One perfume; multiple smells

I was talking with a couple of my friends and the topic of perfumes came up and we were all talking about our favorite ones etc. but one of my friends said “did you guys know that a perfume can smell different on all of us?” I was a bit confused and didn’t really know if I believed what she was saying. The thought of one perfume smelling different on different people seemed a bit odd. I decided to do some research.

Everyone obviously has a unique body chemistry and is made up of different genes, skin types etc. But the key part to this idea of perfumes smelling different on different people is the fact that the perfume molecules react differently on the skin depending on dryness, oiliness, or sensitivity. When considering the differences of skin, you also have to look at the differences inside the skin. The fat, acids, salts, sugars, proteins, fibers, hairs, etc. all contribute to the different complex mixtures of chemicals built in every person’s skin. Each of these components contribute to the way the perfume chemicals will react changing the smell of the perfume. Another factor that leads to this is how the perfume molecules react throughout heartbeat. It sounds weird, but it is true. It has been found that the molecules react with the warm pulse points, causing a reaction with our skin and our hormones. This reaction then determines what type of smell the perfume is going to give off.


Another idea that comes into play in determining why a perfume will smell different on different people is the fact that we all may smell differently. Scientists have discovered that people smell different scents since we all experience outdoor odors differently. According to the Nature Neuroscience Journal, 30 percent of the 400 smell receptors humans have differ between any two people. This being said, two people may smell a perfume on someone and both smell it differently. One may find it pleasant and the other may not.

A study was conducted to identify the amount of differences in receptors there are between people. The researchers decided to duplicate 511 receptors in a laboratory and implanted them in host cells. The researchers then measured how each receptor reacted to a panel of 73 different odors. The study found that 140 of their 400 receptors were different by using mathematical models. The research teams goal is to figure out how to manipulate the receptors directly so that there would be no differences in smells between people.

An additional factor that can influence the difference between smells of the same perfume is the exposure to light and heat. For example, if a perfume bottle was sitting in a car trunk for a long time, baking in heat, the fragrance can become unstable and therefore smell different than a bottle that was sitting in doors in a cool room. Also if you apply the perfume to warmer parts of your body, like the pulse points I discussed before, the perfume molecules will volatize faster leading to a stronger smell. If you apply the perfume to cooler parts of your body like your hair or even your clothing, the smell won’t be able to volatize leading to a weaker smell.

All of these contributions to the idea that a perfume can smell different on my friend than it does on me do make sense. I guess I should have believed her when she told me!

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