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The nose knows: Why it’s only natural to like earthly scents


The nose knows: Why it’s only natural to like earthly scents

Marie Aoun, founder of local fragrance brand Saint d’Ici, tells how to elevate a mood through botanical perfume

Nokubonga Thusi

Your love of nature is a big part of Saint d’Ici. Why do the healing powers of nature and botanicals come together so well in scent for an overall feeling of wellness?
Our response to scent is primarily emotional. It resides in an ancient part of our brains – the amygdala and hippocampus. Our preferences for scents are similarly archaic. We seek the scent of flowers, fruit, roots, trees, resin and animals to complete us. The truer to form these scents are, the more we respond to them in an emotional way and the more complete they make us feel.
What are the benefits of using natural fragrances and why should people make the switch from mainstream scents?
Commercial scents are most often a mixture of synthetic aroma-chemicals in the form of single molecules. By contrast, we use only whole natural ingredients which are each made up of several, often hundreds, of different molecules, as they appear in nature.
It is not so much that we believe that natural perfumes are better for you but rather that they are better for your nose. Commercial perfumes often exaggerate single molecules to the point that they overpower the senses. By contrast, natural perfume does not mask your personal scent but blends with it to form an individual fragrance.
How do you use scent to create a self-care ritual at home?
My favourite scent ritual is clearing my space with incense on coals or by burning botanicals. It is an ancient practice and the origin of perfume – par fume – from smoke. Depending on the intention, I burn frankincense, myrrh and mphepo. It clears both my mind and my senses.
What are your favourite ingredients to use in fragrances? Namibian myrrh for its dry-as-a-bone powdery sharpness.
Aged vetiver for its earthy, woody depth and subtle smoky notes.
I recently received a beautiful cumin essential oil from a Tunisian artisanal distiller and its animalic, slightly floral and yet mysterious quality has fast become a necessity in my blends. What is the best way to store natural perfumes? Dark, cool spaces that are out of direct sunlight.
Aoun’s key fragrance ingredients to look out for?
Elevating your mood: the tart sweetness of kapokbos.
Re-energising a space or creativity: the aromatic and woody depth of zaatar.
Feeling seductive: I could douse myself with styrax but, unfortunately, my husband finds it all too animalic, so it’s a bit of a one-sided affair.
Serenity and calmness: the quintessential woody note of cedar.
For a first date: tonka absolute for subtle intoxication.

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