Perfume’s Chemical Reaction

After receiving my May 2010 issue of Marie Claire Magazine today, I sighed and thought “Ahh, just want the doctor ordered…now I can relax on the couch and read it cover to cover before the school bus arrives to interrupt my solitude.”

I was enjoying an afternoon of relaxation, with the warm breeze blowing in through the open doors, the birds chirping and the sweet scent of the orange blossoms filtering through from the Navel trees outside.  I flip to the article on perfume, and was delighted! My favorite subject, and near the end…what a great ending to this fabulous issue.

I started reading “My Chemical Romance” by Martha McCully, and my blood started boiling…what is she talking about!  Hating perfumes, who is this wack-job and why are they letting her write a piece on perfume?!?!  I read further thinking it will get better, and we come to the “vomit reflex” portion of the article.  What?  Seriously?  Sure, I can see an aversion to an ingredient or two, but a vomit response…give me a break.

“I have a love/hate relationship with fragrance… It’s just like a love affaire… Although I truly want to love perfume, I can actually feel sick when I smell it,” says this author.

The author relating her love/hate reactions towards a perfume with a love affaire was ridiculous!  Why not stick with the subject…relating our “first date” impressions with a perfume’s top notes, the infatuation period of courtship with the heart notes, and the stability and commitment ratings of your beau with a fragrance base notes.  This would have been a much more plausible correlation between a love-affaire and perfume.

This is my idea of relating a fragrance's bouquet to a love-affaire...

  • Top Notes - first-date impressions
  • Heart Notes - courtship's infatuation period
  • Base Notes - relationship's stability and commitment

I “got” the point the author was trying to make, sort of, but her reasoning was totally off.

Experts the author interview said…“What you like or don’t like has to do with your brain… Fragrances can trigger certain pathways that stimulate what’s called the vomit center.”

It’s not the emotions and memories evoked by a scent. I don’t wear strong florals because I don’t want to smell like my mom, and I don’t want my husband wearing Old Spice because I’ll picture my grandfather while we make-out…but that doesn’t mean that I “hate” florals or have the urge to “vomit” when I smell cheap aftershave.

It’s not the chemical versus natural ingredients. The striking scent of the orange blossoms and the mingling fragrance of my wilting Petunias and Alyssums are beautiful in my garden, but they don’t belong in a bottle on my dressing table.  Natural aromas are best in their natural environment, and labs can make truer scents more stable that keep longer in our perfumes…or we wouldn’t shell out $50 a pop, right ladies?

I agree with Veronique Ferval, from IFF, that was quoted as saying “For me. It’s not about synthetic versus natural. You need both to make a creation.”

It’s not that we hate being bombarded with scent, if we truly didn’t like it, companies would stop making scented-everything.  The fact is, we love it! No hate involved.

This “hating” happens when the scents surrounding us don’t mix well together for “us” as an individual.

The aversion to perfume this author writes about is inaccurate, it’s dislike to a combination of scents…that’s why we all like different perfumes, we like diverse “bouquets” of fragrance.  Most perfume houses don’t release a body care line after the initial launch of a new scent, so we tend to mix and match lotions and gels, and perfumes willy-nilly based on what’s on hand.  The result is often disastrous.  The ideal is to use all the smelly-stuff to create a cohesive bouquet of aroma that is beautiful to each individual, and I promise any repugnance will dissipate.

I have a small fascination with fragrance, from my Yankee Candles to my Nag Champa incense, from my weekly visits to Bath & Body Works to my monthly visits to the Macy’s perfume counter, from my scented car fresheners to my 20 minute decision on what I want my clothes to smell like when selecting a fabric softener at Target. Well, maybe it’s more of scent obsession. My gal-pals have encouraged me to blog about my opinions and knowledge of fragrance…since I’m the go-to gal for all things smelly. On a recently created blog at, I started a new series on Scent-Combos, the pairing of scented body wash and lotion with a perfume. If we could inform others about what scent group they like and help them design a collection of similar fragrant items, we could transform the world of scent and convert all these “Haters” to be like us!

Although my “chemical reaction” to this article was not great… the rest of the issue is, as always, Spectacular!  Check out the Marie Claire website to read about the no-makeup, ‘o natural beautiful Jessica Simpson.