The chemistry of perfume - WorldOfChemicals

What is the chemistry of a perfume?


Since the beginning of history recorded, human beings have sought to mask or augment their own body odor by applying perfume, which imitates nature’s pleasant smells. Many natural and man-made materials have been utilized or extracted to make perfumes. No perfume smells the same on any two people, because of the differences in chemistry, temperature and the odors of the body. Let’s learn more about perfume and chemistry running behind it.

Perfume is a mixture of fragrant oils, aroma compounds, fixatives or solvents, which is used to give the humans, animals, food or living spaces a pleasant scent or smell. The word perfume was derived from the Latin word perfumare, which means “to smoke through”.

History of Perfume

The art of making perfumes which are known as perfumery began in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, and was then further refined by the Romans and Persians.

From 2nd millennium BC in Mesopotamia, a woman named Tapputi, a perfume maker was considered the world first-recorded chemist, mentioned in a cuneiform tablet.

In India, perfume, and perfumery the art of making perfume prevailed in the Indus civilization. The perfume date backs over 4000 years.

In the 19th century Al-Kindi, an Arab chemist wrote the Book of the Chemistry of Perfume and Distillation, which had more than 100 recipes for making fragrant oils, aromatic water and substitutes of costly drugs.

The process of extracting oils from flowers through distillation was introduced by the Persian chemist Ibn Sina. First, he experimented with distillation with the rose.

Perfumes were primarily used to mask body odors by the wealthy part of the society between the 16th and 17th century. Due to this patronage, the perfume industry got developed.

The Grasse region of France, Sicily and Calabria by the 18th century, were planting aromatic plants to provide raw materials for growing perfume industry. Till today, Italy and France are the center of European perfume design and trade.

Chemistry of Perfume

Olfactory structure:

Majority of perfumes composes a three-part structure. The “head,” also known as the “top” note is the first olfactory impression the perfume conveys. The second is the “heart” note, which is the main fragrance which lasts for several hours. The last one is the “base” note, which is the fragrance that underpins the full perfume and it comprises of the minimum volatile chemicals. These parts or structure makes the fragrances lasts the whole day.

Main chemicals or compounds of Perfume:

  1. Perfume/ Fragrant oils: Perfume oil can be divided into two types: synthetic oil or a fragrance taken out of specific sources by methods such as headspace. Headspace vacuums the smell directly from the object and recreates the smell by getting a print out of its chemical equation. Oils are extracted from flowers, plants, animals or other natural resources. The chemical equations for perfume oil are dependent completely upon what the oil was taken from.

  2. Water and Alcohol: There are many types of alcohol that can be used in perfume making, but Ethyl Alcohol (C2H6O), is most commonly used as it helps the fragrance to spread out. Distilled water (H2O), is also used in the fragrance for spreading out the smell of the fragrance. Based on the amount of dilution added, there is a much different strength of perfumes. The concentrated perfume you can buy is Parfum and the least concentrated perfume is Cologne.

Role of Chemistry:

A smell is a molecule that floats in the air as it is very light. Materials used in the fragrances are generally semi volatile organic compounds and molecular weight of these organic compounds hardly exceeds 260 AMU. However, the very molecule that floats in the air does not have a smell or does not have enough smell to be perceived by the human nose, e.g., Carbon Monoxide.

How a perfume smells is not dependent upon what it comes from, but also on how an individual is chemically connected to perceive it.

Chemical reactions resulted by light can alter your perfume smell, as the energy present in light can break down the bonds present in molecules of the fragrance. Bright sunlight can damage your perfume and air can also corrode perfume fragrance because of oxidation, the same process that turns uncorked wine into vinegar. With this being informed the best place to keep the perfume is in a dark place and at a room temperature in a spray bottle and the best place to apply perfume is on the pulse points because the pulse will warm the perfume and cause consistent spreading of its scent. uses cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By using this site, you agree to our Privacy Policy and our Terms of Use. X