By Anna Vognsen
Freshly brewed coffee, the breeze over the ocean, cupcakes in the oven, a crackling fire in the middle of winter. Favorite smells are as unique as the person who loves them, making the job of a perfumer extremely difficult. But what if a person hates perfume altogether? What if you develop headaches, sneezing attacks, or stuffy noses at the slightest hint of perfume? Many women who suffer from these adverse reactions to perfume fear they will never be able to wear their favorite scent, or even that they will never find the scent that makes them happy. Perfumer Yosh Han has spent her career focusing on what makes a woman cling to a signature scent, as well as what makes many women reject perfume entirely. Called “trans-aromation”, Han’s theory on scents goes far beyond the traditional outlook on perfume as a ‘just a pretty smell’ meant to adorn the woman or attract the opposite sex.
“Trans-aromation is what happens to you when you’re experiencing a fragrance that carries you from one energetic shift to another. Think about a time when you smelled something and had a déjà vu experience…A scent can suddenly burst through the fog of the everyday and take you someplace else, someplace extraordinary” says Han. While there is no perfect scent for anyone, trans-aromation focuses on the theory that perfume is less of a fragrance and more of a gateway to a previous pleasant experience or memory. But, what about those women who believe themselves to be allergic to perfume? Han believes that they too can find their ideal scents. “Many people who think they’re allergic to all perfumes are usually sensitive to cheap alcohol used in many commercial fragrances. Switching to oil based perfume, organic alcohol perfume or scented lotion often alleviates this challenge.”
So while allergic reactions to perfume might be a thing of the past, there still remains the question of how to find your favorite scent. In Han’s signature scent program she works to divine the combination of aromas that trigger the most pleasant reactions from her clients. Han divides her perfumes into the seven basic fragrance families: floral, fruity, citrus, green, herbaceous, woodsy, and spicy. Once a woman identifies the family that resonates the most with her instinctively, Han then blends this top note with grounding middle and base notes to create perfumes that speak specifically to each individual. That said, Han maintains that the reactions fragrance can elicit are far too complex and varied to narrow down to one “perfect” scent. “Winter and summer scents have different weights and textures just as textiles do, and a sunny day scent has an entirely different appeal than a sumptuous evening perfume” says Han.
From spicy and sensuous to fruity and ethereal, perfumes are as distinctive and complex as the wearer. As daunting as the process of finding a signature scent can be, especially if you’ve had unpleasant reactions to perfume in the past, it is possible to find the one (or ones) that speak to you. Identifying the fragrance family that speaks to you can go a long way in narrowing down the plethora of options available on the market, and sticking with organic or oil-based formulas can alleviate the obnoxious allergic reactions that can come from some commercially produced scents. As Han says, “perfume has the power to set moods and capture passing fancies”. When perfume becomes less of a smell and more of a happy mood in a bottle, how can you pass up the chance to find the one that works for you?