Of all the psychological benefits beauty products can provide—from a beautiful lipstick that affirms one’s gender identity to a go-to curl cream that helps improve both a bad hair day and confidence levels—scent has always struck me as one of the most influential. A beauty geek by trade, I’ve amassed quite an extensive (some might say obsessive) collection of scents that I treat not disparately from my wardrobe, choosing which notes best convey how I feel on a given day. Even if your fragrance wardrobe isn’t as extensive as mine, the practice of choosing one is perfume based on mood is not that uncommon.
As smell brands are striving to develop products that can attract consumers in a very crowded marketplace, and incorporating more advanced aromacology (the study of the relationship between smells and human behavior and emotions) into new formulas is becoming increasingly popular. Therefore, I was eager to see how Nue Co.‘s latest release, Water therapycompared to the previous three “functional” scent options and whether it would elicit a different emotional response.
But first: How does fragrance actually affect mood? Memory, emotion and smell are all closely related, according to Venkatesh Murthy, Raymond Leo Erikson Professor of Life Sciences and chair of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard. During a panel discussion in 2020 entitled “Odor in Science and Society,” he explained that smells travel through the limbic system, the part of the brain involved in emotions, memory and behavior. That’s why many of us have scents that trigger a memory or two, like smelling an ex- partner’s shampoo in a crowded elevator, or the way a restaurant’s new dish can take you back to cooking at your grandmother’s house as a child.Complex emotions like heartbreak, happiness, and love can become entangled in these moments of olfactory interaction.
In terms of designing a perfume that will trigger a specific emotion, it is first crucial to understand the relationship between scent notes and cognitive response. When she developed her first fragrance for The Nue. What, called Functional fragrancefounder Jules Miller looked on Geneva Sensory and Smell Scale (GEOS), which was “developed to measure the subjective affective experience elicited by everyday smells.”
While previous scent studies often asked participants to select emotions from a list of 22-480 possible options (such as fear, anger, sadness, pride, love, lust and more), GEOS uses 36 representative expressions within six groupings: Sensuality, Relaxation, Pleasant, Refreshment, Sensual Pleasure and Unpleasant Feeling. In other words, the nuanced way of attributing fragrance with emotional response becomes easier to navigate with tools like this study, and this in turn equates to more advanced perfumes for aromacology fans.
Water therapy, The Nue Co.’s newest release, is inspired by so-called “blue medicine” or “the belief that water positively affects our mental health with its relaxing, stress-relieving benefits,” according to the brand. The fragrance uses smell technology to simulate the feeling of being surrounded by water. With soothing notes of seaweed, cardamom, vetiver, sandalwood, salt and rose, it’s designed to soothe tension, balance mood and reduce stress – all things the average New Yorker myself could benefit from on a daily basis.
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If, like me, you categorize the ocean, a pool, or really any body of water that you can lazily flop into as a happy place, you will definitely feel drawn to water therapy. I’d liken it to the crisp, earthy smell after it rains on a cold spring morning when you know a lake is nearby – all soothing elements that I swear can lower my blood pressure.
I got to try this new fragrance and compared to my experience using a previous perfume from the brand, Mind energy — which is designed to increase focus and boost brain function — water therapy definitely makes me feel more inclined to slow down and relax. While the former is my go-to scent in the morning when my iCal is planned down to the minute and multiple deadlines are looming, the latter is for when I can finally close my laptop and leave the solitude of my workspace to enjoy a meal with close friends . It’s languid and gentle, and I find myself constantly bringing my wrist to my nose to inhale the scent, which I’ve honestly found only gets better as my skin warms up throughout the day.
Only time will tell if The Nue Co.’s latest release will lower my stress levels and help me relax in the long run, but I’ll certainly enjoy working my way through the vibrant azure bottle to find out.
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