lIn 2002, the most popular new perfumes were that smell like cotton candy or your favorite pop star (example: the scent of J. Lo Glow still takes me back to my 11th birthday and Britney Spears’ Fantasy will never fail to remind me of my 7th grade infatuation). Fast forward 16 years, and in 2018 we started spritzing ourselves for a very, very different reason: to feel better.
“Functional fragrance” has recently become a buzzy term in the beauty industry, referring to scents that do a lot more than just make us smell good. “The idea behind a functional fragrance is that it really does something to help you,” explains Adina Grigore, founder of SW Basics, noting that essential oil-based fragrances are primarily a good fit because we use the synthetic ones. have replaced substances with which we spritz ourselves with “Fragrance, as we traditionally know it, is a compound of synthetic chemicals designed to smell a certain way. These chemicals have become controversial of late because they can trigger negative reactions ranging from allergies to rashes to headaches and more.” Meanwhile, EOs, the fragrances in functional fragrances, are often used for their mood-altering properties, spawning everything from sleep to mega-energy.
This happens because there is a science-backed connection between smell and the brain and body, which calms or excites the parasympathetic nervous system. So if sniffing these scents can generally have beneficial effects, it’s not a big leap to assume that spritzing yourself with them (and therefore sniffing them all day long) will. “Lemon and orange are mood-boosting, peppermint and lavender are soothing, and tea tree and sage are great for the skin,” explains Grigore, noting that the functional scents in her line are one note, so you can select your scent by based on the mood you want to induce.
According to research conducted by The Nue Co., another brand behind the functional scent tree, scent is one of the fastest ways to change your emotional state because of the close connection between the brain and the olfactory system. In a focus group, 96 percent of people felt “immediately calmer” after smelling their scent, which was designed to lower cortisol levels. After having the bottle on my desk for a week and inhaling it every time I felt overwhelmed, I can confirm that this stuff works.
As well as chilling you out and helping you smell a lot better, functional fragrances don’t contain synthetic notes, which can sometimes raise ingredient question marks. “It’s kind of a no-brainer to switch from a fake-smelling drink that gives you a headache to a rollerball that [can help make] your headache will go away,” says Grigoire. “Personal care and beauty are becoming part of our well-being, and that’s exactly what they should be.” Keep scrolling for the scents that will work for you.
If you are stressed: The Nue Co describes its unisex functional fragrance ($155) as “clean, woody, spicy, and smoky,” made with wellness-evoking notes like green cardamom, iris, palo santo, and coriander. The combination of scents is meant to help you relax, and two spritzes on your wrists or neck followed by inhaling for eight seconds, holding for four seconds, and exhaling for eight seconds should do the job.
If you need a mood boost: As Grigore mentioned, citrus scents can help cheer you up, so SW Basic’s Sweet Orange ($6) is great for fighting winter (or workday) blues. The brand’s website even calls it “sun in a bottle” and “chocolate cake that’s both rich and healthy.” Dab a few drops behind your ears to make your day feel like it’s filled with rainbows and puppies.
If you need some extra energy: In addition to inducing happiness, citrus can also bring a little spice to your step when coffee just doesn’t seem to cut it. Valeur Absolue Vitalite ($85) fragrance is infused with essential oils of tangerine and Calabrian bergamot, magnesium and potassium, and a natural extract of the immortelle flower, making you feel ready to tackle that 4 p.m. to-do list in one pinch. .
If you want to relax: Osea Vagus Nerve Oil ($48) works overtime to make you feel good. It combines chamomile, jojoba, juniper leaf and lavender oils for a wave of calm and all-over good vibes. It’s meant for a mini-massage along your vagus nerve, which stretches from your brain to your gut (fun fact! it’s the longest cranial nerve in the body!) and helps with stress, calmness and digestion.
Your mood isn’t the only thing essential oils can help with. Try the best natural scents for treating hangnails, surviving the holidays, and beating emotional inflammation.