Perfume is a man made product that is
composed of many different components, sometimes even hundreds, which produce a
pleasant smell whenever their odor molecules float in the air.
Young woman spraying perfume on wrist
There are different types of perfume
that are manufactured by different companies, each keeping the formula of their
product a secret.
Basic classification of perfume is done
using 3 main categories:
concentration/dilution level of the essential oils
family to which it belongs
notes of the scent
Since essential oils are by nature
incredibly concentrated, extremely toxic and should not be consumed, inhaled or
come in contact with skin, the mixture of essential oils is diluted with alcohol
and/or with other neutral odor sources like water, coconut oil, wax or extracts
This is also done to cut the intensity of the scent.
Love Potion by Evelyn de Morgan
Roman glass container for oil or
There are a few ways of grouping
families of scents.
The following grouping is based on the
French perfume committee classification:
Citrus: obtained from
fruit by cold pressing (bergamot, lemon, orange...).
oak, moss, coumarin, bergamot, geranium...).
Sweet amber fern
Floral amber fern
Chypre: Cypress in
French, (oak moss, ciste labdanum, patchouli, bergamot, rose...).
Patchouli, cedar, vetyver) with lavender and citrus notes.
Woody citrus conifer
Woody spicy leather
called "Oriental", a soft scent (vanilla, ciste-labdanum).
Woody floral amber
Spicy floral amber
Leather: an attempt to
reproduce the scent of leather with dry notes (burnt wood, smoke, tobacco,
birch) together with slightly floral scents.
|Lemon grass cymbopogon citratus - citrus
||Lavender - fougere family
way of grouping the scents was made in 1983 (by Michael Edwards, a consultant in
the perfume industry):
from each of the other four groups - this family contains the largest
variety of scents since it made up of combinations of elements from the
|Pelargonium radens perfume component
||Pandanus tectorius perfume oil extracted
from floral bracts - Pacific Islands and Australia
With time, more sub groups are being
added in order to accommodate the different types of scents that are discovered
and developed due to the advances in the technology of the perfume industry.
Perfumes are typically manufactured to
unfold, over time. They are formulated based on 3 'Notes' - Top Notes,
Middle Notes and Base Notes. Each of these notes represents a different group of
scents within the perfume's fragrance. The fragrance gradually develops over
time as a new note takes over from the previous note.
Top notes - Give us the first
immediate impression of the fragrance. They are usually strong, sharp scents.
These scents are made of light molecules and generally last a matter of 10-30
minutes before they evaporate.
Middle notes - Are noticed as the top
notes evaporate. They are more rounded, mellow scents. They usually appear some
10-45 minutes after applying the perfume and last longer than the top notes.
Base notes - Are noticed just before
the middle notes fade. They consist of large and heavier scent molecules that
evaporate slowly and can be detected even after 24 hours.
The middle and base notes are the two
that are at the core of the perfume's fragrance.
Mastic shrub - Pistacia
lentiscus. Its aromatic resin is used in the perfume industry
animals and synthetic aromatic compounds make up the source ingredients for the
Plants - Plants
have been the earliest and the main source of aromatic compounds in perfume
production, primarily because of their relative ease of accessibility, and the
great variety of odors among them.
Hibiscus rosa sinensis
The source of aromatic compounds can come from different parts of the plants.
From flowers like the rose and jasmine,
from resin like frankincense, myrrh and pine, from bulbs like those of the iris
plant, from bark like cinnamon, from seeds like Tonka bean, coriander, anise and others, or from the
root like orrisroot. Some commonly used leaves
and twigs are lavender, sage and rosemary. Cloves are an example of a flower (in
bud form) that is valued.
Many fruits that elicit
enticing odors, such as cherries and strawberries, are surprisingly not used in
the production of perfumes. Whenever these fragrances are achieved they are the
result of synthetic compounds. On the other hand, the leaves and rind of the
fruit of citrus plants are often used in the perfume industry.
plants have been more difficult to find or to grow. Plants like myrrh and
frankincense for example were grown, in the past, only in Somalia and Southern Arabia;
persimmon was grown in Ein Gedi by the Dead Sea, some others like cinnamon were
grown in Ceylon and south India, others in China. Together with the spices grown
in the east, these rare plants triggered the establishment of the famous
'Trade Route', known also as the 'Perfume Route' or 'Incense Route'.
Frankincense tree boswellia sacra
Myrrh stem commiphora abyssinica
Animals - Animal
have been used in perfume production for a number of centuries. Perfumers have
highly valued them for the affect they have on the perfume compounds,
since they tend to heighten
the intensity of the fragrance. Today, simulated
animal pheromone extracts are synthetically created in order to protect
- The use of synthetic aromatic ingredients for perfume production goes back
as far as the end of the 19th century. The progress made in the
research of organic chemistry made it possible to develop new aromatic compounds
that replaced, in many cases, the more expensive and rare natural aromatic
sources, thus, allowing the manufacture of perfume for more reasonable prices.
Today, perfume is usually constructed
from a mixture of essential oils and fragrances, combined with fixatives and
The essential oils contain the volatile
fragrance of the component. It is incredibly concentrated oil which contains the
distinctive aromatic properties of the plant, in a way, its essence. The oils
are produced usually through distillation, expression or solvent extraction.
are different methods that are used in order to extract the aromatic compounds
from the raw materials. The result is often somewhat different than the original
odor since it is affected by the extracting process.
Steam distillation: the fragrance
is extracted by passing steam through the plants in a still or by boiling the
plants, thus turning the oils to gas. These cool down as they go through the
process and liquefy back to oil.
Pogostemon cablin benth used for
Solvent Extraction: the plants
are put into a turning drum with benzene or petroleum ether which dissolves the
plants and extracts the essential oils, leaving a waxy like substance. This
substance is rinsed with ethanol that dissolves the oil. Once heated, the
ethanol evaporates leaving the essential oil.
Enfleurage: plant substances are
pressed on a greasy glass sheet with wooden frames. This is repeated until the
fragrance is fully absorbed in the grease and later rinsed in alcohol.
Maceration: plant substances are
pressed against a greasy glass sheet like in the enfleurage method, but in this
method the grease is heated up in order to absorb the fragrance better.
Expression: the substances are
pressed until the oil is extracted from them. This is the oldest technique used.
Other: fragrances are also
extracted from animals like musk deer, sperm whales, beavers, and civet cats.
These are used as fixatives to add to the perfume scent (although today most are
produced synthetically). Fixatives
are a form of substance that are added to the blend of perfume in order to let
the fragrance dissolve slower than it would by itself.
After the oils are ready they are
blended together according to specific instructions given by the 'master
perfumer'. This blend might consist of hundreds of different ingredients to
create the specific scent that the master perfumer is after.
The essential oils are diluted, usually
with alcohol, water or other neutralizing substances, in order to reduce
possible toxicity, and to cut the scent intensity.
There are a few levels of
Perfume extract (Extrait): 20%-40% (IFRA: typical 25%)
Eau de Parfum (EdP): 10-30% (typical ~15%)
Eau de Toilette (EdT): 5-20% (typical ~10%)
Eau de Cologne (EdC): 2-5% essential oils
Some perfumes, after being blended, are
left to age for a period of time. They are released only by the master perfumer,
after an inspection to determine whether the perfume reached
the wanted scent.
Aloe Vera - used
in the cosmetic and health industry
compounds will degrade faster when exposed to heat, light, oxygen or when they
interact with extraneous organic materials.
opened bottle will keep its aroma intact for up to a year, as long as it is full
or nearly so. As the level goes down, the volume of air in the bottle increases
and with it, the level of oxygen is raised. The oxygen in the bottle triggers a
chemical reaction in the perfume fragrance compounds, eventually distorting them
and altering the perfume's smell.
it is not possible to completely remove oxygen from the headspace of a stored
flask of fragrance, the use of spray dispensers instead of rollers and
"classic" bottle caps will minimize oxygen exposure. Sprays also have the
advantage of isolating fragrance inside a bottle and preventing it from mixing
with dust, skin, and other components that exist in the air.
are best preserved when kept in their original packaging when not in use, and
refrigerated at a relatively low temperatures between 3-7 degrees Celsius.
has an aging affect on organic materials; it has a chemical affect on the
perfume fragrance compounds and therefore the perfume is better kept in a dark
are used to help preserve the perfume. They are defined, in perfume industry
terms, to belong to the "base note", reflecting their low volatility. A couple of examples of fixatives are musk (obtained from a
gland of the male musk deer) and orris root (root of a kind of iris).
ladanifer - The aromatic resin from it's sticky leaves is used in perfume
industry mainly as fixative
If you experience symptoms like runny
nose, itchy eyes, wheezing, or coughing when using perfume or being around other
people who use it, then chances are you are having a reaction. Interestingly,
many people have a perfume allergy but blame it on other things, never
considering that fragrance could be the problem. Sometimes, even doctors miss a
perfume allergy simply because they are more accustomed to treating seasonal
allergies, food allergies, pet allergies, and other forms of allergy.
Research has shown that a significant
percentage of people have an allergic reaction to one or more cosmetic product -
for example aftershave for men, shampoo, sun screen, make up, moisturizer
creams, materials for hair care, aromatic oils for body care and also perfume.
There are thousands of different
cosmetic products. Even those that are supposed to meet the definition of
"fragrance free" may contain components that neutralize the natural
unpleasant odor of some of their base materials.
Practically all of these products,
including the expensive range of perfumes, contain different degrees of
preservatives and ingredients that protect them from bacteria and fungus, thus
extending their shelf life. However some of the ingredients may contain a
concentration of allergenic components that exceeds the perfume industry's own
guidelines for product safety.
How do we know what can cause a
The knowledge that we have of the
allergenic properties of fragrances derives from experiments that are done on
animals and men, as well as experience from many years of use. The majority of
these studies have been conducted by the perfume and cosmetic manufacturers.
Some of the results, understandably, were not published by them in order to
avoid embarrassing information associated with their products.
The EU (European Union) Cosmetic
Products Directive specifies upper limits for the concentration of allergenic
ingredients and preservatives in cosmetics. Today, cosmetic products have to
bear a content declaration. Unfortunately, though, the industry has managed to
keep perfume excluded from the declaration requirement, with the argument that
the risk of allergy from perfume is limited and that a declaration is not
practical since perfumes are usually comprised of many different chemical
Some of the common allergenic fragrances
include chemicals such as amylcinnamic alcohol, anisyl alcohol, benzyl alcohol,
benzyl salicylate, and natural products such as clove oil, nutmeg oil, odor of
rose and cinnamon oil.
As a matter of fact, most basic
components for perfumes are allergenic and toxic to one level or another. The
trigger for the allergic reaction depends on their concentration in the
products, on the amount of perfume that is used by the person, the intervals
that it is being used and the specific individual sensitivity to the perfume
The body's reactions to allergens can
vary from one person to another; it can appear in the form of migraines, nausea,
fatigue, headaches, difficulty of breathing, hoarse voice or even loss of voice,
tingling of the lips or skin, muscle and joint pain and even difficulty in
concentrating. It can also develop skin rash or swelling on surfaces of hands,
arms and face.
Formal diagnosis of allergy to odor
related products, such as deodorants, can be done through tests like the patch
test. Here a small adhesive strip containing a number of the most common
allergens is applied to the skin and then left for the skin to react. If there
are any allergens, the skin will respond by swelling or any other symptom,
positively identifying the allergen. Other tests that identify allergies include
skin prick tests, and a general blood test.
Hyacinthus - allergenic
parts - bulb and leaves
There is a fragrance mix, made up of 8
individual fragrances, that is used to screen for fragrance allergies. The 8
listed below are the most common allergy-trigger fragrances that are used in
many products to enhance their fragrant and flavoring properties.
Cinnamic aldehyde - a warm
spicy odor with a taste of cinnamon and is usually extracted from cinnamon oil.
Eugenol - a spicy odor of
cloves with a pungent taste, found in oils of clove and cinnamon leaves, in
roses, carnations, hyacinths and violets.
Isoeugenol - a clove odor that
is weaker than that of eugenol, found in nutmeg oil and ylang ylang oil.
Geraniolm - a sweet
floral odor of rose, found in rose and palmarose oil, geranium oil, lavender
oil, jasmine oil and citronella oil. This fragrance is present in over 250
essential oils and is used in perfumes, colognes, facial make-up and skin care
Alpha amyl cinnamic alcohol - an
intense odor of jasmine from a synthetic essential oil.
Hydroxycitronellal - a sweet
odor of lily of the valley from a synthetic floral material.
Oak moss absolute - an earthy,
woody, masculine odor that is an essential extracted from tree lichen. This
fragrance is used in colognes, aftershaves and scented products for men.
Various products may contain one or more
of the different fragrances listed above. Some of these products are:
Perfumes, cosmetics, deodorants,
paper, laundry detergent products, toilet soap, personal hygiene products
Flavoring in beverages (cola,
bitters, Vermouth), chewing gums, toothpaste and mouthwash
Flavoring in toothpaste, mouthwash
and processed food
Dental cement and packing agents,
giving the characteristic odor of dental surgeries
Insecticidal and fungicidal
properties - used to preserve meats and other foods
Pharmaceutical creams and lotions
for its antiseptic properties
While not everyone is allergic to
fragrances, people should be aware of the possibility of this type of allergy
and should learn to choose products based on their body's reactions.
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