What perfume makes you feel [insert an adjective here]?


In the last several days I came across three bloggers asking questions about perfumes influencing how we feel:

Normand (The Perfume Chronicles): When something unpredictable is ahead of me, I find myself reaching for Estée Lauder’s Azurée.  It’s got that “Don’t mess with me” feel about it.  In times of stress, I’m not interested in wearing things that pull people closer to me… no sexy ambers, no sublime chypres, no mouth-watering citrus scents, no well-behaved fougères.  It takes leather… animalic, smoky and forbidding.  Hermes’ Bel Ami is a good second choice… particularly with that cumin-peppery accord. […]

If you’d like to tell me what you wear when you need courage… I’d love to hear about it.

Courage Medal

Birgit (Olfactoria’s Travels): Which scents make you happy? What perfume acts as the perfect antidote to the winter blahs for you? […]

Hermès Eau de Pamplemousse Rosé, Guerlain Pamplelune, Jo Loves Pomelo or Ormonde Jayne Osmanthus work beautifully to get me out of hibernation and bring new energy when it is needed.


Natalie (Another Perfume Blog): I feel the way I always want to feel at work: calm, focused, able to enjoy all the things I love about my job. My mood is being helped by my perfume. Borneo 1834 feels either like a projection of the “real” me or a projection of who I want to be, and it’s nice to be able to package this persona up and take her to work in the form of a fragrance. It becomes a kind of compass when all the minutiae of the corporate world feel overwhelming, and I start to lose myself in the crazy.

I’m so grateful for perfumes like this. Do you have a fragrance that strikes you similarly?

Keep calm and carry on

What perfume makes you feel pretty, confident, sexy, calm, irresistible, etc.? These questions are routinely asked and answered in the Perfumeland. Sometimes I participate but most of the time I skip the conversation.

The thing is, for me perfumes do not work like that. I wear them as an adornment, an accessory, a frill. I do think of them as of a place-, weather- or occasion-appropriate (or not appropriate), perfumes reflect my feelings but never work for me as mood modifiers.


I love perfumes. I rarely go a day without a perfume. Fragrances are an organic part of my life and I can’t imagine not wearing them. And while everything is great and I’m happy any of my favorite perfumes suited for the moment will work great. But if something goes seriously wrong I doubt any scent will help. I’m talking theoretically, I can only hope I’ll never get to prove or disprove that theory but just from knowing myself: I do not think I’ll stop wearing perfumes but I do not expect any mood boosts from them either.

What about you? Do perfumes have a power over how you feel? Or are they just ornamentation?


Images: Cowardly Lion’s Courage Medal and Keep Calm sign – from Wikipedia; others – my own.


49 thoughts on “What perfume makes you feel [insert an adjective here]?

  1. I’ve never thought of perfume as something that could influence the way I feel but when I spend some time thinking about it I realize that yes, I reach for some scents when I want to feel a certain way.

    for example I reach for Prada Infusion d’Homme when I’m stressed or when I have an exam. I use Rose Anonyme when I want to feel a little bit more self-confident.


    • I tried Encre Noire once – it was pleasant. As to Amouages, I’m familiar with women’s counterparts: I enjoy Memoir but Jibilation doesn’t work for meat all. I haven’t had a chance to try masculine versions yet.


  2. Most perfumes are also decorative for me but there are those special ones that have that mood altering quality.

    Sarrasins makes me feel calm.
    Chanel No19 makes me feel composed.
    Iris Silver Mist makes me feel a little heroic
    Black Aoud makes me feel steely

    Now that I think about it more every perfume has its own little niche context in which it feels more appropriate…


  3. Perfume is one of the many things I use to help my mood or self-confidence. For calm I lean on Vol de Nuit,when I’m stressed it’s CdG Kyoto, for attractiveness worries it’s usually Une Rose, happiness it’s L’Artisan’s Fleur d’Oranger or Seville a L’aube and so on. It probably comes from my love of aromatherapy. Although if things are very bad or I’m ill it’s no perfume at all.


  4. I rarely wear perfume just as an “ornament” or “accessory.” For me, they are complete mood modifiers or reflections of how I feel. Obviously, if something goes terribly wrong, wearing perfume won’t change anything. But in more basic day to day life, it definitely functions as a mood changer for me.

    And it can do so on a very concrete, physical and psychological level. In recent years, I have developed an anxiety disorder which can be quite serious at times and perfume is one of the few things that can genuinely stop a severe panic attack. It’s as if smelling perfume — quite literally — short-circuits the adrenaline or other things flooding my brain, and can make me start to slowly calm down again. If you’ve ever read anything about truly severe panic attacks, you’ll know that they can feel similar to having an actual heart attack. For me, spraying one’s arm with perfume and sniffing it is the equivalent of using a brown paper bag to breathe again or taking medication — neither of which work for me.

    Apart from that, perfume definitely can be a sort of “armour” for me. Certain scents make me feel more confident, ferocious or seductive. Vintage Opium does all three, and makes me feel like a warrior queen. Fracas makes me feel a thousand times more feminine, 24 Faubourg more sophisticated, Elixirs de Merveilles more Bon Chic, Bon Genre, and Teo Cabanel’s Alahine or vintage Karl Lagerfeld more snuggly/cozy comfy.


    • How interesting… Do you have some specific perfumes that you noticed help against panic attack or will any one do? Panic attack is like a heartburn: it’s impossible to understand how it feels if you don’t get those but once it happens you immediately know that it’s happenning.


      • I’m trying really hard to recall what perfume I used last time because I do know it worked but, thankfully, the last time I had a bad panic attack was a while ago. I do have this peculiar feeling that the perfumes which helped me have been richer orientals with an ambery base, not florals. Given Blacknall’s point below about Estee Lauder’s Sensuous Noir calming her almost instantly, to the point where she suspects her blood pressure dropped, I now wonder if there are some ingredients/notes which are more effective than others in relaxing one. It happens in aromatherapy, so it should be the same principle, no?

        I was really interested to read Brie’s point too about her co-workers with anxiety sniffing her on a regular basis. I was very hesitant to be as candid as I was when originally writing my post, but I’m glad I did so now. It seems there may be more of us out there who use perfume to deal with anxiety than I had suspected. :)

        Oh! I just remembered. There was an article on CaFleureBon a while ago about myrrh and frankincense which noted that the scent of either ingredient helps with anxiety. I re-posted it on my blog months ago, so I can find it again if you want, but the article commented either that it was used for that purpose historically or that it has been scientifically proven in modern times to have that effect — I can’t recall now which one it was supposed to be.


        • Kafka- I actually made a blend for one co-worker and utilized all the essential oils I researched that are reported to be mood elevators, grounding, relaxing, anxiety reducing etc- it included tangerine, lavender, chamomile, ylang ylang, vetiver, sandalwood,vanilla and, yes, frankincense e.o.s. She not only sniffs the bottle but wears it on her wrist. Occasionally I catch her in the act of sniffing her wrist :) !! at least she is no longer sniffing me!


  5. This was a very thought provoking question for me. At the onset of my perfume obsession over 40 years ago perfume wearing was daily pleasure for ornamentation purposes only. Yet,over time I came to realize that certain perfumes that I associated with time/place/individual could definitely impact my mood creating feeling of nostalgia, sadness, euphoria, etc just in smelling.
    Nowadays I do not believe that I choose certain fragrances to create a mood but rather in wearing certain fragrances the certain emotions come to the surface. And I suppose on an unconscious level there is a definite connection for me, given that I literally crave certain notes during the severe climate changes that occur in the Northeast (ie- autumn- sandalwood and patchouli, winter-amber and vanilla, spring-lilac,orange blossom, lavender, summer-coconut and citrus notes). I am fascinated with aromatherapy (have studied it on my own)and
    similar to what Kafkaesque said I have found that some of my co-workers that actually take medication for anxiety sniff me on a regular basis when I am wearing essential oils and tell me that I am calming them down.
    With all that being said, my daily fragrance choice is (unfortunately) ALWAYS predicated on whether or not I will be in the company of perfume despising co-worker and/or how badly hubby’s allergies are acting up!


    • Is there a chance one of you – you or your co-worker who I really dislike already not knowing personally – will change a place of employment? (please notice that I completely respect your husband’s allergies and do not suggest any changes there ;) )


      • Oh how I wish! It goes beyond the perfume…she is just mean spirited and speaks her mind before she thinks. Her issues are with many other co-workers so I am not alone. However, I am not a confrontational person so I acquiesce. However, there will come a day when I revolt and will wear whatever perfume I darn well please :) !!! and yes, I have already asked for my own space away from her to no avail. Perhaps next year!


  6. What Kafkaesque and Brie wrote about perfume and anxiety attacks is fascinating!! I don’t suffer from those, thankfully, but I am quite impressed that smelling perfume can actually halt one.

    Undina, I would have to agree with you that if I’m really feeling bad (whether distraught or depressed or unattractive), perfume usually won’t lift me up. However, I do find that perfume can be uplifting if I’m just having a ho-hum day … especially if I’m wearing something that is rather dramatic and saturated, like Amoureuse, which really grabs hold of my attention and makes me pay attention to its beauty. And on days when I’m feeling alright with myself (my hair is behaving, I’m rested and looking good, etc) then perfume does make me feel like it adds to my allure, and it also motivates me to dress in a way that is more polished and attractive.

    I guess what I’m saying is that I agree with you on the whole, but perfume does enhance and encourage me in very positive ways … similar to how putting on a beautiful article of clothing changes the way I feel about myself and gives me a lift.


    • I’ve also never heard before about perfumes helping with panic attacks. I had a couple of a mild ones and I absolutely hated the feeling. I’ll try to remember this idea if I ever experience it again (I hope not to though).

      I enjoy wearing perfumes and they definitely add something positive to my life. It’s just that the effect is very minor on the scale of other causes for emotions.


    • And I do need to add that when I went to a real job everyday, I did wear perfume that wasn’t emotional for me; so I guess perfume isn’t all about mood, etc. but it usually is, and I usually want it to be.


      • These are interesting observations, both – about work scents and about the emotional overload.

        I have similar attitude towards books and movies: on many occasions I just cannot/do not want to deal with extra strong emotions from those, life has enough real challenges.


  7. I have been wearing ELDO Vraie Blonde or Shalimar when I go out, they make me feel sexy but demure. I wear SSS Jour Ensolielle when I need a little sunniness, and PdN Le Temps de Une Fete or Hermes L’Ambre de Merv when I want something cozy and thoughtful. I wear L’Heure Bleue to comfort me – especially when going to bed. I wear No.5 when I want to feel ladylike, it’s a good church perfume. I wear Demeter’s Clean Skin to the gym.


    • It seems like you have your set of occasion-appropriate or ritualistic perfumes. I have those as well: perfumes for dressed-up events; a perfume for airplane travels; perfumes for meetings in small conference rooms, etc.


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  9. This is such an interesting distinction, Undina. As I was reading your post, I was thinking that for me the line between enhance and reflect is sometimes blurred. So perfume sometimes feels like tapping into something in me that I want to bring forward more than it is on that particular day. I still choose perfumes that reflect me, but I will reach for ones that reflect a particular aspect of me on given days. I think.

    But then there are days when I feel a perfume projects something “more” than what I really am. For example, I am not as bold as No. 19. :)

    So perhaps there is a more definite line after all? Hmm. Something to ponder more.

    P.S. Thanks for the link!


    • I understand how you and other people feel about perfumes but it doesn’t work like that for me. Or at least I do not see the connection. But it was interesting to think about it and now I’ll pay more attention to see if there is more to my usage pattern than I thought.


  10. Like Brie, I think perfume began as an accessory for me. Then it morphed into something that altered with seasons. BUT, now I find that perfume does alter mood, and I’m not moody.

    Kafakaesque’s point about panic attacks is fascinating. Recently I found that Estee Lauder’s Sensuous Noir had the oddest effect on me: instantly calming, almost hypnotic. If I could have monitored blood pressure it would have dropped. I know my pulse rate did.

    Still I wonder if we don’t miss out by not sticking to one great perfume?The best are not only works of art (to my mind) but also marvels of engineering. Joy, L’Aimant, No 5, Arpege, L’Origan, Chypre, Apres L’Ondee, Nuit de Noel, are all so perfectly constructed, that no matter what comes at you, the buffer of sheer beauty remains on you. They are enhancers of happiness and mitigaters of sorrow, but the way we wear things now, they flicker intermittently on human skin.

    Well, that’s enough of my nattering, very engaging question though.


    • It’s an interesting thought about a perfume monogamy. For a while I was using every available minute to test new perfumes. Then I moved to the pattern in which I’d wear one of my favorite perfumes during the day and then in the evening would be testing 2-3 new scents in parallel. But recently that also has changed: many evenings I realize that I want to either to live through the final stages of my day perfume on the skin or sometimes re-apply the same one.


  11. J – I could probably write on this extensively but you know me I am pretty short winded and to the point.. so…perfume is all about mood, time and place. For instance, I will put on a perfume that will fit the mood I am in for my work day ahead. If I have an important meeting, I’ll typically wear something more masculine like Cartier Roadster or Creed’s Royal Oud. If my day is more relaxed and I’m in a good mood, I’ll wear Bombay Bling or FM’s Portrait of a Lady. Then, I have my weekend fragrances which I wear for running errands… right now in rotation are PdE’s Fougere Bengale and MDCI Chypre Palatin…and then the evening fragrances…Trayee and By Kilian Incense Oud are big… apparently incense works for going out :) So many things go into the equation, but as you know, if you wear the wrong thing at the wrong time it can just really piss you off! :)


    • Steve, your approach is very similar to my: I take into the account what I have planned for the day and my perfumes reflect that. And even though the “right” perfume doesn’t make my day the “wrong” perfume might definitely ruin it.


  12. The perfume I wear is usually an afterthought and sometimes, I (gasp) forget to spritz before I leave the house! That said, for the occasions when I “want to” think about the scent I am wearing I try to find something that I perceive will not offend anyone — e.g. Kelly Caleche comes to mind. I don’t ever recall using perfume as a mood lifter.


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  14. Fascinating discussion, Undina. Sometimes my fragrance is just an accessory, although I often choose something to enhance how I want to feel: elegant, or joyful, or cuddly, or sexy. But I do have some that definitely can change a mood – the most striking example is how calming and centering Ambre Fétiche is for me. It can actually turn a dark mood around.


  15. Thanks for bringing up a very interesting topic. I think I take the whole thing even further than just having perfumes make me feel a certain way. I create whole personas for perfumes and when I wear a certain perfume I cloak myself in that persona, make it mingle with my own personality and the result ends up somewhere in between.
    Undina, my impression of you is that you have a very strong personality in yourself, maybe you don’t get inflicted in this way? I wouldn’t say I have a weak personality myself, but it is bendable and I can feel very different one day from another for no apparent reason, so maybe makes me more receptacle to moods in perfume?


    • I think I do have a strong personality and as a result (?) I prefer to be in control so it’s I who define what perfume I wear and not the perfume that defines how I feel wearing it. Something like that :)


  16. What a thought-provoking and interesting post, Undina! Many apologies for coming to the conversation late (I have been a little overwhelmed with work lately). I rarely leave the house without wearing some fragrance. It’s true that perfume can never really improve situations or moods if they are really bad. Sometimes I get angry at myself for the choice that I made in the morning. Like if I choose a particularly sunny scent and my day takes a turn for the not-so-sunny, it just feels like a reminder of hopes unfulfilled.

    But I kind think of scent like the most personal kind of accessory and I wear, employ, and deploy it for so many different reasons. Just like I might wear heel on a day when I want to feel more confident (and taller), I might wear a more masculine fragrance. Natalie above mentioned that the line between enhance and reflect is blurry? I would add to that enhance, reflect, and project.


    • Daisy, since most of my posts aren’t limited by any real time frame I welcome conversation on any of them – starting from the first one ;)

      I know the feeling about choosing the wrong perfume! I’m not sure how it happens but sometimes I would apply one of the perfumes I own (so not a testing situation) and an hour or two into the wearing realize that I do not want that scent. And “that scent” doesn’t even have to be all that complex or provoking: the most uncomplicated and sheer scent might feel wrong on a bad day.


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  18. I don’t think I ever leave the house without wearing something scented…even if it is body lotion…Like you articulated about yourself, for me fragrance is an extension of me……and yet there are certain fragrances that can affect my mood in an extremely positive way whenever I wear them.. there are also fragrances that I associate with places, events and/or individuals from my past and they create a negative/sad mood so I no longer wear them….this was a very thought provoking post…..


    • I’ve been lucky so far: I don’t have negative associations with perfumes yet (but I realize that might happen so I’m trying to be careful). But my “special occasion” perfumes still contribute to my feeling even better when I dress up for those occasions.


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