Why your sham­poo smells so good.

The se­cret to come-closer hair? The smell of your sham­poo.

Elle (Canada) - - Insider - By Amy Verner

the first time I went back­stage at Fash­ion Week was for the Paris haute-cou­ture col­lec­tions, but I could have been in my mother’s mar­ble bath­room in Toronto. Caught in a swirl of mod­els, pho­tog­ra­phers and the in­stantly iden­ti­fi­able scent of L’Oréal Paris El­nett Satin Hair­spray, I was trans­ported away from the fran­tic hair­styl­ists, with their arse­nal of tins, back to the count­less times I’d seen—and smelled—my mother mist her hair with the brassy aerosol can­is­ter dur­ing the fi­nal step of her toi­lette. I re­mem­bered the many beloved fam­ily trips to Europe (be­fore El­nett was avail­able in Canada), where it would be my mother’s only non-ne­go­tiable pur­chase.

Name-dropped by fash­ion and film stars alike, El­nett has earned cult sta­tus thanks to its non-stick, long-last­ing hold and chic fe­male illustration on the elon­gated tin, nick­named “the golden god­dess.” But the hair­spray’s true claim to fame is its scent—a bour­geois, pow­dery, per­fumed smell with alde­hy­dic notes. Though hard to de­scribe, it of­ten draws favourable com­par­isons to Chanel No. 5. It’s a unique scent that stays with you.

A hair prod­uct that is in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked to an en­dur­ing scent is some­thing akin to the holy grail for beauty com­pa­nies. Like me, I’m sure you’ve ex­pe­ri­enced the link be­tween scent and mem­ory via per­fume, and you’ve prob­a­bly also read ac­counts—whether as con­sumer re­search or a plot line in fic­tion—that back this up. Bi­ol­ogy does too: The area of the brain in charge of pro­cess­ing our senses is also re­spon­si­ble, in part, for stor­ing emo­tional mem­o­ries.

This means that even more than per­for­mance, fra­grance serves as an en­try point to the prod­ucts we use in our hair. “Teenage girls of­ten go to school with their hair wet; their sham­poo is the way they per­fume them­selves,” says Dawn Gold­worm, a New York-based fra­grance-industry ex­pert who has cre­ated scents for per­fume pow­er­houses like Coty and Avon. “Sham­poo is a huge part of ol­fac­tive iden­ti­fi­ca­tion at that age, so when we, as adults, smell sim­i­lar prod­ucts, it brings us right back to high school.”

Scent acts as a built-in word-of-mouth mar­ket­ing tool. Some­one tells you that your hair smells fan­tas­tic and you’re apt to re­ply with the name of the prod­uct re­spon­si­ble. Think back to the last time you shopped for a new sham­poo; chances are you dis­creetly lifted the cap to smell the contents. And when you ex­pe­ri­ence a Prous­tian mo­ment upon sniff­ing a com­muter’s Pan­tene-in­fused hair flick dur­ing an early-morn­ing subway com­mute, you are sim­ply con­nect­ing a pleas­ant scent with proper hy­giene, says Gold­worm. “The as­so­ci­a­tion is that your hair is clean, that it’s fresh, that you’ve just show­ered. All of th­ese things are pos­i­tive re­in­force­ments based on smell.”

The as­so­ci­a­tion may seem ar­bi­trary, but Adrian Corsin, di­rec­tor of hair-care de­vel­op­ment at L’Oréal Pro­fes­sion­nel in Paris, says that con­sumer test­ing sug­gests that a flo­ral-fruity com­bi­na­tion is “the win­ning combo in terms of com­mu­ni­cat­ing both clean­li­ness and plea­sure.” Here, the rea­son may be a mat­ter of con­di­tion­ing (not to be con­fused with con­di­tioner!). The scent of ap­ple rates high in the per­cep­tion of clean­li­ness and hy­giene. Flo­ral notes, on the whole, have come to con­note so­phis­ti­ca­tion. Con­se­quently, ex­plains Corsin, the flo­ral-fruity tem­plate is pretty much the industry norm, par­tic­u­larly with sham­poos. “It’s quite dif­fi­cult to pro­pose some­thing out­side the realm of the flo­ral-fruity code,” he says. As a styling prod­uct, El­nett h

has an ad­van­tage over th­ese con­straints, adds Corsin. “You can be a bit more so­phis­ti­cated and ad­ven­tur­ous,” he says. “Styling is ‘fash­ion,’ so you have less of a need to com­mu­ni­cate a hy­gienic ben­e­fit.”

Put an­other way, Pan­tene has re­mained a best­seller be­cause it is fa­mil­iar and in­clu­sive, whereas such niche brands as Oribe and Moroc­canoil have tapped into the no­tion that hair fra­grances can tele­graph a lux­u­ri­ous and se­duc­tive ol­fac­tive per­son­al­ity. When celebrity hair­styl­ist Oribe de­cided to launch a line of name­sake prod­ucts in 2008, he en­listed one of the ven­er­a­ble French fra­grance houses to de­velop a high-end har­mony of cit­rus, flo­ral and woody notes, re­sult­ing in what Jes­sica Fried­man, vi­cepres­i­dent of prod­uct de­vel­op­ment, calls a “strong part of the DNA and brand iden­tity.” The fact that women brag about us­ing Oribe’s dry tex­tur­iz­ing spray in lieu of per­fume ex­plains, at least in part, why the brand in­tro­duced a “hair re­fresher” fol­lowed by two eaux de par­fum (as in, for the skin) based on the hair line’s scent.

Moroc­canoil, which has a unique, in­stantly iden­ti­fi­able sig­na­ture scent, is among the few brands that hold a reg­is­tered fra­grance trade­mark. Cana­dian co-founder Carmen Tal would not re­veal any spe­cific notes, aside from “a lit­tle musk here, a lit­tle flo­ral there, a hint of spice,” but says that the com­bined scent trans­ports wear­ers to the Mediter­ranean. “Our goal was to cap­ture the essences of the sand, the sea and the breeze,” she ex­plains via email, adding that the brand wanted to pro­vide a sense of well-be­ing as well as high per­for­mance with its hair prod­ucts. The de­vel­op­ment of the scent has been so suc­cess­ful, she adds, that peo­ple can in­stantly rec­og­nize Moroc­canoil prod­ucts, thereby en­hanc­ing the brand iden­tity. The brand now of­fers scented can­dles as well as body prod­ucts.

Pan­tene, mean­while, has taken its own ver­sion of a sen­so­rial jour­ney, sub­tly tweak­ing its scent to co­in­cide with fra­grance trends. Rolanda Wilk­er­son, a prin­ci­pal sci­en­tist with the brand, points out that the pop­u­lar orig­i­nal for­mu­la­tion was much head­ier with jas­mine in the ’80s than it is to­day. Of course, back then, block­buster scents (Poi­son, Opium) were un­apolo­get­i­cally ag­gres­sive. If con­sumers don’t no­tice the up­date, the brands have suc­ceeded. “We de­sign our scents to be mem­o­rable over time but with a con­sis­tency of the main notes,” she says, cit­ing black­berries, plums, vi­o­lets, or­chids and warm woods in de­scend­ing or­der from top to base notes.

The notes used in hair prod­ucts have changed over time for good rea­son, says vet­eran hair­styl­ist Howard McLaren. The former cre­ative di­rec­tor of Bum­ble and Bum­ble—who re­cently formed a col­lec­tive with high-pro­file con­tem­po­raries Gar­ren and Thom Pri­ano called “R+Co” — points out that hair scents, like per­fumes, are al­ways evolv­ing thanks largely to the func­tional com­po­nents. Base in­gre­di­ents to­day tend to be lighter so that the func­tional pur­pose of a hair fra­grance—to mask the aerosol, wax or cleans­ing agents—is less crit­i­cal than the vis­ceral im­pact. And, of course, “it has to have that emo­tional con­tent,” says McLaren. When he cites his mother’s El­nett as his most res­o­nant hair-scent mem­ory, the uni­ver­sal­ity of the phe­nom­e­non jells. “The world doesn’t need an­other sham­poo. But [it] needs some­thing to get ex­cited about.”

And hair care just so hap­pens to be a cat­e­gory in which brand iden­tity and per­son­al­ity iden­tity blur to cast an elu­sive, en­dur­ing spell. “Maybe it’s just me,” says Fried­man, “but when you lean in and get a whiff of some­one’s hair, it’s such an in­ti­mate mo­ment. You’re get­ting a lit­tle se­cret of theirs. Some­times you get that from skin; but with hair, it’s al­most a lit­tle ro­man­tic.” n

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