Sunday, 9 June 2013

The paltry power of the 'skin scent' - How to amp up projection.

"I can't smell it" is a common complaint amid our enthusiastic community. We all know the aching disappointment of buying an astonishing beauty, then discovering that it somehow escapes our body an hour into the relationship, leaving us confused and bereft. 

Price, it seems, is not a factor. A single spritz of Clinique's tenacious Chypre 'Aromatics Elixir' lasts for 24 hours, making a £30 50 ml bottle last for years. The lid of an empty bottle has lurked in my lingerie drawer for over two years now and still smells like it's getting dressed up for a huge night out! This irks me. When I compare it to some of the wimpish throws of niche fragrances that cost me three times the price of the Clinique. What's the point of anointing ourselves with something that we simply can't smell unless we directly press our noses to our skin? 

Jean Claude Ellena, Uber Perfumer and current author of the Hermes brand, is famed for creating 'watercolour' washes of perfume. I find this an odd concept. As an artist, I know that watercolour equals water plus paint. Yes, there is the connotation of a subtlety of colour, transient hues merging together and a skillful rendering of form, all very romantic if we compare him to Turner or Klee. Yet do we really want a subtle watered down paint in our fragrant compositions? I'd much rather have a big exuberant splodge of oil paint decorating my body's canvas. 

My beef with Ellena stems from the discovery of his extraordinarily beautiful creations for the Hermessence line. My favourite, Brin de Reglisse, is an aromatic coupling of licquorice and lavender. A deep inhalation of Brin de Reglisse is quite possibly the most moving olfactory sensation I've encountered. The trouble is though, I need a deep inhalation. I can drip two tracks all the way up both arms and literally smell it for about ten minutes. After that, nothing unless I weld nose to skin (which admittedly is something I do all day, every day and quite often in bed through the night).

So what to do about this problem? Answer number one is to only buy huge orientals and chypres, 'perfumey' perfumes. Not a winning solution for me as I love a great many genres. I need to go further to get a little more gusto out of my wimpish floral woody musks and citric colognes. Another answer could be to move to a hot country where the sun can warm your skin and allow it to act in the same manner as a fragrant oil burning diffuser. Heat really does increase projection. 
The only real solution though is to prepare your skin for it's anointing process by exfoliating and applying body cream. Well moisturised skin with very few old dead cells allows fragrance to hold on a little longer. We also have the opportunity to match our body creams to our perfume or indeed play with layering scent upon non matching creams to give an extra dimension to the notes. Here are my favourites:

Step one, exfoliate:

As long as it contains a large proportion of exfoliating granules, be it salt, rice powder or whatever scientific grain or acid is the latest trend, you can use anything. Exfoliating 'shower gels' are pointless, not enough grains. Go for a 'scrub', don't spend a fortune, do spend a little time making sure that you've given yourself a good working over.

Step two, moisturise:

Unscented moisturisers are a great way to prep for Monsieur Ellena's watercolours. My favourites are good old fashioned E45 body lotion which is cheap, lightweight and quickly absorbed or Kiehl's Creme de Corps, significantly more expensive but it imparts a lovely rich sheen to the skin and feels delightful to apply.

Lightly scented moisturisers are fun to play with and can add an extra dimension to your fragrance. Yves Rocher's Nutrition Nourishing Body Lotion for Dry Skin is delicately scented with a slightly woody and gourmand feeling almond note. I adore wearing this underneath Guerlain's L' Instant Magic as it amps up the volume of the almond note. It's also priced cheaply (Yves Rocher always have great value offers on their website) and has a luxurious rich texture. 
Vaseline's Essential Moisture Body Lotion with Oat Extract is another subtly fragranced delight that fits well with woody and musky scents, again, a bargain and easily found in the supermarket. I particularly like this worn underneath Serge Luten's Jeux de Peau.

Matching scented moisturisers are a great way to increase longevity and projection bomb your perfumes. I currently have YSL's Opium Creme which I adore. It smells almost the same as Opium EDP but somehow better, with the quirky spice notes very evident but less of the floral aspect appearing. Guerlain's Mitsouko Body Creme smells exactly like Mitsouko and increases the effectiveness of my EDT. I imagine that I knock out any nose within several metres of my Opium/Mitsouko radius but I don't care, "Take that you floral fruity misses, smell my trail!"

That said, we could just all consistently wear Aromatics Elixir or Midnight Poison and stop messing about with these fleeting watercolour nymphs, but that would be boring eh?

J W Turner

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