Perfume is an ancestral art whose evolution is rather slow despite great technical advances such as the appearance of synthesis at the end of the 19th century. But since then, things have not changed much. Thanks to technological progress and the exacerbated creativity of perfumers, lines are gradually shifting. The digitalization of our lifestyles and the tendency to want an increasingly confidential perfume have also an impact on perfume manufacturing processes. So, what will tomorrow’s scents be? Will it soon be possible to smell a fragrance behind your computer screen? Or will we be able to create a fragrance that is adapted to our DNA? Together, we are deciphering the codes of the fragrance of the future.
The smells of tomorrow
A perfume is above all a smell, a composition strongly related to our personality, which sticks to our skin. Over the last few decades, trends in scented notes have evolved: heavy and animal scents, fresh or gourmand perfumes and finally the comeback of natural… The desires of our noses are changing and allow perfumers to use all their know-how. But what will it be like in a few years?
The search for new molecules
Each year, global compounding companies invest a portion of their sales in the research and development of new odorous molecules. Once developed, these synthetic materials will be put on sale and will eventually be at the heart of the compositions of your future fragrances. But the road from the laboratory to the bottle is long! In one year, researchers at these companies develop between 500 and 3,000 molecules. But six years later, only 4 to 5 of them will be part of the perfumers’ palette after a battery of tests and evaluations. Giving life to a new molecule is therefore no easy task.
Green chemistry at the service of the perfume of the future
The perfumery industry is improving year after year. More and more, the desire is to reduce the ecological impact of perfume creation while minimizing waste and using less energy. The fragrance of the future will be, and is already starting to be, more environmentally friendly. Companies are turning to biotechnologies to work on new directions. The aim of this research is to integrate odorless compounds into the formula of a fragrance. Why? To ensure that it is perfectly biodegradable in the air. To do this, chemists create molecules by fermentation using micro-organisms or enzymes, which are natural proteins. Research on patchouli and new musks of natural origin could still turn the formulation of the perfume of the future upside down.
When technology sticks its nose in perfume
Big data and artificial intelligence
The rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data is also reaching the fragrance industry to plunge it into the future. Until then, the process of creating a perfume has remained fairly artisanal. Noses are formed through a long apprenticeship, but also through a multitude of olfactory experiences, memories and their own sensitivity. So, the idea is to combine the knowledge of an ingredient with an emotion and a creative idea. So how can AI interfere in this process?
At the request of the German company Symrise, in 2018, the IT firm IBM created an algorithm called Phylira. This computer “robot” was able to analyze nearly 2 million formulas accumulated by the company and thousands of raw materials according to their characteristics. Once this data was collected, Phylira linked it to information on the olfactory preferences of tens of thousands of consumers around the world, sales figures and other demographic data. Based on all this information, the algorithm created new accords for a specific target. As a result, two new juices were launched in Brazil for “millenials”, young people between the ages of 18 and 24.
Video of Symrise on the Phylira algorithm
But while technical exploits are up to it, human intelligence and the perfumer’s talent can never be substituted. And since synthetic molecules have not ousted natural ingredients, AI is a tool at the perfumer’s service to enhance the creativity, certainly not to replace it!
The fragrance of the future closer to our emotions
We have already seen the power of our olfactory memory and the link between fragrances and our moods. With this in mind, researchers want to go even further by trying to understand the emotions that an aroma or a perfume can give us. This is what computer researchers at the University of Nantes in France have imagined by creating the “Neurokiff” in 2014. This connected object is in fact a neuronal helmet that analyses the electrical waves emitted by our brain. Connected to a tablet, the headset interprets in real time the emotions felt when faced with an olfactory or gustatory stimulus. Some major perfume houses have already appropriated this technology to help you discover the future fragrance that will make you vibrate the most!
New scented gestures
Beyond smells, the perfume of the future will also be able to be used in a different way from what we know today. But is the act of spraying, which is part of our daily routine, really likely to change thanks to technology?
Perfume and cosmetics: a happy couple?
The world of perfume is far from having revealed all its mysteries. What if a fragrance had the same properties as a moisturizer cream or an anti-wrinkle serum? As we already know, odors activate levers directly on our brains. But is it possible that they have an action on our skin? A scientific research already proves that the skin reacts to light thanks to keratinocytes, the cells that make up our epidermis. It has recently been shown that these cells also possess olfactory detectors and are able to “smell”. This discovery opens up new fields of research to perhaps create the fragrant cosmetics of tomorrow.
Smells in our daily lives
Is the famous vaporization of the morning doomed to disappear? That is what technology might lead us to believe. Some companies are already working on the development of a shower cubicle connected to a real perfume column. The principle is simple: be sprayed directly with your favorite essence after the shower. As for ready-to-wear brands, that are developing fabrics encapsulated with thousands of microbeads. When the garment comes into contact with the skin, they release their fragrances. The perfume of the future seems to be conquering new ways to let us enjoy unseen fragrant gestures.
But beyond its aesthetic aspect, perfume is also seeking to gain new cultural recognition. Olfactory concerts or scented television programs, research is becoming more and more precise. Some cinemas are equipping themselves with new technologies that stimulate our noses. The smell of sweat in intimate scenes or blood in violent ones… Everything is being done to plunge us into an olfactory journey. Smell is more than ever the sense to conquer to make us live outstanding experiences!
One thing is certain: perfume is, and will remain, the strong symbol of our personality or our mood of the moment. How do you see the perfume of the future?