How Perfume Works

When you buy perfume for yourself or someone else, your nose makes the decision on which one you like best. But did you know there’s real science behind creating the perfect scent? Perfume consists of many different ingredients, but it is diluted in a specific way to help you distinguish the different smells. The steps of creating a new perfume also involve many different players, including the fragrance houses and their affiliates.

Main Ingredients of Perfume
Even if you knew the ingredients list of your favorite perfume, you wouldn’t be able to replicate it exactly. That’s because the smells occur in certain ratios and are diluted to reach your noise in separate waves. But all perfumes use a mix of essential oils, aroma compounds, and solvents. The solvents typically include water and ethanol, which helps increase the intensity and longevity of the different scents.

Why Perfume Is Always Diluted

You may have noticed that perfume is always heavily diluted. Is that because the manufacturers are stingy with their fragrance oils? Not at all. In this case, the dilution has to do with how people perceive smells. If you added all the perfume smells together as perfume oil, you wouldn’t be able to distinguish between them. It’s a little bit like listening to an orchestra playing all the notes in the symphony at once. You can hear them, but you can’t really appreciate them separately.

To ensure that you can distinguish between the different smells, perfume manufacturers dilute the scents with alcohol. This way, when you notice a sweet smell, you can distinguish that you’re smelling mango and jasmine and cherry – instead of just smelling something generally sweet.

How Perfume Smells Are Noticed

Every perfume is made up of three different parts. It has a top note, a heart note, and a base note. These smells are all part of the perfume, but because of the composition, they’re not noticed at the same time. The lightest molecules evaporate first – the top notes. Later, the heart and base notes follow.

The top notes are the scents you notice within the first 15 minutes of applying the perfume. In many cases, these first notes include unusual, spicy, and even unpleasant odors. These are included to get you to be interested in the perfume, but the smells don’t linger long enough to offend your nose.

After 3 to 4 hours of wearing the perfume, you’ll notice the heart notes. This is the smell that you associate with your favorite perfume and remember when you use it again. For example, a floral perfume will have flowery smells in its heart notes.

Finally, the base notes become noticeable after 4 to 5 hours of applying the perfume. The base notes give the lighter scents some strength. The base includes musky, watery, mossy, and woody chemicals, which will linger for a while.

How Perfume Is Made
The process of creating perfume is not an easy one. It involves the seller of perfume, the fragrance house, and its affiliates. If a company wanted to launch a new perfume, they would first detail what they were looking for in a brief. The brief explains what the perfume should smell like and who it would appeal to. This brief gets sent to different fragrances houses that will each make a bid on creating the perfume.

The staff at the fragrance house starts off by making an ingredient list. But even once the perfumer knows what will go into the perfume, the work is far from over. The next step is mixing the smells in the different ratios. And remember, the perfumer also has to control which scents are released first and second by controlling the evaporation rates. There will probably be 10 to 100 of different version of the perfume in the beginning. These are evaluated by specialists at the fragrance house. It can take an experienced perfumer quite some time to create a new perfume that follows the specifications of the buyer.

Once the fragrance house decides on their top contenders, they send them to the perfume seller. The seller will decide which of the perfumes they like best. But they could also dismiss them entirely. As a last step, they may ask for modifications on the perfume, such as lowering a specific ingredient. Then the fragrance house with the best creation receives the contract for the perfume. But the perfume company still doesn’t know the specific formula for creating the new scent – only the staff at the fragrance house.

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