Take Note: The World of Fragrance, Ingredients & Layers

If there is one facet of the beauty industry that falls behind the wayside it would have to be fragrance. Why? We become infatuated with anti-ageing products and colour products for that instant 'wow' factor, and somehow we forget the power that a fragrance can have over us.

Of all facets in the world of beauty, I believe that fragrance is one of the most important because a fragrance can move you, change your mood and even evoke memories from your childhood - a flashback - your first kiss.

The world of fragrance is filled with millions of beautiful bottles containing scents of all kinds. A scent is not for everyone, so it is important to understand what ingredients you like in a fragrance to help you identify others which work with your skin ... and nostrils.

Fragrance expert and author of the annual Fragrances Of The World guidebooks, Michael Edwards explains that “Modern perfumery is based on the synergy of natural and man-made ingredients,” says Michael.

What are 'notes' and how do they work? The notes in a fragrance also represent the different phases through which a fragrance develops when it is worn on the skin. At each stage the notes in the fragrance have a different degree of volatility so it’s important not to judge a fragrance on the first encounter. The first scent from an open bottle has only the sharp bite of alcohol and the unstable top notes. A scent will bloom as it reacts with the warmth of the body to create a fragrance that is unique to each person.

Here is a list of commonly used ingredients as well as ways to identify them:
Ingredient Natural / SyntheticCharacteristicNote
AldehydesSyntheticAdds powdery, soft floral notes for a clean fresh effect.Top
Basil Oil NaturalGives naturalness and liveliness. It is botanical while still adding sweetness.Top
Carrot Seed OilNaturalProvides an unusual oily fruity-apricot nuance.Middle
Damascone AlphaNatural / Nature IdenticalGives rich depth to rosy heart notes and adds naturalness to fruity fragrances. Damascone Alpha occurs naturally in rose, tobacco, and tea.Middle
Elemi OilNaturalAdds fresh, citrus, green, spicy, herbal or balsamic notes.Base
Fennel Oil SweetNaturalAdds a sweet, smooth, liquorice effect.Middle / Base
Geranium OilNaturalA fresh, floral, herbal, sweet note. Blends well with rose notes to give a full-bodied floral heart. Used in masculine fragrances that need a floral heart but need to avoid being overly feminine.Middle
IndoleNatural / Nature IdenticalNaturally occurring in jasmine and frangipani flowers, Indole adds an essential heady, narcotic depth to floral accords.Middle
Jasmine AbsoluteNaturalUsed in fine fragrances to give luxurious, rich naturalness to floral hearts.Middle
Lavender OilNaturalFresh, herbaceous, floral, sweet and calming used in a masculine or feminine fragrances.Top / Middle
Lemongrass OilNaturalGives an element of zesty freshness and is uplifting.Top
MaltolNatural / Nature IdenticalNaturally occurring in coffee, cocoa, raspberries and strawberries – this ingredient has a caramel-fruity smell and is used in gourmand accords.Top
Orange OilNaturalFruity-fresh sparkle can be juicy or zesty.Top
Patchouli OilNaturalClassic woody note used in many modern classics.Top
Pepper OilNaturalTones down sweet notes and adds an uplifting spicy nuance.Top
Rose Absolute NaturalThe heart of perfumery! Rich, rosy, woody, and earthy.Middle
Sandalwood OilNaturalPrecious, expensive oil giving a creamy woody effect.Base
Allyl-TiglateSyntheticGives jammy, green, berry notes to fruity accords. Can make an apricot or peach accord more “ripe”.Middle
Vanillin Natural / Nature IdenticalProvides a creamy, sweet, vanilla warmth. Used to build various gourmand accords such as marshmallow, praline, chocolate, fairy floss, toffee, caramel and honeycomb.Base
Watermelon KetoneSyntheticGives a melon, marine, fresh, watery, clean note. Can be used to enhance a floral fragrance or to add characteristic notes to fruity melon accords.Middle
Musk XylolSyntheticDry sweet musk with great longevity.Base
Ylang Ylang Oil NaturalUsed in the heart of several narcotic floral bouquets – not just Ylang Ylang but also tuberose, orange flower, frangipani, or jasmine. It adds an exotic floral nuance.Middle
ZingiberoneNatural / Nature IdenticalCharacteristic note of ginger – occurs naturally in ginger and raspberries. Toner of citrus and herbaceous notes. Currently added to exotic woody, oriental, or floral fragrances.Top
*Fragrance Foundation Australia

The Fragrance Foundation Australia is the non-profit educational arm of the international fragrance industry and devotes its energies to expanding the appreciation, use and sale of fragrance. Following a well-established tradition in the USA and other countries, The Fragrance Foundation Australia (FFA) was founded in 2002.

Are you a fragrance connoisseur?

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