Monday, September 19, 2016

Natural Botanical Perfume Enhancers or Extenders

What is a "perfume enhancer" and why would I want one?

In the conventional perfume world an enhancer is typically a chemical or set of chemicals that boost the aroma of the other ingredients and make the scent last a lot longer. Phthalates, in particular, are used, like plastic wrap (almost literally), to trap aroma ingredients in the carrier used for the perfume and keep it from evaporating. Very effective but, when applied to skin, what you are doing is applying a plasticizer with believed endocrine disrupting effects to your body and nobody knows what it may be doing to you. The FDA has declined to take a strong stance on this, saying the evidence isn't strong enough. However, there has been significant concern about phthalate use in cosmetics as a potential factor in why young girls are reaching puberty at much earlier ages. Research does show that the chemicals can cause such effects in lab rats. So public outcry is forcing a certain amount of change.

In my 100% natural botanical perfumes, I never use chemical perfume enhancers of any sort. The botanical perfume experience is, therefore, quite different from the chemical soup most people douse themselves with (and expose other people to) on a daily basis. Botanical perfumes do not tend to announce themselves to any room you walk into. You can't use them to make an "entrance" as in the old-school version of glam fashion perfume characterized by Chanel or Dior.

Instead my natural perfumes hug your body. They actually are made to sink into your skin for emotionally uplifting or soothing effects (made from the highest quality essential oils used in aromatherapy). And later, they combine with your body chemistry to create a scent more or less unique to you. If you perspire on a warm day, you'll actually catch a whiff of the aroma long after the initial perfume scent has gone! But, that said, if you are used to chemically enhanced perfumes, natural botanicals may take time to adjust to as your less overwhelmed senses reset to become more aware of the natural world. Eventually, you may notice that conventional perfumes and perfumed-enhanced products (like laundry detergent) smell way too strong! And that's good because, honestly, that much sense-enhancement is probably not good for us. (Take a break from all scented products for a week or two every so often—it's quite the education!) When your senses readjust you'll probably never want to go back to commercial perfumes at all.

The downside? The scent of natural botanical perfumes won't last as long as you're used to and will need to be reapplied later in the day. (Of course, I find that to be an awesome treat!) Fortunately, there are some tricks to extend the scent longer. I use "fixative" essential oils in my perfumes whenever possible. (Oils that naturally evaporate less quickly than others and fix the other oils in place with them so they evaporate less quickly, too.) But sometimes that's not enough, especially in a light and breezy sweet floral or citrus-based scent.

So that's where the deliberate use of a "perfume primer," natural enhancer or  "perfume base" might come in. One thing that helps a natural perfume stick around longer is if it does not sink into the skin quite so fast. If you have very dry skin, like I do, you will find that using an unscented body oil or moisturizer first will keep it from absorbing so much perfume. You could also use a lightly scented body oil made to match or complement the perfume you use. Or you could use a scented or unscented salve or balm. I have a body oil to match every perfume I make and a number of perfume balms as well. (The balms smell particularly wonderful and, while much less concentrated than my full strength perfumes, can be used as a lighter perfume on their own!)

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