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Perfumes and your natural odour: Why some work for you and others don’t

Certain fragrance notes have long been considered to work, but there are other factors to consider including your own body chemistry. Also, 5 iconic perfumes that have stood the test of time.

Every year, millions of bottles of perfume are sold. So why are people willing to spend hundreds of dollars on a toiletry item that offers neither cosmetic nor skincare benefits?

One big reason is that scents are powerful triggers of emotion. The effect may be intangible but the reaction is palpable. What people smell can instantly evoke a mood, feeling or memory in the wearer or those around them.

That’s what makes it a thoroughly unique component in any grooming or beauty routine – it can be applied for personal enjoyment, as a projection of one’s tastes, and certainly to make one feel more attractive, and all of that is happening sight unseen.

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(Photo: Unsplash/Damir Spanic)

Because of how our sense of smell is so closely connected to the memory and emotion centres in our brains, it often hits us on a different level than our sense of sight, touch or hearing. 

As subtle as it is, it can leave an impression that lingers infinitely, which makes it ever more powerful in matters of seduction – provided that all the right notes are hit.

“Fragrance plays a very important role on emotions. When you wear a fragrance, it is like a language through which you express something of your personality, but something intimate of your personality. This is why it plays a significant role in attraction,” explained Olivier Polge, Chanel’s house perfumer.

Ylang ylang, jasmine, vanilla, sandalwood and musk have also been widely pointed out by perfumers to have aphrodisiacal qualities.

You probably already own a variety of scents for different occasions and to put yourself in a specific mood. But is there one that works better to, say, make yourself more desirable to people on a special night out?

READ: How to make your favourite perfume last longer and work harder


Elizabeth Taylor in one of her most famous roles, Cleopatra, at Madame Tussauds in Hollywood, California. (Photo: AFP/Gabriel Bouys)

Applying scents in the art of seduction began a long, long time ago. Take Cleopatra, who was famously obsessed with fragrances, for example. Legend has it that she would fill her boats with rose petals and douse the sails in so much perfume that Mark Antony could smell her sailing in from miles away, while her bedchamber and rooms were also strewn with rose petals a foot-and-a-half deep.

The Queen of the Nile was said to favour rose, myrrh and spices like cinnamon and cardamom as her weapons of seduction, some of which have been identified as “sexy” scents in modern times.

Ylang ylang, jasmine, vanilla, sandalwood and musk have also been widely pointed out by perfumers to have aphrodisiacal qualities. There are also others that, unexpectedly, have the same effect – such as refreshing peppermint and citrus, as well as calming lavender.

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Polge, however, doesn’t entirely agree. After all, perfumes are hardly ever made out of a single fragrance note. Instead, it’s made up of different notes that create an interesting and complex scent.

While he stops short of identifying specific fragrance notes as being seductive in themselves, he pointed out that the combination of a person’s body chemistry and the perfume used could make for a strong case for some olfactory seduction.

Everyone has a unique body “scent” that will interact with perfume, producing a smell that varies from person to person.

But that combo might not be the same for everyone – you might buy a perfume you smelled on someone else only to find that it doesn’t quite have the same impact when you use it.

That’s because everyone has a unique body scent that will interact with perfume, producing a smell that varies from person to person. Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to alter or control your body chemistry, since it is influenced by many factors including your diet, hormone levels, sweat and the oils in your skin.

And then you’ve got another factor to consider: You probably have been attracted by the natural scent that your partner or someone else is emanating without even being completely aware of it, whether or not he or she is using perfume.

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You might also like a certain perfume, but don’t forget that other people may not enjoy it the way you do. “Scents are very subjective, linked to each individual’s personal background, emotions, culture, personality and their aesthetic sense,” Polge pointed out.

Scents are very subjective, linked to each individual’s personal background, emotions, culture, personality and their aesthetic sense.

Even if the general consensus is that musky and spicy scents tend to project a sexy and animalistic vibe, not everyone will agree or find them appealing, naturally.

Of course, when you put on a scent that you like, you’re hoping to strike a connection with people who are also drawn to the way it smells, and on you, specifically – who cares what everyone else thinks?

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With all that in mind, and if you’re still shopping around for your personal sexy scent, here are five famous ones that have stood the test of time.

CHANEL NO. 5 EDP, S$178 (35ML)

(Photo: Chanel)

The quintessential sexy classic – Hollywood’s most famous bombshell, Marilyn Monroe, once implied in an interview that she wore nothing but just a few drops of Chanel No 5 in bed. The powdery and floral scent wears close to the skin and projects a soft, feminine and intimate vibe.


(Photo: Dior Beauty)

A different kind of sexy that is made for bold women who want to stand out with their scent. This sweet yet balmy floral fragrance radiates with confidence and is one that separates the women from the girls.


(Photo: Guerlain)

A legend in the fragrance world, Shalimar was introduced in 1925 and is, according to its maker, the first Oriental fragrance in history. Exotic name aside, the fragrance exudes sensuality with its strong vanilla base that is accentuated with notes of leather and heady florals.


(Photo: Yves Saint Laurent Beaute)

Here’s another iconic spicy Orient-inspired juice, albeit one that became well-known for different reasons. Opium made waves in the 1970s for its controversial name, and then in 2000 for a sexually suggestive ad campaign that featured Sophie Dahl. Like it or not, this bad boy of a perfume has a reputation for driving people wild in more ways than one.


(Photo: Frederic Malle)

Here’s one for the guys – French perfumer Frederic Malle bottles raw masculinity and silent magnetism into a sleek flacon for the modern gent. The spicy and fresh scent combines florals such as juniper and patchouli with peppery pimiento and woody galbanum and frankincense.

Source: CNA/yy