Fragrance, like fashion, envelops the body and exposes the soul; as a gown emphasizes movement, a scented wake magnifies a person’s allure.
History of perfume
The word perfume is used today to describe scented mixtures and is derived from the Latin phrase “Per Fumus” meaning through smoke. Egyptians were responsible for the origin of perfume, utilizing scents in everything from religious ceremonies to burial preparations as well as daily wear. Aromatic substances were used in mystic rites. Sweet herbs were employed in religious ceremonies and cedar and aromatic herbs were added to ritual fires dedicated to the Earth Goddess.
The Persians took over the use of perfumes as a sign of political status, but it wasn’t until the Greeks and the Romans became acquainted with it that it began to be viewed as a form of art and produced en masse and in consistent quality.
Today perfumery has grown into a sophisticated industry that ends up giving pleasure to millions.
Raw materials in perfumes
There are more than 3000 raw materials available to create fragrances: natural or synthetic. Natural products are obtained from vegetal (e.g., flowers, seeds, barks or woods) or animal sources (i.e., glandular secretions: civet, castoreum) whereas synthetic ingredients are obtained either from natural isolates or from pure organic chemical reactions.
The olfactory pyramid
The structure of perfume is made up of three olfactory levels:
- Top notes – the first olfactory sensation perceived with the initial spray of perfume on the skin
- Middle notes – this is the scent which reveals itself a few seconds after spraying perfume on skin
- Base notes – this is the personality of the perfume that generates loyalty in use. The last olfactory sensation is perceived an hour after spraying and may last up to 8 hours
The olfactive family
A perfume is a blend of several hundreds of ingredients. To easily understand the structure and different notes of perfume, it is common to group all these ingredients in olfactive families. The groups are commonly known as:
IFRA (The International Fragrance Research Association) tests the irritation potential of perfumery substances and calculates the quantity of the raw materials that can go through the skin. This quantity is not the same and depends on the application e.g., a cream or an aerosol, a rinsed product like soap or non-rinse product like Eau de Toilette and depending on the part of the body to which the product is applied e.g., face, hair, baby skin, eye area. IFRA makes sure that manufacturers comply and use legally allowed levels of materials in fragrances to ensure consumer safety and satisfaction.