Friday, March 19, 2010

Comforting Scents for Uncomfortable Times: Joint Blogging Project + Giveaway

There are moments in life that none of us would have chosen to be in. But they are inevitable, unexpected and when they land on our heads out of the blue are extremely uncomfortable to say the least. Something just has to be done to ease the shock and discomfort. 13 other bloggers joined forces to help you find a sweet spot even in the worst of times (links at the bottom of the post).

Some of us find comfort in reading a book by the fireplace at the end of a rough day, some would cuddle up with a teddy bear, some would drown their misery in Southern Comfort, a bag of chips or a bucket of ice cream; and others will do all of the above. For us strange perfumista birds, the situation gets even trickier because when things get rough, it seems like the last thing you’d want to do is commemorate it with a beautiful scent that you’re bound to hate or dread for the rest of your olfactory life. So the damage is even greater when this one thing that brought so much pleasure, excitement and intrigue to our lives is all of a sudden out of the question.

So I’ve been thinking: What if instead of depriving myself from my favourite scents in those uncomfortable times – I’ll find some really fantastic scent to wear that will help to cope with the downright dreadfulness of the situation? Perhaps if I don’t wear it in the midst of the painful event, it will have the positive effect of comfort without the risk of becoming forever engrained in my memory as part of the pain itself?

Here are some ideas, for various degrees of non-fun situations and which scents I’d pick as an antidote. Keep in mind, that most likely the scent would be worn after the event has taken place. Just in the same way you’d brew yourself a cup of tea after hearing bad news.

Going to the dentist:
Opium Fleur de Shanghai. There’s enough cloves in this one to stop a tooth from aching. If that’s not enough try Opium in parfum extrait strength. A great tranquilizer.

Broken heart:
When I created Immortelle l’Amour, I made it exactly so thick with sweet intentions to remedy precisely that condition, that I’m quite convinced by now it might be sticky enough to glue together the fragments of a broken heart. And if it doesn’t, just take that blue heart bottle of L de Lolita Lempicka to replace the missing organ on your left side.
I think because both vanilla and cinnamon have such a positive association in my mind (from my grandmother’s baking!) that any perfume with high doses of both will never become a sad scent for me. Thank you grandma!

Learning that a close family member who lives far away is very ill, in the middle of the summer:
Sothing about Sofia. The lightheartedness of this flower and mango concoction could have been another fruity floral disaster, but it’s actually well done. The fruit is tart and refreshing and the flowers are just cheerful enough to keep your chin up and iron out some of those inevitable worry wrinkles unlit you find a flight.

Over 14 Hours Trans-Atlantic Flight:
The purest hydrosols and essential oils seem to bring the most comfort to long flights. Lack of air, lack of sleep, H1N1 and dry skin can all be made a little less terrible with some good lavender oil, tea tree oil, and pure rosewater or orange flower hydrosol.

Frequent visits to the hospital to take care of a family member whose life is in danger:
Well, life really is full of lemons sometimes. And in such a situation, anything too strong will probably not be appropriate to wear at the hospital. So I would stick to exactly that – but in a body lotion form. J.R. Watkins Lemon Cream was just perfect for that nightmare-ish summer visits at the hospital. If it wasn’t for the fact that it’s disappeared from from the shelves of the local drugstores I would easily continue to enjoy it even now. Applying the cream after shower provides just the right balance between lemony freshness and comforting vanilla and shea butter.

A cup of tea wouldn’t hurt either, and what better choice than Chartreuse Eau de Vie with its soothing chamomile, tarragon and osmanthus flowers? And finally, daily morning trips to the local bakery ensure that you get your doze of sanity (and something for breakfast), just by walking there and smelling the freshly baked bread and wood fire…

Paralyzing Back Injuries:
Anything with angelica, and better yet – Dong Quai (Angelica sinensis). A few years ago I could enver believe I would like anything with it. Now the scent of this, especially in my TCM’s is the most reassuring scent in the world. You know you’re going to come out of there feeling ten times better, and with packets of bitter powdered herbs that will make you wish you never had taste buds, but will also make you feel better.

In fact, I’m loving angelica so much now that I have created a new amber base which I call “Angelic Amber” to be worn alone or as base for my new dark osmanthus-rose Chypre.

Attending a family dinner party where you know you’re not welcome by the racist hosts: Eau d’Hermes. It has enough sunshine and cumin in it to make me feel at home (in my own skin at least) and proud of my Middle Eastern heritage and my own family values. No one could take that away from me.

Really nasty breakups that makes you not want to eat anything:
Un Crime Exotique, with its stark likeness to a curvy poached-pear in star-anise infused almond tart. There is enough softness in that flask to make even Chinese water torture seem amusing. Besides, with this kind of dessert, I’d skip a meal anytime.

Good tea to go with it: Milky oolong.

Getting fired:
Being self-employed it's hardly unlikely I'll run into that situation, but if I did, I would have to make sure I have with me one of those travel size sprays of Vetiver Tonka: some would go towards releasing any anger by macing the bearer of the bad news (how civilized), and the rest would go on my wrists and sweater, with this cereal-like rendition of caramelized vetiver. Nothing could be more soothing, grounding and centering than vetiver, and those sweet surrounding notes make it even better. Only downside: it would be hard to replace it unless a new job is found, and fast.

Spring Allergies:
An experience that is completely new to me (started last year). Sève Exquise provides a non-floral counterpoint between sneezing sessions!

Do you go "sans-parfum" or wear comforting scents when uncomfortable situations happen in your life? If so, what are your comfort scents?
Comment below with your and enter the giveaway of two cute and comforting miniatures: Immortelle l'Amour, and L de Lolita Lempicka.

Visit the following blogs for other ideas for comforting scents:

Roxana's Illuminated Journal

BitterGrace Notes

Perfume Shrine

Notes from the Ledge

Scent Hive

The Non Blonde

Perfume in Progress

Katie Puckrik Smells

A Rose Beyond the Thames

I Smell Therefore I Am


All I Am A Redhead

Savvy Thinker

P.s. This article's title is an homage to Michelyn Camen's original article of this same name on Sniffapalooza Magazine in 2008, in which I was interviewed to comment on what botanical elements make some of my perfumes comforting. Michelyn Camen is the Publisher and Editor in Chief of and the Editor-at- Large for

Labels: , ,


At March 19, 2010 10:49 PM, Anonymous Scent Hive said...

I love your "getting fired fragrance!" Vetiver Tonka is probably my favorite of the Hermessences for the reasons you described.

And thank you so much for having this blogging event. I loved reading everyone's thoughts.


At March 19, 2010 11:56 PM, Blogger DWR said...

Great list! I particularly appreciate the injury, hospital, fired, and break-up scents -- definitely bookmarking this one for a bad day.

At March 20, 2010 12:03 AM, Blogger Ayala Moriel said...

Vetiver Tonka is my favourite also, with Vanille Galante being a close contestant.
It was so great to do this with you!
I'm sure this will happen again. Spring list anyone???

Glad you liked the list!
And hope it will be helpful if any of those things happen to you (which I wish they never will!!!).

At March 20, 2010 4:35 AM, Blogger Sarah said...

I think my best "cozy up and feel snuggled" scent is Shalimar. Whenever I feel really ropey, that's what I turn to.
But when I want to be lifted (stressful work events, etc) then Beyond Love by Kilian is perfect. That shimmering tuberose just lifts me and makes me feel invincible :D

At March 20, 2010 6:36 AM, Blogger Gator Grad said...

This has been a year full of discomfort for me, and it just so happens it was my first year of true freefall into the hobby of niche fragrances. So far, it hasn't ruined any of the frags for me.... I'm so glad that you put this blogging project together!

I agree instantly with the lemon/hospital suggestion. Escale o Portofino would be a good match with this as well I think (it's not so big that it would bother other people, pleasant, optimistic).

Does it maybe work to equally wear a fragrance during really good times, so that when you wear it during hard times, you associate it with the pleasant moments?

At March 20, 2010 8:11 AM, Anonymous lilacskin said...

first i want to say that yr pics of the Patou 1000 made my mouth water! loved this whole 'comfort' project so thank you so much for initiating it. my strange bottle of cheer in these strange/hard times has been 'blush' by marc jacobs. dunno why- it pretty much smells like straight up honeysuckle which never fails to cheer me. i've also spent a lot of time with keiko mercheri's 'ume' and 'santal blanc' recently. yummmm.

At March 20, 2010 8:54 AM, Blogger ScentScelf said...

So much to ponder here!

I'm going to start with your comment about angelica, which comes in and out of my radar, but I expect to pay more attention to this summer. Have been watching a little start become a healthy, mature plant creating its own divisions in my backyard; hope to put it to culinary use this year. I do love its appearance alone...commands with its height, but those airy flowers help it blend in.

I finally remembered to include a hydrosol within easy reach when I recently travelled; you are quite right, it was comforting. (And refreshing.)

Oh, dear; the Watkin's Lemon Creme is disappearing? That's one I've enjoyed, too. Along this theme, I think I'd keep some L'Occitane Lavender Shea hand creme with me as well, for when the visit is over.

So many of your scents are new to me; you've created a kind of map for a future investigation!

BTW, depending on the form of distress and where my head is at, I'll either take the time to choose an appropriate scent, or forgo. Sometimes the sensory input is helpful; sometimes, it's either too much, or too tricky to risk the fallout from picking something that ends up being "wrong."

This was a fun project; thanks for the invitation!

At March 20, 2010 10:20 AM, Blogger Julie H. Rose said...

Gator Grad asked a question to which I answer "Yes! That really works!", at least it has for me.

Enjoyed the playfulness of your entries.

Vanilla is most certainly a comfort scent for me, with almond coming in close second. However, if I want comfort and am feeling sluggish, lavender is always what I reach for.

At March 20, 2010 1:00 PM, Blogger Ayala Moriel said...

Shalimar is one of my favourites. Now that you mentioned it, I think I could use it as a comfort scent too!

Gator Grad,
I'm sorry to hear it was an uncomfortable year for you. Without getting into too much detail, the past 6 months were not the best for me either (in fact, most of the scenarios in the post, except for the getting fired and working an on-call teaching shift) all happened to me in the past 6 months....
Citrusy scents I also find really good on flights. I don't usually wear them otherwise. Because they are so light and fleeing and refreshing they can have an almost aromtherapeutic effect.
I find that if a scent has a really strong association with other things, it won't become tainted by the current negative experience it's used to relieve. That being said, I used Mitsouko when I stayed with my daughter at the hospital for a week when she broke her leg; it was comforting at that time because I loved it and had only positive associations with it. But than I hardly worn it for years because of that. Not that it was such a terrible experience, but I guess subconsciously I had to give it a rest before I can fully enjoy it again (which I do now).

At March 20, 2010 1:02 PM, Blogger Ayala Moriel said...

so glad you enjoyed the theme and hoped you visited all the other blogs too, they did really great pieces!
I only tried Blush on a scent strip. I love honeysuckle (both their gorgeous heady scent and their sweet nectar which we would steel from the bees as kids!) - and can see how this would cheer you up.
And to learn that Keiko Mecheri has an Ume perfume? I would love to try that - I just adore the scent of Ume (aka plum) blossoms!

At March 20, 2010 1:07 PM, Blogger Ayala Moriel said...

I'm so envious of your angelica garden. I think it takes at least 2 years before you can use the stocks, am I wrong? Look up a recipe for candied angelica stocks. It is popular in Europe and I imagine has a very unique flavour.

Watkin's Lemon Cream seems to have been replaced by a Vanilla Cream that is too sweet to my taste. I wish they would have got rid of the green tea one instead... The lemon cream was just about perfect... If I see more of it I will be hoarding me some tubes.
I usually forgo wearing any scent at all. But doing so for 6 months would have just been too much, so I learned how to find the right scent and I was playing it safe for the most part (none of these were particularly adventurous and most provided a sweet silver lining, which was what I needed).
It was wonderful to have you participate and I really enjoyed your post, which also included quite a few scents I've never tried. Hopefully I'll be entering a more adventurous phase this spring and will be able to try new and strange things without risking turning them into memorabilia of misery ;-)

At March 20, 2010 1:11 PM, Blogger Ayala Moriel said...

Thank you for commenting and sharing your comfort scents :-)
Vanilla really comforts me too. And lavender became a staple for travel now - it's really cool that you can wear it neat on the skin (it relieves the itch of mosquito bites and burns instantly!). I like leaving a few drops on the pillow, which not only helps to get a restful sleep, but also keeps mosquitoes and bugs away.

I agree that some scents have such a powerfully positive connotation that they really can be used to help us cope with less fortunate circumstances. But you have to be careful when you pick something completely new in those occasions.

At March 20, 2010 10:47 PM, Blogger Illuminated Perfume said...

I love the way you wove in scents for specific uncomfortable situations, so perfect. Thanks so much for inviting me. Happy Spring!

At March 21, 2010 8:13 AM, Blogger samara said...

laundry and when the heater comes on in the house in the winter

At March 21, 2010 5:11 PM, Blogger Katie Puckrik said...

Ayala, Homage Attar by Amouage is actually my fave trans-Atlantic flight coping smell. I rub it on my palms, and then work my hands through the cashmere wrap that I wear on the plane. It counteracts the stale stuffiness like nothing else for me.

At March 21, 2010 7:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, am I allowed to keep repeating the same comfort scent I posted in another blog's comments section? ;) I only become a "fumehead" about a year ago, so fortunately I haven't had any major distress. For the regular old need for some relaxation, I would go with Verte Violette or something similar, a calming violetty scent. (Haven't found a great lavender yet.) A bit of a worse fix might need something quiet and sweet like Petite Cherie or Occitane Honey & Lemon. Pear is a good smell! For a bit of cool weather comfort, I'd take some Fille en Aiguilles: nature and evergreen forests are big and cool and comforting: they can swallow up one's problems! Or CdG Sequoia... also transports me to the woods somewhere! These also suggest a place to walk: got to do that for certain kinds of discomfort.

Sorry to hear about racist family events! Seems like you would be fully justified in skipping such a situation if you knew about it in advance.

Laura M

At March 24, 2010 12:13 PM, Blogger Perfumeshrine said...

Has Blogger eaten my comment or did I comment elsewhere on the blog? I can't remember. What I have to definitely say is thanks for organising this!! Much fun!


Post a Comment

<< Home