What Are Perfume Notes, and What Do They Mean?

When people hear the word “notes,” they often think of jazz or the organ, but what if I told you that wearing perfume is an art?

Efrirsten (pronounced E-first) wasn’t simply some random word dreamed up by a nobody who had no idea what perfume was. It was a phrase created by French perfumer Francois Coty, who created the first certified organic perfume in 1765. He wanted to anglicize the process of making perfume, so he separated floral notes and essential oils. He also added a third category called “fragrance notes” which were scents that he thought should be in the perfume. These essential oils gave the perfume a unique scent that became the foundation of scents that are found in many mixtures today.

There Are Three Primary Notes in Perfume:

  • The scent that is on top of the head at the first instance, 
  • The middle layer is the one that exists as the top notes fade away, and 
  • The base notes remain after everything else has evaporated. 

Top notes are usually stronger than middle or base notes. They are what people smell when they first set out on the ascent. The middle layer exists as a sort of mental composition that the top notes create as the “heart” of the perfume fades. As Coty formulated more and more pure perfumes in the 1700s, he also added an “ossom” to the perfume. This was important as it was felt that a woman wearing this perfume helped attract the man she wanted.

In the early days of perfume making, it was very difficult to mix different scents together as no real pattern emerged. The botanical notes were added slowly by fragrances houses and it was up to the wearer to know when to blend with each other.

With the beginning of perfume making technology in the 19th century, newspaper advertisements helped to expand the market for perfume. The terms “performance”, “fragrance” and “perfumery” soon became commonplace.

In the early 20th century, perfume became hard-sided – a necessary accessory to dressing. E.g. Chanel’s famous No.5 came in a really huge 25ml glass bottle.

It is perhaps significant that toothpaste was invented probably as a reaction to the need to fight off bad breath. Some ingenious company then created a liquid whitener for teeth which involved eating some chemicals.

The modern history of perfume can be seen very clearly by the many celebrities who have used it. Eline Almirahsen, Gwen Stefani, Lily Aldridge—we all know who they are.

Many of them have personalised their fragrances to suit their personality and lifestyle. Cameron Diaz once said that she believed that her perfume was the reason why she had her marriage. Lily Allen has said that her perfume has “a magic effect on a woman and I can’t imagine why.” Paris Hilton claims that when she wears perfume, the “awareness” she feels for her husband’s birthday automatically comes through in her perfume.

The Americanisation of Physicians and Surgeons Act of 2003, approved by former President George W. Bush, bars companies from promoting prescription drugs and medical devices. This resulted in the government taking action against manufacturers who promote synthetic versions of substances approved by the FDA. Pubic hair is still regulated by the FDA.

Since 9/11, the FDA has been expanding its drug-screening initiative to include skincare products. It is part of the Washington, DC, health authorities’ initiative to combat the synthetic drug crisis. Finally, to ensure the safety and effectiveness of skincare products promoted through the Internet, the departments of Health and Human Services, the Department of Health and Human Solutions, and the FDA established the Internet Cosmetic Rating Facility (ICRF).

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