Volume 95, Issue 85

Thursday, March 14, 2002
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Scents and sensibility: the world of perfume

Quick facts on the history of human stench

Dirty pop: has the time come for a curtain call?

Scents and sensibility: the world of perfume

By Judie Larracey and Kasia Sarnecki
Gazette Staff

The wonder and mystery of attraction has fascinated people for centuries. But what causes people to gravitate towards some individuals and run away from others?

Animals and insects emit substances called pheromones to attract animals of the same species, explained Mel Usselman, an associate professor of chemistry at Western. However, there has been no specific documentation of similar pheromones in humans, although it is scientifically plausible, he added.

Usselman said make-up, clothes and appearance are more powerful factors when it comes to attraction than the possibility of human pheromones. Cosmetic and perfume companies claim to have uncovered the cryptic code of attraction and managed to package, market and sell it in tiny, colourful bottles.

Perfume companies heavily emphasize attraction factors like appearance when advertising their product because the right scent can be very provocative and enticing to the opposite sex, Usselman said.

However, chemistry still plays a large part in determining a human's scent. Usselman said whenever there is a moist, warm area on our body, bacteria begins to gather and emit what we recognize as body odour. To mask the odour, people apply artificial scents that, in turn, react with our natural chemistry, either positively or negatively. "We are a great big cauldron of chemical reactions," he said.

Unfortunately, people often wear too much perfume or the wrong scent for their body chemistry, resulting in a potent stench. "Smell three or four scents, try one on and walk around with it, see how it works on you. [Perfumes] often smell different in the bottle than they do on people," suggested Melanie Stratton, a sales associate at Perfect Scents.

Kelly McGibbon, global communications manager for Estée Lauder, said fragrance is a personal preference, noting Clinique fragrances continue to do extremely well and are currently the number one selling fragrance in Canada. "Across the board, Clinique appeals to a lot of different women," she said.

People between the ages of 20 and 30 – the most important market for perfumes and colognes – have definite likes and dislikes for scented products. "Scents are one way to make us distinct in a crowd," McGibbon said. "People achieve this is by wearing perfume and cologne."

Roshanne Miller, a third-year health science student, said wearing perfume makes her feel sexy and attractive. "I like Ralph Lauren for women and Dolce & Gabbana for men," she said.

"Scents are definitely an attraction factor with the opposite sex," she explained. "If they smell good, they become really attractive."

Miller said body mists are a great alternative to perfume if you don't want a heavy scent. "I mostly buy perfume for my friends and family, but not for myself," she said.

Third-year history student Simon Kim said if there is a cologne he likes, price is never a factor. "When you go out, you want to smell nice and clean," he said.

"Polo Sport is really a nice fresh scent for girls. It doesn't matter where they have it on, as long as [they don't] have too much on," he said, noting if he purchases perfume for a friend, his selection is often made based on his own personal tastes.

"As spring is approaching, fresh scents are what are becoming popular with people," Stratton explained. "Fresh scents are the better sellers, but scents go in cycles. Now it is the fruity scents and warmer vanilla scents."

As popular scents change, so do the available products.

Body mists and lotions are becoming very popular, said Terri Dobbs, a sales associate at The Bay. "People want to smell good, but not overpowering and mists and lotions are a great way to achieve this for both men and women." Body mists are also an inexpensive alternative to perfumes, she said.

According to Dobbs, the number of men wearing cologne increases as they become more interested in skin care and fragrances.

"Most people who buy cologne here are young men – mainly university students. They are changing their preference to fresh and sweet scents. They know what they want and they don't mind the price," said Dobbs.

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