Scents Of Optimism
Marie Claire - UK|May 2017

Perfume has undeniable powers to affect our mood. But ‘psycho perfumery’ is taking our relationship with fragrance to a whole new level. Here’s how to spritz yourself happy…

Fiona Embleton

Change is in the air, literally. Amid the current political gloom and global anxiety, the fragrance world is answering a collective need for reassurance, with perfumes that wage war on panic and negativity. They’re the olfactory equivalent of a duvet day – spirit-lifting scents you want to hunker down with in order to feel bolstered and rejuvenated.

It’s not the first time that fragrance has reflected the national mood. In the early 90s, HIV loomed large and drove the trend for neutral and softly feminine scents as an antidote to the overtly sexy ones of the previous decade – remember Dior Poison? But today’s perfumers have tapped into something altogether more potent to chime with the times: ‘psycho perfumery’. These ahead-of-the-curve scents are scientifically proven to hit us at emotional and neurological levels, enhancing sensations of pleasure, ramping up energy levels and reducing stress.

For those wondering whether a fragrance can really inject the missing feel-good factor into our lives, studies show that a massive 75 per cent of our emotions are triggered by smell. What’s happening behind the scenes goes something like this: when you inhale a scent, it stimulates the limbic system (the brain’s emotional control centre), where fear, depression and joy originate. ‘If you connect to the aroma because it reminds you of a time when you felt happy and well, your brain releases mood-enhancing chemicals, including serotonin and endorphins,’ says Professor Tim Jacob, neurologist from the School of Biosciences at Cardiff University. ‘If not, your body is flooded with the stress hormone cortisol.’ Pretty powerful stuff.

In addition to our emotional response, there is also scientific proof that some scents can cause chemical reactions within our bodies, which change how we feel. ‘The limbic system also controls your heart rate, blood pressure and the nervous system, so certain fragrances can have a physical effect, too,’ adds Professor Jacob. With this in mind, read on to find your ultimate perfume for positivity…

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