IS YOUR PER­FUME CAUS­ING A STINK?

Do you con­sider a daily spritz of per­fume a sweetly scented ne­ces­sity? Be care­ful where you wear it – your sig­na­ture scent could be a ma­jor turn-off to those­who have to smell it!

Friday - - Beauty -

Ever strode into a roomand been com­pletely blind­sided by some­one’s fra­grance? Maybe you have a co­worker who douses them­selves daily in a nos­tril-twitch­ing amount of Drakkar Noir or too much Tabu? Or per­haps you are that hap­less of­fice mate who’s a lit­tle heavy handed with your bot­tle of Issey Miyake Pleats Please?

While we’re sure this kind of scented as­sault is mostly un­in­ten­tional, sci­en­tists have dis­cov­ered our bi­o­log­i­cal make-up dic­tates that some fra­grances are guar­an­teed to de­light some and of­fend oth­ers. The new study, re­leased by the Monell Chemical Senses Cen­tre, has dis­cov­ered that not ev­ery rose smells as sweet, with the way scents are in­ter­preted dif­fer­ing from nose to nose.

Re­searchers found that up to 30 per cent of hu­man ol­fac­tory re­cep­tors dif­fer be­tween in­di­vid­u­als. Like taste buds for your nose, these ol­fac­tory re­cep­tors process and iden­tify dif­fer­ent odours as they en­ter the nos­tril. They then de­cide if it’s pleas­ant or odi­ous, with this mes­sage reach­ing your cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem within sec­onds and aiding in the sec­tor of your brain that forms first im­pres­sions.

“Un­der­stand­ing how this huge ar­ray of re­cep­tors en­codes odours is a chal­leng­ing task,” says the study’s lead au­thor, molec­u­lar bi­ol­o­gist Joel Main­land. “The ac­ti­va­tion pat­tern of these 400 re­cep­tors en­codes both the in­ten­sity of an odour and the qual­ity – for ex­am­ple, whether it smells like vanilla or smoke – for the tens of thou­sands of dif­fer­ent odours that rep­re­sent ev­ery­thing we smell.”

Main­land pre­dicts for any two ran­domly cho­sen in­di­vid­u­als, ap­prox­i­mately 140 of their 400 ol­fac­tory re­cep­tors will dif­fer in how they re­spond to odour mol­e­cules. “For dif­fer­ent items, there is a big gap be­tween what you smell and what I smell,” he ac­knowl­edges.

The bot­tom line? Chances are your favourite fra­grance will be re­pug­nant to at least one per­son in your vicin­ity, with pop­u­lar per­fume notes like woods and white flo­rals some of the scents side­lined by tetchy nos­trils. Have a job in­ter­view or first date? It could pay to skip your usual spray of scent to avoid a neg­a­tive con­nec­tion be­ing ce­mented be­fore you’ve even in­tro­duced yourself.

Need an alarm­ing ex­am­ple? For par­tic­i­pants in the Monell study, a mol­e­cule used to repli­cate the sweet scent of san­dal­wood, a pop­u­lar base note used in aro­matic woody scents, was found to in­stead bring to mind the less pleas­ant aroma of cat urine. Not so sen­sual now, is it?

These dif­fer­ences in how in­di­vid­u­als in­ter­pret and process scents can present a moral dilemma for both the ca­sual wearer and the self-pro­fessed per­fum­nista. Be­ing so, well, out in the air, fra­grance is both a deeply per­sonal choice and pub­licly dis­played taste.

Ob­vi­ously you shouldn’t ditch your beloved bot­tles of Chanel No5, but with the rev­e­la­tion that a sim­ple spritz could turn you into a ros­es­cented leper, how can fra­grance fans pre-empt their favourite per­fume go­ing from Dior to dis­as­ter?

The ex­perts sug­gest stick­ing with what’s pop­u­lar in the best-seller list to avoid clashes in the of­fice, and us­ing your down­time to road test more off­beat fra­grances pri­vately. The Ara­bic mar­ket is rel­a­tively open to strong scents, with smoky oud bases a favourite from both de­signer and smaller niche brands. How­ever, in a com­mu­nity that wel­comes ex­pats, heavy hit­ting tra­di­tional per­fumes can be a shock to the nasal pas­sages of Gulf new­com­ers.

Christo­pher Chong, cre­ative di­rec­tor for Oman’s renowned Amouage per­fumery, agrees that

heavy per­fumes like its tra­di­tion­ally oud-based scents can be chal­leng­ing for the unini­ti­ated.

“It’s not for ev­ery­one,” he says. “What I al­ways tell people is that Amouage is not love at first sight. It is a long courtship but once you fall in love, that love is for­ever.”

Chong is quick to point out that it is pos­si­ble to learn to love a pre­vi­ously un­ap­peal­ing fra­grance. “I get a lot of cus­tomers who say, ‘I hate it’ and then two years later they say, ‘I can­not live with­out it!’” he laughs. Per­fume ex­pert and Fra­grances of

the­World au­thor, Michael Ed­wards, also cel­e­brates the drama of the clas­sic Ara­bic fra­grance. “[They are] sin­gle-minded deep, heady, rich ac­cords of oud, saf­fron and rose.”

How­ever, as tra­di­tional Mid­dle East­ern fra­grances bridge the gap to in­clu­sion in main­stream and de­signer name re­leases, in­gre­di­ents like in­cense and dark tree resins like oud are be­ing soft­ened and re­fined, pro­duc­ing a more sub­tle ef­fect and al­low­ing their stand­off­ish smok­i­ness to bet­ter blend and en­tan­gle with com­ple­men­tary notes like Turk­ish rose, leathers and vanilla.

“Oud is big right now in all sec­tors, as it has been for sev­eral years,” says Robin Krug, per­fume critic and blog­ger for Now Smell This (nst­per­fume.com). How­ever, she ac­knowl­edges the dif­fi­culty brands have in un­leash­ing the note at full strength. “It’s be­ing toned down in nearly all fra­grances, niche and de­signer, fem­i­nine and mas­cu­line.”

Ed­wards agrees that oud will con­tinue to make strides into the main­stream mar­ket this year, along with sim­i­lar heady notes such as patchouli, cedar and leather.

Still, the rest of the world is less thrill-seek­ing than the Ara­bic mar­kets, and as the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of fra­grance varies from nose to nose, so do per­sonal tastes shift be­tween coun­tries and cul­tures, with sales fig­ures show­ing a def­i­nite lean to less com­plex notes over in­Western mar­kets. There, fra­grance trends are heav­ily re­flected in the suc­cess of celebrity scents, with 31 of the top 100 most pop­u­lar per­fumes (by sales) li­censed by a celebrity, with Brit­ney Spears and Justin Bieber head­ing some of the big­gest hits.

To the east, the Asian mar­kets pre­fer a lighter cit­rus or aquatic fra­grance, al­though Sung Kim, re­gional di­rec­tor for the Asia Pa­cific Re­gion for Kenzo Par­fums, notes that mar­ket­ing fra­grance to Asian con­sumers is trick­ier that the size of the mar­ket would sug­gest; “The Chi­nese can­not ac­cept strong fra­grances. They pre­fer the scent to be more flo­ral for women and more fresh for men.”

So what is a per­fume lover to do in a world of crit­i­cal noses and cul­tural pref­er­ences? Find scented suc­cess by know­ing your au­di­ence. Try a clean and light scent by day, like Calvin Klein’s Beauty for­Women (Dh430, Bloom­ing­dale’s), then branch out into some­thing more heady at night to blend into an evening of din­ing and shisha, like Amouage’s com­mand­ing new re­lease, Fate (from Dh1,200, Amouage bou­tiques).

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