased me down the street to ask what I was wearing. OK, so they didn't try to sleep with me, but 'attraction' has broad parameters.
Then, one day, nursing a drink while waiting for my friend, the barman asked me what scent I was wearing. He was nice looking, we talked about it a little, and then he slid a napkin across and asked me to write down the name. With my number beneath. Score! OK, so I didn't try to sleep with him, but a bona fide instance of perfume-induced attraction occurred.
Then there was that other time with a cab driver – similar story, similar outcome. Further research tells me the Iso E Super molecule is also found in Fahrenheit – so there you go, it worked on me, too.'
'There is no proof that chemical ingredient Iso E Super has a link to sexual attraction,' explains Azzi, 'but the scent is quite cedarwoody, amberish, quite velvety and subtle, which means you can't really not like it. I use civet as an animalistic note, which opens up the sensual drive.
'Cleopatra was known to rub it on her eyebrows before she met with Anthony – the rest is history. Some ingredients – including saffron, oudh and rose de mai absolute oil (featured in Fever 54) – add sensual twists by stimulating the pituitary gland to secrete endorphins, which improve your attractiveness to the opposite sex, and ylang ylang elevates your sexual energy.'
Try Scents That Are...Woody/Animalistic/Floriental
Can a perfume...
Help you through hard times?
Lila Roberts, ELLE Fashion Assistant
'As a student, Prada Candy was my elixir. Sweet, punchy and lingering, I remained faithful to its syrupy charms for years. Then I graduated, cut all refined sugar from my diet and something switched; call it scent association, but I couldn't wear it without wanting to indulge in the one thing I'd just sworn off.
I moved on, and although I knew Candy would forever hold a piece of my heart, I doubted I'd ever return to wearing it. But that mindset changed when, six months after graduating, my close university friend suddenly passed away. Somehow, and entirely subconsciously, his passing catalysed my mental retreat to that heartening perfume that book-ended my youth and scented our friendship.
During those first few months, I needed a comfort blanket – one that I could be completely silent with when I was lost for words – and I found it in the unlikely form of this scent. Just like having a 'song' together (we didn't – we just danced to everything and anything), it took me back to detailed memories. With just one whiff, I could go from lying on my bed with my head deep in the pillow, to a cocktail bar in Cardiff, laughing and joking with my dear, dear friend.
Candy had been a constant for me, and when grieving a sudden loss, I longed for that stability. Of course, perfume cannot cure grief (what can?), but, in my experience, it provided a surprising comfort at the hardest of times.'
'Scientists have proven that smells stimulate nerves in the nose, which send messages straight to the brain, directly affecting our emotional state.
Lavender is know to help induce relaxation, as it's associated with increased alpha waves in the back of the head, which, again, link with a more relaxed state.'
Try Scents That Are...Floral /Powdery/Musky
Can a perfume...
Help You Get A Better Job?
Joely Walker, ELLE Beauty Editor
'It was the morning of my interview. I'd done my research, prepped my project to within an inch of its life and spent a good hour the night before trying on 37 variations of essentially the same outfit.
In fact, the only thing I hadn't meticulously planned was my fragrance. Regardless, on my way out of the door, I reached for the most grown-up-job-worthy perfume in my collection – Chanel Les Exclusifs Coromandel.
Fast-forward to the interview: my stomach felt like wool and my sweat glands were working overtime. So far, so not #GirlBoss.
My interviewees took their seats. I was up. "What perfume are you wearing?" asks the editor. "Sorry?", I say. "Your fragrance, what is it?" "Oh, it's Chanel Coromandel," I reply. "Mmm, great taste." This, from the editor of a magazine. I whizzed through my project with a sudden self-assurance; I'd already been approved on at least one level. On reflection, was this the perfume, the compliment, or a combination of both that gave me the confidence boost I needed? I'm going with option C.
Its warm, smoky, subtle spiciness made me feel sophisticated, professional; like I was wearing Chloe cashmere when, in reality, it was Zara wool; like the scent equivalent of power dressing. I got the job, by the way. My scent broke the ice, made me stand out and gave a little insight into my personality and taste-level. Maybe I've been power scenting for years without even knowing it.'
'The aim of the game is creative, confident, memorable fragrances, rather than subtle, soft and pretty.' Think noticeable, but not overpowering. Sophisticated, but definitely not overly sexy. 'I created Sequoia Wood to improve confidence and add strength and rigour to those around you, together with creativity to improve your memory banks.
The freshness of neroli, blended with rich sequoia wood, is known to enhance your confidence, and the heritage of oudh and vetivert can help to improve your memory.' Stimulating cinnamon is known to help fight mental fatigue and boost concentration and focus, while Japanese employers pump jasmine through air-conditioning vents to improve alertness and curb afternoon slumps.
Try Scents That Are...Fresh/Oriental/Woody
Can a perfume...
Help you get your shit together?
Adam Reed, hairdresser and business founder
'My friends and colleagues call me Circus Brain – there is always so much going on in my head that I have difficulty ordering it – and as a creative mind, I find meeting and boardroom situations stressful.
I am much better equipped to use my hands than I am to use my brain in these (too-frequent) scenarios, so I have a trick where I spray some Le Labo Santal 33 on to a cotton handkerchief and inhale it.
Initially, I carried it to soothe me in times of stress: some of the most important women in my life wear this absolutely beautiful, warm and enveloping fragrance, so I associate it with them and the way they make me feel. Which is calmer, less chaotic, safe and protected.
Last year, on a trip to New York, I bought a new bottle – I was going on honeymoon and wanted to embed the scent memories so I could remember this time when I sprayed Santal. On the plane, all the crew in our cabin complimented me, and even our New York City cab driver – the first time one has ever spoken to me!
The reaction I receive when I'm wearing it, plus the reaction it stirs when I smell it, is incredible. It's almost like a bottled meditation for me: it brings me back to myself, and suddenly I feel better about everything.'
'Fragrances that are calming yet confident are always best suited for when you want to focus, concentrate and feel in control. Ingredients that are soft yet fulfilling, such as powder, rose, amber, sandalwood and patchouli, are a few that can help you achieve this through your scent.'
Try Scents That Are...Ambery/Woody/Rose
Can a perfume...
Help You Get Fitter?
Amy Hopkinson , Women's Health Digital Editor and Gym Instructor
Then there's my failsafe morning routine - a double espresso, inhaled (not literally) before heading to the gym. As a consequence, there's something about just catching a whiff of coffee (be it mine or someone else's) that instantly perks me up. Working for Women's Health I train a lot, and luckily I love it, but I'm aware how I associate the smell of coffee with cardio.
If I'm walking, I'll pick up the pace. If I'm lounging around, I'll feel like I need to get up and do something. It drives my boyfriend/roommate mad. Part of my morning routine is cleansing lemon in hot water and an apparently 'invigorating' citrus shower gel, and now when I smell citrus outside of that routine my mind feels clearer by association.
Perhaps that's the reason for my new fixation with Jo Malone Lime Basil & Mandarin? I think it's something about getting up, getting ready to go. My morning can inform my daily grind, so even if I accidentally recreate those feelings I feel good.'
'If you want to feel more energised, then look for fragrances that have a low number of base notes and an increased number of fresher top notes such as citrus oils and airy aquatic notes found in herbs, aldehydes and flowers.
'The fizziness of aldehydes are known to help depression as they spark the release of neurochemicals that induce euphoria and emotions of well-being.'