Why do people like some scents and not others? Scent can be incredibly personal so how on earth do you go about choosing the perfect perfume for someone? Join us as we poke our nose into the world of science and scents, and provide some helpful tips for choosing the right fragrance for someone else.
Of our five senses – sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste – only one has a direct route to the part of our brain related to memory and emotion. Smells are read by our olfactory bulb, and then travel straight to our limbic system, allowing scents to have an immediate impact on our experiences.
We’ve all seen the articles about how pheromones may or may not play a role in our love lives, but there are a ton of examples where our nose is doing much of the heavy lifting. Harvard researchers explained how the flavor of the food we eat is actually determined by smell rather than taste. If you pinch your nose while eating a cookie, you are likely to only taste something sweet as opposed to enjoying the complexity of flavor from a home-made chocolate chip cookie fresh out of the oven.
|In fact, in the womb, smell is the only fully developed sense a fetus has, and it remains the most developed sense well into childhood, according to Dawn Goldworm . Goldworm, an olfactory branding expert, goes further to suggest that much of the smells we like and dislike are defined as children. Neuroscience research makes clear that humans hardly ever perceive odors in a neutral or purely objective way, but rather smells are loaded with strong feelings and can help to instantly recall a past event or memory.||
(Your favourite smells are often defined in childhood)
Unfortunately, outside of a dislike for the smell of bodily fluids, disease and rotten foods, there doesn’t appear to be too much we universally agree on when it comes to smells (unless you fall into to the ‘everybody loves the smell of a baby’ camp). Even then, some people enjoy ‘stinky smells’ – going as far as to become a tourist attraction at the Chicago Botanic Garden – with thousands of people queuing to get a whiff of a corpse flower, which, as the name implies, is said to smell like a mix of rotting fish, sewage, and the deceased.
So how do you go about picking a fragrance for someone? We have three-fold strategy when it comes to selecting a scent for someone else to help you pick the perfect, fragrant gift.
1) Make it personal
Your best bet for selecting the right fragrance will depend on how well you know the person you are buying for. So much of smell is tied to our memory. For instance, I love the smell of lavender in large part because it was my grandmother’s preferred scent. From perfume, to body wash and candles, I remember going with my mom every year to pick up a new lavender gift set to go in my grandma’s stocking at Christmas. For me, lavender is simple, classic, fresh and understated, just like my grandmother.
Does the person you are shopping for like to camp? Many of us love the outdoors, and are inclined towards smoky and earthy smells that remind of us sitting around a campfire on a starry night. Forest smells such as cedar, pine and florals are similarly well-liked for their immediate connection to nature. Picking a candle or a fragrance diffuser comprised of these smells can help to bring the outdoors inside for us along with those happy memories.
Or maybe the person you are buying for loves to travel – smell associations can vary from culture to culture. Help them travel to the mountains or fields of Provence with olive, lavender or verbena. Bring the Middle East into their living room with scents like fig, jasmine and argan. If the two of you have ever taken a trip together, why not source a fragrance from the region for an incredibly thoughtful gift with the added bonus of remembering the time you spent with one another.
2) Pick a mood
If you are buying a gift for someone you don’t know as well, like your child’s teacher or your new co-worker, you can lean on science to help choose a fragrance. Aromatherapy has seen a huge resurgence in recent years, and while the jury is out on the cause-and-effect relationship of essential oils and their ability to affect your mood, there is some positive correlation.
Shop by the mood you are hoping to achieve for the person you are buying for. Lavender may help to decrease anxiety. Peppermint may help to wake us up, and could be useful in invigoration. Lemon and rosemary are said to be able to enhance focus and help with cognitive performance. Cedar and orange smells could help to reduce tension.
After the year we’ve all had, burning a beautiful citrus-scented candle certainly can’t hurt.
3) When in doubt, pick the pretty one
While our nose is a dominating sense, you can always fall back on another one – sight. We are all partial to a certain aesthetic, and our perfume bottles or candle jars aren’t excluded from this judgement. If you have no idea what fragrance to choose then you can go by the packaging as well.
A great option for a gift that still makes a statement, is to go for a simple, classic and sustainable product line like Lothantique. Choosing a fragrance that is sustainably made shows that you care about Mother Nature and shop consciously. Or if you are inclined to the delicate and adorable, you may want to shop a line like Amelie et Melanie, and their heart-shaped soaps.
We are told not to judge a book by its cover, but if all else fails, pick a candle that will look beautiful as it burns or a chic bottle to sit on a bathroom shelf.