As my shoes collected dust and my going-out clothes stiffened on hangers, there was one element of my morning routine that continued to get a workout throughout the long days of lockdown: perfume.
While activewear and tracksuits reigned supreme, spritzing a dash of my signature scent each morning signalled to my brain that despite not stepping foot outside, I was ready for the day.
Similar to heirloom jewellery that you don’t ever take off, I felt there was something missing when my pandemic-frazzled brain forgot to spray my everyday scent. It might seem extravagant, but it turns out that there’s scientific backing on how scent can affect our brains and in turn, our sense of self-worth.
The History Of Scent
For thousands of years, humans have been using fragrance to enhance their confidence, commemorate religious services and influence others.
Various cultures and religions across the globe have burned incense and herbs such as frankincense and myrrh. Ancient Egyptians and Greeks used fragrances to enhance their personal appearance and appease their gods.
Perfume as we know it, however, was created in the late 19th century, when one-third of the world’s perfume came from France. Even today, the allure of perfume persists, and the global fragrance industry is worth a whopping $32.8 billion USD.
The Science Of Scent
So why does wearing a particular perfume influence our mood, confidence and self-worth? This report suggests that pleasant smells improve the "physical and psychological well-being of humans". Humans perceive scent via the olfactory system, and through electrical signals sent to the brain, our memories, emotions and thoughts are triggered. Memories of good times and positive experiences that are created when wearing a particular scent means that you're hardwired to remember those moments (or the feeling they evoke) when you spritz on that fragrance in the future.
Interestingly, perfume can also influence its wearer's confidence. In a study, 90% of all women surveyed reported that they felt “more confident” when wearing fragrance compared to when they went without. Perfume can also be a representation of our personalities. Another study showed that women selected fragrances depending on how they saw themselves. For instance if they considered themselves to be dramatic, they wore heavy fragrances while sporty women gravitated towards "light, fresh" fragrances.
Self-esteem is a complex concoction of factors. But spritzing on your favourite smelling scent—or one that has positive memories attached to it—can help you feel like the most confident version of you, even on days when you don't particularly feel like it.
How To Make Scent Work In Your Favour
More than anything else, wearing a scent should make you feel good. Whether it’s a rich scent for a night out or a bold fragrance like the Marc Jacobs Perfect Intense for a board meeting, perfume is personal, and can become an extension of yourself.
If you're not sure of where to start, popping into a store to test out perfumes is a great way to tell which fragrance notes work on your skin. Most perfumes have base, heart and top fragrance notes that, when working in harmony, can make you smell your best. Because in the end, harnessing your personal scent is an easy way to enhance positive associations, get into a confident mindset and help you to simply feel good. Even on those tracksuit-wearing, work from home days.