Fragrance Files – Understanding Fragrance Notes and Compounds

Fragrance Files

Fragrance Files is our monthly series that focuses on a particular perfume, cologne or fragrance ingredient. Here, we explore the notes and compounds that make up a perfume or cologne, as well as how they interact with each other to create an overall scent. Visit The Website

Fragrances are found in almost every personal care product from perfume and cologne to detergents and fabric softeners. Even products that are labeled “fragrance-free” or “unscented” may contain a mixture of chemicals called a fragrance along with a masking agent to prevent the human nose from perceiving the smell. The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) lists over 3,000 ingredients that can be used in perfumes, colognes and other personal care products. Many of these ingredients are known to cause health concerns, including irritation and endocrine disruption.

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Choosing the right perfume or cologne can feel like a daunting task with so many options available. The best place to start is by learning the different fragrance families and their subfamilies. This classification system was created by perfume expert Michael Edwards to help retailers more efficiently recommend perfume scents. Families that are next to each other on the fragrance wheel share similar olfactory characteristics and can be easily blended together. For example, Chanel No. 5 is classified as an aldehydic floral, while Hermes Rouge is considered a Floral Oriental.

The fragrance pyramid is also a useful way to understand perfume note categories. Top notes are the first thing you smell when spraying perfume, heart or middle notes develop as the fragrance wears on and base notes provide longevity to a scent.