Our sense of smell is closely tied to our mem­o­ries – and there­fore our sense of home. But which aro­mas will boost your well­be­ing? It’s all about the new wave of all-nat­u­ral prod­ucts

ELLE Decoration (UK) - - Hotlist | Wellbeing - Words AMY BRAD­FORD Il­lus­tra­tion BABETH LAFON

Since an­cient Egypt, when in­cense con­cocted from spices and honey was used to pu­rify tem­ples and homes, peo­ple have had faith in the link be­tween scent and well­be­ing. We still do to­day, though sci­en­tific proof of any tan­gi­ble phys­i­cal ef­fects may be scant. ‘There is very lit­tle clin­i­cal re­search into the ef­fects of aroma on well­be­ing – ex­cept for laven­der, which has been proven to have a re­lax­ing and sleep-in­duc­ing ef­fect,’ says Jo Fair­ley, co-founder of The Per­fume So­ci­ety. Nev­er­the­less, the psy­cho­log­i­cal pull of scent is strong. ‘The hu­man ol­fac­tory cen­tre is linked to the brain’s lim­bic sys­tem, which reg­is­ters emo­tion and stores our mem­o­ries,’ ex­plains Michael Dono­van, per­fume ex­pert and owner of south-east London life­style store Roul­lier White. ‘For this rea­son, our noses af­fect the way we re­act with our home en­vi­ron­ment all the time. It’s sen­si­ble to make the most of the op­por­tu­nity.’

How we do this isn’t just about light­ing a scented can­dle. Ask per­fume in­dus­try in­sid­ers how they use fra­grance in their homes and you’ll get some orig­i­nal answers. Olivia Chante­caille, cre­ative di­rec­tor of botan­i­cal beauty brand Chante­caille, puts a few drops of or­ange-blos­som es­sen­tial oil on a tis­sue and places it in a pil­low­case at bed­time. ‘Or­ange blos­som is in­cred­i­bly calm­ing to the cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem,’ she ex­plains. Per­fumer Lyn Harris, founder of Per­fumer H, also chooses to go back to ba­sics: ‘If I go to the countryside I bring back moss, bunches of ivy and pine cones and fill my home with na­ture,’ she says. She also car­ries a lump of frank­in­cense, an an­ti­sep­tic tree resin with a nat­u­rally com­fort­ing scent, in her pocket if she is feel­ing un­der the weather.

Oth­ers em­brace the power of flow­ers and greenery. Florist Rob­bie Honey has gera­ni­ums grow­ing by his front door and picks the leaves to crush. ‘The scent is ut­terly up­lift­ing,’ he says. Vic­toire de Tail­lac-touhami, co-founder of French phar­macy Buly 1803, fol­lows the Moroc­can cus­tom of grow­ing fra­grant jas­mine plants out­side en­trances. ‘On my bal­cony, I also have a col­lec­tion of gera­ni­ums – my “feel bet­ter” scent.’ And Lau­rent De­la­fon, CEO of United Per­fumes – which pro­duces Cire Trudon and For­nasetti Pro­fumi home scents – adopts the sim­plest trick of all. ‘I al­ways have a se­lec­tion of cit­rus fruits in a bowl. When you peel them, break the leaves and crush the rinds ➤

‘The ol­fac­tory cen­tre is linked to the brain’s lim­bic sys­tem, which reg­is­ters emo­tion… our noses af­fect the way we re­act with our en­vi­ron­ment all the time’

We’ve been brain­washed into think­ing that clean­ing prod­ucts, pur­port­ing to smell of ‘fresh breezes’, are the essence of clean; in fact, they’re any­thing but


be­tween your fin­gers they de­liver an in­stant boost of fresh­ness and hap­pi­ness,’ he says.

If na­ture’s bounty is enough for the pro­fes­sion­als, do we need scented can­dles, room sprays and dif­fusers at all? Well, yes and no. Many in the per­fume in­dus­try use them strate­gi­cally, like Amanda Mor­gan, Dip­tyque’s UK man­ag­ing di­rec­tor. ‘Can­dle flames are calm­ing, while room sprays are great re­fresh­ers – I al­ways spritz my hall­way be­fore I leave home in the morn­ings, and the first thing I do when I get back at night is light a can­dle.’ Per­fumers are of­ten at the ex­treme end of the spec­trum – there’s noth­ing like be­ing sur­rounded by smells all day to make you averse to them when off duty. But if there’s one rule that the ex­perts agree on, it’s this: home fra­grance must in­volve nat­u­ral in­gre­di­ents. Sk­in­care guru Liz Earle MBE (read our interview with her on p63) rec­om­mends us­ing or­ganic es­sen­tial oils in a ce­ramic oil burner or elec­tronic dif­fuser. ‘Es­sen­tial oils were the world’s first air fresh­en­ers and they are also more eco­log­i­cally sound than plug-ins or sprays,’ she says. At the other end of the scale, Roja Dove’s scented can­dles are the haute cou­ture of home fra­grance, made us­ing the finest raw ma­te­ri­als to mimic Mother Na­ture. Dove says that by burn­ing two of his can­dles in uni­son, you can recre­ate the most beau­ti­ful aroma of a sum­mer gar­den. ‘Se­lect notes that have some­thing in com­mon, such as serene rose with earthy patchouli, to recre­ate the au­then­tic scent of a flowerbed.’

Of course, none of that is any use if your house­work rou­tine re­sem­bles a form of chem­i­cal war­fare. All the per­fume ex­perts we con­sulted cited harsh su­per­mar­ket de­ter­gents as an arch en­emy of well­be­ing. We’ve been brain­washed into think­ing that chem­i­cal clean­ing prod­ucts, pur­port­ing to smell of things like mint, le­mon and ‘fresh breezes’, are the essence of clean; in fact, they’re any­thing but. ‘There are many stud­ies show­ing the dan­ger of syn­thetic fra­grances in house­hold prod­ucts, lead­ing to asthma, skin re­ac­tions, headaches, al­ler­gies and changes of mood,’ says med­i­cal herbal­ist Dr Mar­i­ano Spiezia, founder of or­ganic brand In­light Beauty. He reg­u­larly uses un­scented eco­log­i­cal for­mu­las in con­junc­tion with cre­ative touches of his own – a lit­tle es­sen­tial oil added to the wash­ing ma­chine drawer, or on a cloth in the tum­ble drier.

For tougher tasks, re­cently launched brand Tinc­ture is an ef­fec­tive nat­u­ral clean­ing range. Us­ing medieval monas­tic recipes as its start­ing point, it com­bines botan­i­cals – such as sage and laven­der – with sil­ver, an an­timi­cro­bial that’s so ef­fec­tive at dis­in­fect­ing it’s used in op­er­at­ing the­atres. ‘No fra­grance has been added and the smell of each prod­uct is de­rived purely from the raw ma­te­ri­als,’ says Anas­ta­sia Bro­zler, who founded the brand last year with her sis­ter An­ge­lika Daven­port. As Daven­port points out, many of the plants that we cel­e­brate for their scent were orig­i­nally grown for a dif­fer­ent pur­pose – to heal and cleanse. The nat­u­ral an­timi­cro­bial prop­er­ties of species such as laven­der, patchouli and frank­in­cense evolved to pro­tect the plants from preda­tors and dis­ease; to our good for­tune, we can ben­e­fit from these de­fence mech­a­nisms, too.

In re­cent years, we’ve learned to be aware of sea­sonal food, eco-cot­tons and or­ganic sk­in­care – next, we should ex­pect a boom in all-nat­u­ral fra­grances, where the prove­nance and the ther­a­peu­tic qual­ity of in­gre­di­ents are key. As ed­u­cated con­sumers start to de­mand the same stan­dards from scent as they do from food providers, this is surely where the fu­ture lies.

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