Scent as Self-Care
Exploring the healing benefits of the olfactory sense.
In the last few years, we have become a society completely enamoured with self-care. While some criticize the term for being just another buzzy catchphrase used by companies to make money, the concept welcomes the idea of slowing down, taking care of ourselves, and enjoying the little pleasures amidst our otherwise hectic lives.
Along with the face serums, probiotic smoothies and eucalyptus bubble baths, scent has also proven to be an effective ritual when it comes to self-care. Wearing perfume can help stimulate a certain mood, give us a sense of individualism and, according to scientists, trigger nostalgic memories.
Linda Sivrican, founder and perfumer at LA-based Fiele fragrances, first discovered the benefits of scent while going through her own personal trauma. “I found that [essential oils] had tremendous psycho-emotional healing benefits for me. I would immediately feel calm, grounded, and restored simply by smelling them, because they allowed my mind to release negative emotions.”
“I found that [essential oils] had tremendous psycho-emotional healing benefits for me. I would immediately feel calm, grounded, and restored simply by smelling them, because they allowed my mind to release negative emotions”
Sivrican, who has worked in the industry for over decade, says perfume has been ingrained in her life as early as childhood. “Some of my fondest memories are spending time with my mom in the kitchen. She always wore perfume and smelled so elegant.”
From squeezing lemon in her sparkling water, weekly visits to the flower market to collect florals for her shop, to bathing with salts and essential oils – Sivrican is constantly surrounding herself with scents. “It puts me in a happy place.”
The story behind Fiele was to offer something for people who didn’t like traditional perfume, but would sometimes wear essential oils. “I wanted to ‘modernize’ aromatherapy and make a line that was chic but beneficial, with grounding elements,” she says.
Fiele’s collection incorporates ingredients from all over the world, with names such as Myrrha, Santalum and Viola – all of which epitomize the brand’s mission to connect people with nature and each other.
Josh Smith, founder and owner of Libertine, was heavily inspired by the idea of scents and the personal stories that surround them. “I think the crafting of narratives around certain smells is a major part of a ritual, and once you have those narratives in place, you’re able to re-tell yourself those stories by wearing those scents.”
“I think the crafting of narratives around certain smells is a major part of a ritual, and once you have those narratives in place, you’re able to re-tell yourself those stories by wearing those scents”
Smith started down a path of perfume-making unexpectedly, while attending design school. “I was very interested in scents and sensory exploration, especially in design, how things feel and work,” he says. “But the consumer world of perfume branding and marketing never really spoke to me.”
His line of unisex fragrances, based in Edmonton, AB, explores the individualistic sides we associate with different smells. “I like that scented products and perfumes are kind of invisible,” he says. “There’s more of a cultural narrative about what clothing means, hairstyles or other ways of physically modifying oneself – whereas scent is so personal, as are all the memories we associate with it.”
“There’s more of a cultural narrative about what clothing means, hairstyles or other ways of physically modifying oneself – whereas scent is so personal, as are all the memories we associate with it”
Smith, who is self-taught, likes to wear different perfumes to modify his mood. If he’s feeling ‘saucy’ one day, he’ll opt for something floral. Or if he’s feeling down, he might wear something with more aggressive notes.
When it comes to finding our ideal scent, Sivrican always asks what types of scents her customers are usually drawn to. “It gives me a starting point, as fragrance is really subjective.” She encourages people to wear it on their skin and let it hang out for awhile, so they can smell the evolving stages of the fragrance.
Smith says the journey can be deeply personal and likes to let his clientele discover it for themselves. “I think the act of someone really carefully, slowly going through and experiencing a scent as it dissolves on their body is a really cool thing. I think you learn more about yourself in doing that.”
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