What Is Scent? Products in Your Home - Whole Home Scenting

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What Is Scent: Understanding the Scientific and Psychological Complexities of Fragrance

Most of us use scented products in our everyday lives, but have you ever stopped to think about why your shampoo smells like flowers? What is scent, exactly? If you’re talking about a smell that comes from the natural world, you may be referencing freshly cut crass, the aroma of a rose, or the smell of baked cookies.
In contrast, we tend to think of fragrances and perfumes as being synthetic; however, artificial fragrances may not be as artificial as you think! Let’s dive into the world of scent and learn about how fragrances are created, why certain scents can have specific uses, and why you might consider using a diffuser to enhance the ambiance of your home.

What Is Scent?

What is a fragrance?

When you see the term “scent” or “fragrance” within a list of ingredients, you’d be forgiven for assuming this is one ingredient. It’s not: “Fragrance” is a legally protected blend of ingredients that make something smell the way it does. This trade secrecy allows for companies to protect their unique fragrance creations so that they are not copied or stolen by competition.
Scents are a wonderful way to express individuality, evoke memory, and make a moment more fun. Fragrances can be combinations of over 3,000 natural and artificial ingredients, including the following:

  • Aldehyde
  • Bergamot
  • Cinnamal
  • Citral
  • Herbal extracts
  • Limonene
  • Linalool
  • Vanillin

Some of these ingredients are extracted from plants, and others may be derived from plants and then altered or combined with other scents in the lab. Pretty interesting, right? The science of fragrance has existed for thousands of years, and it has been rapidly expanding since the early 20th century. It’s exciting for both manufacturers and customers to witness all of the incredibly unique combinations of scent.

Natural Scents: Where Do They Come From?

There are a lot of wonderful smells to be found in nature, but how are they harnessed and put into natural perfumes and other products? First of all, the term “natural fragrance” may not mean what you think it does: The term “natural,” unlike “organic,” is not regulated by the FDA, so almost any company can claim to be natural or have natural ingredients and put this label on its products. While you may assume that natural products are free of any preservatives, a manufacturer may be operating on a different definition. If you’re looking for a purely natural fragrance, these scents will likely be derived from essential oils (or the product will contain the oils themselves).
There are many benefits to choosing natural scents over artificially created fragrances, but don’t be fooled into thinking that natural products are completely safe for every person. The perception of plant-based products is that they are hypoallergenic, but often they can be irritating to those with sensitive skin or allergies (many people are allergic to plants, after all). Natural fragrances may smell familiar and comforting due to being naturally derived, and they do come from nature, which appeals to those who are trying to avoid synthetic products. Popular oils used in products with natural scents are vanilla, lavender, frankincense, and jasmine.

Artificial Fragrances: What Are They Made Of?

What are synthetic fragrances?

Those who prefer artificial fragrances may enjoy the strong scents; the aromas that you can’t find in the natural world; and the ease of finding a perfume, home scent, or body product that matches the smell you enjoy. Synthetic scents can include ingredients from nature, like vanilla, or they can be synthetic chemicals that are combined in a lab to create a unique fragrance.
Artificial scents are generally safe, but sometimes they can contain preservatives like parabens that customers would rather avoid. All of our fragrances, including those made with synthetic ingredients, are paraben-free.

Psychological Components of Specific Scents

There’s more to the science of scent than just whether the smell is natural or artificial: Scent has a powerful psychological component as well. People have used different scents for different purposes for a long time — probably since humans began to use scent on their bodies and around their homes. Different smells mean something special to each of us. Vanilla could remind you of your childhood bedroom, jasmine could remind you of your grandmother’s perfume, and sandalwood could bring back memories of a great vacation.

1. Scents Are Linked to Human Memory

Have you ever smelled a fragrance only to be confronted with a memory you’d long forgotten? The memory could be good, bad, or in between, but your brain cataloged it right alongside the smell. Sounds, touch, and taste can also trigger memories, but because your olfactory bulb has such a close relationship with the hippocampus and amygdala — the parts of your brain that store many of your emotions and memories — scent triggers memories in a unique and very strong way.

2. Scents Can Alter Your Emotions and Behavior

Many people swear by lavender to calm them when they’re feeling stressed or anxious. Others depend on their citrus-scented facial cleanser to wake them up in the morning. Whether we’re aware of scent’s effect on our mood or not, it often has a dramatic impact. You can harness this by using scents around your home and on your body that will help you achieve the mood you want.

Adding a Whole Home Diffuser to Your House

Add a fragrance diffuser to your home.

Whole house diffusers are popular options for delivering a light, pleasant scent throughout your home through your HVAC system. At Whole Home Scenting, we use gentle fragrances that are both naturally derived and synthetic. They contain top, middle, and bottom notes that combine to create our signature fragrance blends. In case you’re wondering, our synthetic fragrances are safe to use for sensitive individuals, children, and pets. Our scents contain no parabens or phthalates, and they are also vegan and gluten-free. Here’s a list of ingredients commonly found in our fragrances as well as further reading on synthetic and natural fragrances.

Get in Touch

If you’re curious about installing your very own whole home scent diffuser, get in touch with us to learn how easy it can be. Contact Whole Home Scenting to get started.

Photo credit: Nicholas Githiri (woman smelling a pink flower), This Is Engineering (woman in a lab), Maksim Goncharenok (neutral living room with white couch)

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Don't Fragrance Your Home Until You've Eliminated These Five Common Odor Areas.

In 5 easy steps, we show you how to get your home ready for scenting, so you can be confident it smells the way you want.

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