Monday, November 5, 2007

Perfume for the Occasion: Perfumes for a Stressful Day

Might certain scents help in alleviating stress? When TMH of For the Love of Perfume and I were discussing this month’s Perfume for the Occasion feature, we thought it would certainly be an interesting question to explore. Influenced by the fact that October was a rather hectic and stressful month for both of us, we felt that others too, might wish to read a few suggestions on which fragrances might promote calm, and help in easing stressful feelings away. For my part, I decided to put the focus on aromatherapy and I have to say, it has been great fun looking into this subject. The essential oils most often suggested for the purpose of alleviating stress turned out to be bergamot, jasmine, lavender, neroli, rosemary, chamomile, and to a lesser extent, ylang ylang. The question is, of course, do they really work? As a student, I am lucky to have free access to many scientific journals that allowed me to research the issue further. After reviewing several articles, the answer to the question of whether these actually work was a definite “yes” for some of these oils (bergamot, lavender and rosemary), and a clear winner had emerged: Lavender, which appears to be the most beneficial of the three. Specifically, lavender has been shown to have major benefit in stress related disorders, to decrease cortisol levels and reduce mental stress. Shall we then, take a look at a few lavender suggestions together?

· Jicky by Guerlain: I couldn’t make a post about lavender and leave Jicky out, of course. Having said that, Jicky remains a mystery to me. To me, Jicky still seems like a chameleon, ever changing colors. Sometimes its lavender scent seems long-lasting, enveloping me in its slightly camphoraceous aroma for hours. Other times I lose its trail relatively quickly, finding myself left all too soon with a slightly leathery, earthy vanilla, and struggling to detect the lavender that made it seem so controversial to my nose initially. Sometimes Jicky seems wildly animalic, making me think I must have it, but the next time I try it, it turns into sweet innocence and I find no reason to add it to my collection. Despite the mystery, Jicky does seem like a good suggestion to me, as it contains both lavender and bergamot oil.

· Lavender by Floris: Admittedly, the opening notes make this fragrance appear rather scary at first: This is an intensely herbaceous lavender with a rather sour opening. However, it soon calms down to a light, elegant and most pleasant blend of lavender with a touch of geranium and hints of rosemary. The result is very dry and aromatic giving an impression of chic simplicity. This is definitely my favorite of today’s suggestions! If you wish to treat yourself, I wholeheartedly suggest splurging on the Lavender Tranquility Set as well, and indulging your senses on the evenings you really need to relax! The Lavender Tranquility Set contains the Lavender Moisturizing Bath & Shower Gel, the Floris at Home Lavender Candle and the Patchouli & Lavender Sleep Enhancing Pillow Mist. The candle is my absolute favorite part of the set, smelling like a very sweet, gentle lavender. (It is the sweetness that gets me! – I want this translated into a body mist now please!) The shower gel is very herbaceous, smelling like true, dried lavender. I like this a lot, because it smells exactly like the lavender-filled, tiny cotton cushions my dad used to bring to me to put in my drawers when I was a little girl. The pillow mist is a dry blend of lavender and patchouli, which makes the pillow smell wonderfully fresh and crisp. Although intense at first, the scent soon becomes quite natural – I do not find myself conscious of the aroma as I fall asleep. In fact I only sense it at first when my head hits the pillow, and it is very pleasant, as though the pillowcase had just been washed. Still, make sure to test this before buying. Patchouli can be difficult and the purpose of these products is to help you relax, not keep you awake!

· Encens et Lavande by Serge Lutens: I am very ambivalent about adding this one to today’s post. Let me be honest: I do not like Encens et Lavande. I certainly would not wear it myself. Still, I decided to use it as the third suggestion for a lavender fragrance to try in times of stress, if only because it is very interesting. (who knows, aside from the natural properties of lavender, perhaps the surprise element this fragrance offers will create enough a distraction to forget about stress for a while too :) But let me get to the point: Celery. This is certainly not the only Serge Lutens fragrance that has a definite celery scent, Mandarine Mandarin is another example, but surprisingly perhaps, I love it in Mandarine Mandarin – it somehow blends in perfectly with the rest of the notes. In Encens et Lavande the celery is not only extremely pronounced but very discordant as well: It antagonizes the lavender every step of the way until it (finally) disappears. For as long as it lasts (give it at least an hour or two...) it completely ruins the fragrance –for me at least. What is very interesting however, is how salty, how savory, Encens et Lavande is, and I attribute this to the dreaded celery as well. If only for this strange savory character, I do suggest you try Encens et Lavande at least once. Another interesting, but once again discordant, note in Encens et Lavande, is sage. I love sage, and the note is very true in this fragrance, but it is too pronounced for me to appreciate it. It completely overpowers the lavender for as long as it lasts. Or perhaps I can only appreciate sage in Diptique, what can I say? All is not negative however. Encens et Lavande does finally dry down to a very soothing, soft lavender a couple of hours after it is first applied. It then tends to smell like a very traditional masculine lavander cologne, with soft musky undertones. I still wouldn’t wear it just for the pleasant dry-down, but truth be told, it is pleasant. Perhaps Gris Clair would have been a better choice, but unfortunately it is one of the Lutens I consistently overlook and thus have no sample of. Is it a good lavender scent? How does it compare to Encens et Lavande? Do let me know!

Lastly, I have to admit that personally, when I am stressed I either feel like exploring something new to distract and relax myself, or I get this strong sense of being compelled to wear a specific (different every time) scent. It feels a bit as though my body is asking for the specific thing it needs when this happens. Which scents do you use when you are stressed? Do you self medicate with perfume like I do, or perhaps cannot stand scents at all in times of stress?

Images:, Author’s own and


Linda said...

Dear Divina,
How incredibly apt your post is today - I simply want to hibernate and tell everyone to "leave me alone" so this was really interesting for me. When I feel stressed I love to indulge in perfume, body lotion, a glass of wine and a good escapist film or book. You mention Jicky: I love it because I love lavender, but I'm very aware of its animalic base. But like nearly all Guerlains, it's a haunting perfume. I have opted for L'Heure Bleue tonight, which is my first love and which I have in the extrait form. It strokes me like velvet. And this weekend, I'm going to try to find the Floris you've mentioned!
Warmest wishes,

italian girl said...

I love your posts!!!!!!
That said, I have to give my opinion. I like to wear Light Blue when I have minimal stress weighing me down. The citrus and granny apple pick me up and take the gray away.. I like the scent of lavender-it does relax me. But, smelling it in perfume makes me think of an older veddy British woman..

If I am very unhappy, I CANNOT wear perfume. It tends to make a bad headache worse and it makes me very anxious.

I have never smelled Jicky (what does the name mean)..i think i will look for it soon.

Thank you for the insight!!


helg said...

Dear D,
so good of you to read on aromatherapy!
And endearing habit of putting lavender sachets under the pillow.

However, I have to be an exception (a perfume-loving friend of mine must be as well) in that I find lavender not only non-relaxing, but positively disturbing and keeping me awake with its medicinal smell! LOL
Of course I am referring to the pure unadulterated essential oil (and I think its relaxing properties are better sensed in massage than in personal perfume -at least for me; I prefer to use something I really, really like when stressed).

So often the perceived relaxing properties of lavender in perfumes are in actual fact derived from the addition of ethyl maltol and vanillin which give the sweeter aspect that marries very well with lavender. Commercial products make use of this combo to great success.
In this regard, you might consider Pour un Homme by Caron.
For a cosy lavender I suggest Tauer's one and for a sexy one the one by Vero Kern (I reviewed them both on the blog).

RE: your question about the comparison between Encens et Lavande and Gris Clair: I find they are mirrored opposites. The one starts cool ends warm, the other the other way around. GC is a simpler lavender to my nose and I am afraid I prefer E&L myself. Pity that we don't agree on that one.
Concerning Jicky, I think you should try the extrait de parfum which has much less lavender and a great depth of animalics. The parfum de toilette version is also completely wonderful, if you can find it.

@Italian Girl:

Jicky was supposed to be the name of an English girl Aime Guerlain had fallen in love with and proposed to to no avail. But this is a romanticised version, as so often is in perfume advertising. It was simply the nickname of his nephew Jacques Guerlain. Hope I helped :-)

Divina said...

Dear Linda, sounds like you are always aware of Jicky's animalic base, unlike me. But I get the feeling that for you, this is a bad thing... I have to admit for me, it is primarily what attracts me to Jicky, the animalic scent together with lavender...It makes it so interesting, so controversial. I would have bought Jicky already if it sometimes did not turn all inocent on me. Still, I will take Helg's advice and try to find the extrait..Maybe it will be the concentration I fall in love with.

Divina said...

Ciao bella :) Reading your comment, I have to say that I don't think you will like Floris' Lavender, but I *do* think you will enjoy Jicky! It does not smell at all like a traditional lavender, so I do not think you will get the same associations. Do try it! It is also deep and warm enough, very well rounded... I think you will like it. One thing I am not sure of, is whether you will find it intense enough for your taste..But I am curious to know what you think once you try it. As for your question on what Jicky means, I second Helg's answer above. That is what I knew about it as well, so I cannot add anything more, aside perhaps from the interesting little fact, that Guerlain perpetuates the romantic myth of the english girl on their website. I have to admit, I am not averse to a little myth :) It's sweet, don't you think? :)

Thank you so much for your kind words! They made me so happy!

Divina said...

Hi Helg,

thank you for answering my question about Gris Clair. I think it is high time I try that one too :) I am curious about it.

As for lavender bothering you...I actually read something interesting in one of the articles I used for my reasearch. The higher the concentration of the lavender essential oil, the more disturbing and unpleasant the participants of the experiments found the odour! While in lower concentrations, the plethora of participants (74% of them or so) found the smell very very pleasant, while only 7-4% found it unpleasant. I hope this sheds some light!

Divina said...

PS: The rest of the participants were neutral to the smell. I realized it might appear a little confusing that the percentages did not add up to 100%.

italian girl said...

Dear Divina and Helg..
Thank you both for the information.. good marketing on Guerlain's part to perpetuate a romantic myth about his perfume.
I am really curious about it now.
I will make it a point to not wear perfume in morning and run to department store on my lunch break to try Jicky..are you all over in the U.K.??
I have to confess I used to wear Samsara and I like Gucci Rush and in the 80's I was the poster child for the obvious fragrances..Passion, Giorgio, and Obsession.. BUT, I have to tell you I always HATED Poison.

I sometimes am embarrassed to admit to some of my perfume likings--I actually bought fantasia di cioccolata (by dolci milano) at Bath and Body works. ...and I wore it. I could not decided if i liked it---the third time i wore it someone told me i smelled like a potpourri candle..I have not worn it wonder it was 50% off.
I have come to the conclusion that Chocolate should be a dessert not a perfume.
Does anyone know if Felce Azzurra sells cologne anymore????? I can only find the powder, soap, and lotion.
One more question, does anyone remember the fragrance by Faberge' that was called Farrah Fawcett.. circa 1979?? My mother bought the body spray in Italy that summer and I can NOT get it out of my head..does it exist anymore. Would anyone know of a comparable fragrance?
I apologize for all of the questions, but I am the only person I know around here who is obsessed with perfume.. You all have so much knowledge, I cannot stop myself from bombarding you with questions.

Molto grazie belle bambine..

TMH256 said...

Oh, what lovely choices Divina! I am going to try to Floris Lavender promptly! As always, you have done a remarkable job here. ;-)


Vetivresse said...

L'Heure Bleue always calms me, esp sprayed on a pocket square so that my nose get little emanations throughout the day. Also, Etro Vetiver, which can be casual or dressed up. Excellent post!

tmp00 said...

I think you might like Gris Clair- no celery there (Good catch, btw, as soon as I read that I thought "of course!"). It's VERY cold at the beginning, like bracing mountain air.

Annick Goutal Eau de Lavande is a wonderful one as well for stress reduction- it has just a touch of tonka and vanilla.

TMH256 said...

I agree with Tom - try Gris Clair. It is very cold but incredibly good. As always, I love your writing style and your descriptions truly bring the scents to life! :-)


Anonymous said...

maybe a bit late to comment - I prefer snuggly & addicting/very familiar when things are stressful. So I go for Bois des Iles, No 22, Coromandel. Or my all-time favourite, No 5. Sadly, Guerlains mostly go sour on my skin so I don't get what others do with them - so no Jicky for me.

Anonymous said...

oops, that's Kim above, with the Chanel's.

dinazad said...

Oh, I love lavender in all its forms! Andy Tauer's Reverie au Jardin is one of my favourites, but I love the sadly defunct Lavande Velours (a Guerlai Acqua Allegoria), Gris Clair and all the others. I find it appropriate when I already am calm. But for stressful times, I prefer the opulent, honeyed, plummy Rumba by Balenciaga, which somehow calms and grounds me - I often spray it on my pillow for an untroubled night. I also like incense-laden scents for difficult times. And Tom Ford Black Orchid or Molinard Tendre Friandise, as unlike each other as they are, help me unwind in the evening.

Divina said...

Dearest Italian Girl,

You shouldn't feel embarassed about your perfume preferences, whether these are past, current, or future! A lot of the bold 80s perfumes you mentioned might have fallen out of favor, but some of them have definitely attained cult status and whether I like them or not (that is a different question) I do, for one, have respect for them. Gucci's Rush is wonderful and unique, Georgio (I cannot stand it now) was such a signature fragrance, imprinted in all our memories and Poison is certainly a classic! I am so sorry I cannot answer your questions about either the Farah Fawcet scent or whether Felce Azzura makes scents any longer... But, you might find amusing that I (now I am the one who is embarassed) *loved* the smell of Paglierri when I was little and my mom used to tease me mercilessly about it because she found it horribly cheap. :)

Divina said...

Hello T, dearest! Thank you, and I hope you like Floris' Lavender, although having read your own take on the subject and your comments on traditional lavender scents I fear your reaction to it won't be that favorable! LOL! But, if you can find the candle, do sniff it. It is fantabulous. Truly.

Divina said...

Thank you Vetivresse! I am currently really annoyed that the one boutique where I used to find Etro scents around here does not carry the brand any longer... Apparently Etro decided to 'move' to a bigger boutique (according to the owner of the boutique that used to sell it) but when I visited the other one they were clueless... I'll check Etro's vetiver out for sure when I manage to find it again.

Divina said...

Tom, thank you for your input on Gris Clair! I still have not smelled it..I am gonna get to it this weekend though. How did I miss that Goutal had a lavender scent? I'll be checking that one out soon as well. Thank you!

Divina said...

Hi Kim! You certainly sound like a Chanel girl! The only one that works for me is Cristalle, sadly. (But wow, does it work! - magnificent)

Divina said...

Dinazad, unfortunately the only Balenciaga I have ever come across is Cristobal! Rumba sounds yuuummm.

italian girl said...

Divina... Thanks for the info.. and that is really funny that your Mom thought Paglieri smells cheap. I think in my case, since it brings back really good memories when I was a child--I never thought of it that way..

You are so nice, thanks for not being mean..
I really admire everyone's knowledge of lavender..

Gaia, The non-blonde said...

I know I'm very late, but I'm slowly catching up with my favorite bloggers and dear friends, and I just had to add my voice to the Gris Clair chorus.

It took me a while before I learned to love it, and it's probably not 100% me (it's stunning on my husband, though). The cold opening seemed boring at first, and the fact I need to spray more than I normally would if I want it to stick around and develop right was a bit off-putting. But when it does develop and get to the sweet dry-down, it is a true pleasure, especially the smoky, incensy part.

My favorite lavender (and the only one that feels truly "me", is Andy's Reverie. The combination of the green, herbal top and the Tauer base is refreshing and restoring.