Pretty Perfume and the Science of Smells

While I don’t use perfume on a daily basis, there is always that lure to test out perfumes in the stores. Most of the time they a) smell really gross or b) blend together after a while. Either way, it ends badly. But what is perfume, why do so many women wear it, and what is it made of?

Well, I can tell you without any website that there is definitely alcohol in it. I remember overhearing my friend Jane say once, “Why do you think perfume burns on a cut? It’s because of the alcohol!” But, besides that, there are chemicals called essential oils, or essence. One site states, “All of these can evaporate very quickly when left open, and are generally gotten from the leaves or flowers of plants. For example, limonene is an essential oil that comes from lemon leaves and gives the familiar ‘lemon’ smell.” These essential oils are really expensive though, which explains a lot. Nowadays most perfumes are made with a combination of three essential oils.The quickly fading smells are called top notes, which are the ones that are your first impression. Examples include bergamot and citronella. Middle notes are the major part of the perfume and last for a few hours, like rose, juniper or marjoram. Base notes are last, but, as we now know the chemical nature, these can be made in a factory. Mixing these three types of oils gives you a unique, long-lasting fragrance, and, depending which three you use, you can create similar scents as found in nature. One example from a site states, “… a mixture that has geraniol, citronellol, phenylethyl alcohol and linalool in a ratio of 30:25:25:5 will smell just like roses!”

So why do some scents smell good and others bad? This comes from our sense of smell. (Okay, seems obvious, but you never know…) We can figure out what s in something, like the smell of alcohol, and, based on what they do, that’s how hey smell. Ammonia is not good for humans, and therefore smells bad us. Food, however, as it is good for us, smells good. This is why mot flowers and fruits smell good too, as they represent food. This also happens to other animals too, like bees.


So ta ta for now and I hope to see your chemical reaction soon!


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