Anyone who knows me knows I'm batty for, prone-to-going-weak-in-the-knees, crazy-in-love with scent. I'd take perfume over makeup any day. I like or dislike people instantly based on how they smell. If I fancy a guy, though, I can never remember how he smells, and it's really the only time olfactory amnesia sets in. "Smelling good is a conscious decision," says natural perfumer and the nose behind Lalun Naturals, Maggie Mahoubian. "Contrary to popular belief, it doesn't result from wearing a lot of perfume. Rather, smelling good has as much to do with eliminating scent as it does with deciding which ones to enjoy."
I'm always amazed at how smells can trigger the most intense, complex memories instantaneously. When I'm in New York I'm blindsided every day (even if I don't always inhale deeply). Think top notes of unmistakable $1 pizza (even at 8.30 a.m.) and lingering hints of incense, sweat, exhaust, and—on a good day—the first blossoms of the season, or "the way the mist rises from the Hudson in that perennially hopeful way," says mbg associate green & home editor, Emma Loewe.
Become conscious of the power of scent in your life.
"The first step in conscious olfaction is practicing scent awareness, something everyone can do," says Mahoubian. "Perfumers train their noses by identifying and memorizing scents. So can you! Start by closing your eyes and allowing your nose to survey the landscape of your surroundings. What scents stand out? Open your eyes and try to find the source. While cooking a meal, allow your nose to focus on each ingredient. Imagine how they will combine in a dish. Purchase samples of essential oils and place a dab onto a scent strip. Gently inhale and write down your thoughts and impressions. Continue evaluating in this manner every half-hour over the course of a morning. This is called an organoleptic evaluation and uses language to help you identify and memorize fragrance notes."
Amy Galper, executive director of the New York Institute of Aromatherapy and my aromatherapy teacher to boot, says that we should all be carrying at least three to five essential oils with us everywhere we go. If that sounds excessive, fear not. "You don't even have to open the bottles or use them. The mere action of carrying them is enough to scent your personal space, and it doesn't even matter which oils they are; any will do. Essential oils in any combination can provide a nurturing and healing aromatic cloud."
"Once you become more conscious and aware of scent in general, you may decide you need a fragrance detox," says Mahoubian. "Think of this as Marie Kondo-ing your cluttered olfactory realm. Survey all the scented products you use from bath and body care (shampoos, body lotions, deodorants, skin care, makeup, hair care, oral care), household products (cleaners, scented candles, incense, air fresheners) to laundry products (detergents, fabric softeners) and determine how you will take a temporary break from fragrance—this kind of olfactory break can help reset your nose and make it more sensitive."
Galper thinks using essential oils every day can go a long way toward jazzing up the way scent comes to play in your life. "That doesn’t mean just putting drops in your water and drinking them," she says. "How would you get the sensory benefit from that? But rather, try adding a few drops of essential oils to every product you use on your skin: For example, add a drop to your shampoo, your hand sanitizer, your lotion, muscle gels, etc. Let the oils make contact with your skin via body and skin care products, as much as possible throughout the day." Dreamy...
Spark joy with smell.
"Reintroduce fragrance consciously," says Mahoubian. "Does it spark joy or does it make you recoil? Does the scent of your laundry detergent now overpower? If your heightened awareness finds a scent to be too strong, give yourself permission to let it go (thanking it, of course, for having given you pleasure). Fragranced laundry detergents are the easiest to let go of after you have fine-tuned your nose. Does your commercial perfume linger on your clothes? If that scent interferes with other fragrances you might consider switching to a natural perfume. If all shampoos smell alike (fruity, coconutty, sugary), try an unscented shampoo and add an essential oil. Instead of a body lotion, blending an after-bath body oil. You will end up with soft skin and won't miss the fillers and preservatives!"
"Live with essential oils," says Galper. "That means they literally inhabit your home. Place them in your bedroom, your kitchen, your desk, car, and bookshelves. Add drops to the bucket when you mop your floors or clean your counters or dust. Sprinkle a few essential oils on your bed linens and on your towels as they dry in the dryer. Incorporate them into each daily practice of your life."
Follow your nose.
"The nose changes and so should you," says Mahoubian. With your heightened olfactory awareness you will notice that your ability to smell changes throughout the day. The smell of lemon is bright and fresh in the morning but sour and acrid at night. By nighttime, olfactory fatigue can set in, so lighter, more volatile molecules are difficult to perceive. Instead of commercial perfumes that have extended longevity, wear and enjoy natural perfumes that can be switched throughout the day."
Mix it up!
"There is an old saying: 'You are the company you keep,'" says Galper. "And by keeping the company of essential oils, by living and using them in every corner of your life, their therapeutic properties and energetic resonances can literally rub off on you. You'll discover not only that their sophisticated aromatic compositions have become embedded in your pores and on your clothing but more significantly, that your senses feel more alive and vibrant, and your newfound awareness has been elevated. By consciously (and unconsciously) reconnecting to your sense of smell, you've actually strengthened your link to the ancient power of the plants."
"Change things up a bit," says Mahoubian. "You don't eat the same meal every day, why wear the same fragrance? Decluttering your olfactory sense will make you hungry for new scent experiences. Give in to your urge to explore and enjoy your newly honed nose consciously!"