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Style File : Unraveling the Mystery of Fragrance

March 26, 1993|JANICE L. JONES

Why do some perfumes remind you of your elderly Aunt Emma and others make you feel elegant and sexy? Researchers say it has something to do with the connection between scent and memory in the brain, but the sense of smell is still very much a mystery to scientists.

Unlike other species, humans are oriented more toward visual and auditory stimuli. But perfumers haven't forgotten the pleasures of scent and are continually devising heady and enticing fragrances.

In fact, a trip to the perfume counter can be daunting, with more than 800 fragrances on the market. But a little knowledge of how fragrances are made and a basic understanding of the olfactory sense will help you add a fragrant mystique to your life . . . or someone else's.

The Different Types Perfume: The most concentrated, longest-lasting fragrance form. Eau de parfum: A lighter form designed to be sprayed all over the body, from the feet up, before dressing. Cologne or eau de toilet: The lightest form of fragrance. Designed for use as a refresher, not as a long-lasting application. After shave: A light combination of fragrance and astringent to heal small nicks and cuts. Does not provide a long-lasting affect.

Defining Fragrances The vocabulary of fragrance resembles that of music and fine wines: * Top notes: The scent detected immediately upon application. * Middle notes: Considered the heart of the fragrance, these emerge from their supporting role after the top notes evaporate. The fragrance develops, interacting with body heat and skin chemistry to form a unique aroma on the wearer. * Base notes: The fragrance's parting impression.

For Women Green: Reminiscent of sweet grasses, clover and dewy-green leaves. Spice: May include herbs such as cinnamon, cloves, ginger and cardamom, or spicy flowers such as carnations and lavender. Woody-mossy: Clean and crisp aromas of sandalwood, rosewood and cedar combined with oak moss and ferns for a foresty smell. Single florals: Capture the scent of a single flower such as a rose, violet or lilac. Floral bouquet: Often a blend of rose, tuberose, lily of the valley, jasmine and orange blossom. Fruity: Citrus qualities such as oranges and lemons often mellowed with a peach scent for warmth. Oriental: A sultry, powerful blend of exotic flowers and herbs combined with balsam, vanilla and musk. Modern blend: Provides a brilliant, clean scent that intensifies as it warms on the skin.

For Men Citrus: Derived from lemon, lime, orange and bergamot trees. Spice: Nutmeg, cinnamon and clove essences mixed with the herbs bay and basil. Leather: Cade oil from juniper trees of Morocco and birch tar from Finnish birch trees are used to create this scent. Oriental: Woody, mossy and spicy notes combined with aromas of balsam, vanilla and musk. Designed to have a strong, erotic appeal. Lavender: Made from French and Spanish lavenders. Fougeres (ferns): Yugoslav oak moss, labdanum resin from Spain and geranium oil from the Island of Reunion. Woody: Made from vetiver from Haiti and Java, sandalwood from India and cedar from Virginia.

Pulse Points The quintessential feminine act of dabbing a little perfume behind the ears is actually a fashion "no." Fragrance rises, and such an application alone won't last long enough to dazzle. Instead, it should be applied lightly to pulse points all over the body: Back of knees Wrists Palms Decolletage Behind ears

Fragrance Q&A Question: Why do some perfumes last longer and smell different on different people?

Answer: Fragrances change when they interact with an individual's skin chemistry and body heat. Scent will linger on oily skin but evaporate quickly when applied to dry skin. Q: Why do some scents appeal to us more than others?

A: Because so little is known about the human sense of smell, researchers can only theorize that a scent's appeal is primarily a matter of preference, often influenced by positive or negative subconscious associations with people or events. Q: Should fragrance be applied to clothes? A: No, fragrance is formulated only to be applied to the skin. Fabric fibers may actually change the character of the scent and maybe even stain the fabric. Q: Can perfume be kept indefinitely? A: Like wine, once a bottle of perfume is open, it is meant to be enjoyed. Over time, it will start to fade. Store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Q: Should fragrance be stored in the refrigerator? A: Only colognes and eau de toilette. Perfume is too delicate to be exposed to extreme cold. Q: How much is too much? A: A woman's fragrance should be undetectable to anyone standing more than an arm's length away. A man's fragrance should be detectable only from within a foot or less away.

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