The Science of Scent: How a fragrance can transform your mood

If you’re a sucker for all things scent but can't make it down to our Meet The Experts events in store, don't fear – we’ve asked connoisseurs of the fragrance world to explain the science behind smells and how they can affect your mind and body.

20160310 scent

How does scent affect how we feel, you may ask?

Neom Organic's co-founder Nicola Elliot explains: “An essential oil is a complex compound of chemical constituents taken from a single plant source that is volatile, so it evaporates easily and hits your limbic system, which is your 'emotional' brain. Essential oils are really powerful, as they work both on the emotional and physical level. When you inhale essential oils it can affect how you feel in 3-7 minutes, so our body learns quickly whether we like or dislike an aroma by the release of hormones.”

It’s clear there's a scientific link between scent and your emotions, but even more interesting is the fact that the particular scents you're drawn to can reveal something you’re lacking, such as sleep. Certain scents like lemon are linked to energy, while lavender holds incredibly effective sleep-inducing properties, as does chamomile, that not only helps to de-stress, it also calms skin irritation and can help with sleep issues.

Check out our top picks below for products that have the ability to evoke a certain state of mind...

For when you want to feel happy

A blend of eight potent essential oils make up Neom’s 100% natural Scent to Make You Happy range. Wild mint provides a hit of energy, whilst mandarin reduces stress levels - the two work together to lift mood and encourage a calm state of mind. The Neom Happiness Reed Diffuser (£38) makes a welcome addition to any home, while their Daily Boost Face, Body & Hair Oil (£32) is perfect for when you need a hit of positive vibes.

Neom is available at Fenwick Brent Cross, Canterbury, Colchester, Kingston, Newcastle, Tunbridge Wells, Windsor and York

For when you want to mix things up

Fragrance is as much a personal statement as the clothes you wear, and Jo Malone’s Fragrance Combining philosophy allows you to create a scent that is unique to how you’re feeling that day. Their Master Perfumers suggest layering different products - for example, starting with a body crème as a base and then enhancing it with cologne. Our favourites include the English Pear & Freesia Body Crème (£50) with a spritz of Wild Bluebell Cologne (£42) for a cool floral fragrance of flowers and ripe pears.

Jo Malone London is available at Fenwick Brent Cross, Newcastle and Tunbridge Wells

For when you want to feel comforted

If you’re suffering from a cold or are feeling particularly stressed, the Aromatherapy Associates Support range aims to comfort and lift your mood. Their Support Breathe Roller Ball (£16) combines eucalyptus, pine, tea tree and peppermint oils in a convenient roller ball applicator to maintain easy breathing and a clear head – perfect for travel!

Aromatherapy Associates is available at Fenwick Brent Cross, Kingston, Tunbridge Wells and Windsor

For when you want to feel like you’ve spent two weeks in the Mediterranean

Acqua di Parma’s new Italian Resort collection not only smells a treat, it harnesses the benefits of Sicilian Maritime Pine, a plant renowned for its ability to withstand adverse climatic conditions that has revitalising properties when used on the skin.  From a Face and Eye Cleaning Oil (£37) to a Restoring Face Mask (£90) and UV Face Protection 50+ (£54), the new line protects skin from antioxidants and increases cell turnover giving it that desired just-got-back-from-holiday youthful glow. 

Acqua di Parma is available at Fenwick Bond Street, Brent Cross, Canterbury, Colchester, Kingston, Newcastle, Tunbridge Wells, Windsor and York

For when you want to put a spring in your step

Molton Brown’s perfumer Jennifer Jambon describes their latest Dewy Lily of the Valley & Star Anise collection as “a springtime bouquet of just-picked white flowers, still veiled in early morning dew.” This fragrance marks the arrival of spring with its leading note, lily of the valley, alongside sweet star anise, fresh, green top notes and floral notes of magnolia and ylang-ylang.

Molton Brown Dewy Lily of the Valley & Star Anise Collection, from £10; Available at Fenwick Bracknell, Brent Cross, Canterbury, Colchester, Kingston, Leicester, Newcastle, Tunbridge Wells, Windsor and York

By Grace Gargini