Smelly Witchcraft – The Magic of Scent Memory

We’ve all done it. We’ve opened up a bottle of sunscreen, got a whiff and been transported to a warm holiday destination. We can feel the sun on our skin, the breeze in our hair and almost feel the sand between our toes. It’s an incredible feeling to get from just a small sniff of a fragrance.

I have a very strong sense of smell and taste. It’s a hindrance at times, but wonderful at others. I never really was a fan of perfumes until a few years ago. I always wanted to wear them, but since my sense of smell is so strong I found most of them overpowering. Some even made me sweat because the scent was so acidic.

But yet, I still loved the idea of having a signature fragrance. Something people would smell and know it was me. Friends did this, and I would go out and buy the same perfume and it would never smell the same on me. And it’s scientifically proven that fragrances will meld with a person’s body chemistry and create a new version of that aroma. But I could never find the one that worked best on me.

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That was until I turned 19. One of my friends bought me Dolce and Gabbana Light Blue for my birthday. I have no idea how she managed to find a fragrance that was so me. Light, citrusy but not heavy, overpowering or too sweet. I love it. And at that time I had just started seeing my boyfriend (now husband). I didn’t wear the perfume too much, but every time I wore Light Blue, later on in my life, it instantly transported me to the time in which I was falling in love. Excitement, fun and endless possibility in a bottle. I wore this perfume on my wedding day and even now it reminds both me and my husband of the early days of our relationship. It’ll always be my favourite perfume.

New fragrances are being released all the time. I’ll go through some of my favourites in a little bit, but since there are so many, cosmetics brands are starting to try to stand out from the crowd, using chemical innovation rather than just creating a new smell. Glossier, for example, released their perfume ‘You’ which is supposed to have ‘humany’ notes and smell familiar from the offset. I personally didn’t really like the scent. I’m not even sure I like the idea of a perfume that’s ‘human’ scented…. Byredo is also about to release a perfume called Elevator Music, in collaboration with Off-White, they claim is almost so subtle it disappears even before it reaches contact with the wearer. Ben Gorham of Byredo says “the idea is that its wearer is noticed, and not the perfume”.

I’m not sure about that but I must say I do prefer a subtle scent over a garish cloud of chemical mist. I followed someone through the supermarket the other day who almost brought me out in allergies because her perfume was so strong.

Scent memory is so important to me, that I decided a few years ago I would buy a perfume for each holiday I went on, wear the scent during the trip and then I would forever be transported back to that place each time I wore it. My idea didn’t exactly go to plan since perfume bottles aren’t very travel friendly and I just didn’t wear perfumes when I was away (plus who has that kind of money?!). Instead I moved onto body sprays and scented skin care, and that seemed to work well.

I started off with coconut and pina colada scents since they’re so tropical and remind me of holidays anyway.

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Enter Coconut Passion from Victoria’s Secret. I wore this every day for about a year and a half. It’s so fresh, coconutty and reminds me of summer. But it also reminds me of Christmas in New York since this is where I discovered it. I love this stuff and could swim in it.

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This Body Shop fragrance, I believe, has gone the way of the do-do. Their Polynesian Island Tiaré came in a perfume and body spray option. I went for the body spray and it’s delightfully light but strong enough that you notice it. It smells like tropical islands but with enough floral notes to stop it being too sickly. It’s wonderful.

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I picked up this little glass travel spray of Bath and Body Works’ At The Beach perfume, last year in Florida. It does exactly what it says on the bottle, and transports you to a fresh, salty and tropical beach. I also bought the hand cream and body wash of this and used it whilst I was away. To me, it screams Florida.

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As does Tahiti Island Dream in hand cream form, which I bought the year before in Florida, and I used the shower gel during my trip too. This reminds me of carefree, sunny, hot days in the Disney parks. It’s honestly the most amazing scent, and I’m trying not to finish this since I couldn’t find it on my last trip. I need this scent in my life always!

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Another Bath and Body Works fragrance was this Snowflakes and Cashmere body spray. I didn’t use this until I returned from my trip to the States, and used it all throughout the Christmas season. I then moved onto a different scent (which I’ll come to next) but recently when I went back to use this in the last few weeks I was pleasantly surprised to discover it smells like Christmas to me now! I was instantly transported to Christmas-time and I loved it!

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And last but not least, is this Ariana Grande perfume called Sweet Like Candy. I love sweet fragrances, but not too sweet. And this is perfect. I was given this as a Christmas gift and I wore it pretty much every day until recently (I’ve been giving some of my spring/summer scents a go!) and I adore it. She’s just come out with a new one, Moonlight, too which smells amazing too! Sweet Like Candy isn’t too strong and it lasts beautifully on my skin, all throughout the day. It also mixes really nicely with other scents too.

So as the years went by, and I struggled to find my signature scent, I seem to have realised that I don’t actually want that. I want different scents that remind me of experiences and times in my life, rather than a scent that will remind other people of me. What’s more important to me is that incredible element of instant time travel you can get from smelling something that reminds you of a time past. I’ll always be afraid of over-using a scent and losing that. And I feel I have somewhat lost the power of the memory I received from smelling Light Blue. But at the same time, those memories will change, so if I don’t wear it from fear of losing the original scent memories, I won’t be able to create new ones.

I think I’ll always be amazed at how intricate our senses are. I’ll never understand the chemistry that occurs that allows us to experience scent memory, but I’m not going to knock it. I’m just going to keep sniffing those incredible scents and going on my own little time travel experience for as long as I possibly can.

5 thoughts on “Smelly Witchcraft – The Magic of Scent Memory

  1. I’ve also got a really strong sense of smell, and I often like a perfume on someone else, or sprayed in the air in the shop, but it’s never as nice on me! So I go down the body spray route as well because I’m too scared to spend a fortune on a perfume I end up not liking! Bath and Bodyworks are great – I bought ‘Hello Beautiful’ when I was last in America, and I love it! Thank you for the recommendations, I’ll definitely sniff them out 🙂
    Helen x
    http://www.whenIgrowupblog.com

    1. Glad you liked the post! Isn’t it frustrating when you smell something nice on someone else but it’s just not the same on you? I very much enjoy the body spray option – so much lighter and less intense.

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