Loving the clean smell of freshly washed laundry, the gourmand scent of a cake just out of the oven and the fresh perfume of a bouquet of flowers, it seems quite normal at first glance. But not being able to stop yourself from sniffing glue pots, smelling a permanent marker or dangerously breathing gas station fumes, is much less admirable! So why are these very particular smells addictive? We decipher these small olfactory pleasures!
These smells that make us addicted
It is during our childhood that our olfactory library is built up. These are all smells that we record and that reassure us as adults. Among these addictive smells that still tickle our nose even years later, we find the sweet and delicate scent of certain glues. Were you part of that generation of schoolchildren who sniffed (and sometimes even tried to taste) this little jar with its irresistible scent? If this is the case, don’t worry, you are not alone!
This olfactory addiction comes rather from an ingenious marketing idea: adding an almond scent in the composition of the product. A smell just sweet and regressive as it should be, to make all schoolchildren addicted! This scent is very powerful. So even if it’s not very concentrated, it reaches our nostrils very quickly to impregnate our sense of smell for a long time. And that’s why some people go back to their childhood, in the school corridors for a moment of inspiration.
The guilty pleasure of aromatic hydrocarbons
Gasoline vapor, new car perfume or the scent of a felt pen… If at first glance these scents do not seem very appealing, many of us are particularly fond of them. How can these chemical smells, potentially harmful to health, make us addicted? We have to look directly into the composition of these substances. Among all the ingredients, we find aromatic hydrocarbons.
These chemical molecules have a sweet smell, hence the name “aromatic”. The odors diffused by these solvents can evoke fruity, almost flowery smells that remind us of childhood memories. Generally it is benzene, a kind of hydrocarbon found in plastics or gasoline, that will tickle our olfactory perception. Once inhaled, it will inhibit our nervous system by causing a slight sensation of temporary euphoria. Some manufacturers play the olfactory marketing card with “new car smell” sprays to unconsciously convince you to make a purchase! But be careful because these smells are dangerous if you are exposed to them repeatedly or for too long.
The bewitching coffee
Less dangerous but just as bewitching, the scent of coffee is also one of those addictive smells. Sometimes it is enough to breathe this characteristic scent to feel better. Researchers from the University of Seoul have demonstrated in a scientific study the relaxing power of the smell of roasted beans. The long-term result? A reduction in stress and an improvement in sleep. The scent of coffee relaxes while the caffeine contained in the precious beverage excites! And that’s why some people don’t like the taste but appreciate the perfume. What pleases in this odor are the notes of burnt, as in the smell of toast, which evoke many memories of sharing in our subconscious. The fragrance of coffee is therefore charged with positive emotions that make us feel good.
The smell of rain in summer
It is enough to simply evoke it to be transported. However, liking the odor of summer rain doesn’t really make sense since rain itself doesn’t have a smell! This sweet scent that we smell is actually the result of a chemical reaction between water and soil, and more specifically the meeting of ozone, petrichor and geosmin. Don’t frown, it’s much simpler than it looks!
Just before a heat storm, the atmosphere becomes charged with ozone. This ozone is produced by the electrical discharges of lightning and is transported by the wind. Petrichor (which could be translated as “blood of the stones” in Greek) is an oily liquid that plants secrete when it is very hot, to protect the seeds from drought. When raindrops hit the ground, they disperse this substance like an aerosol to spread this characteristic smell. Finally, geosmin is a substance released by certain bacteria present in the soil. Upon contact with rain, these bacteria are “ejected” and reveal a wet earth odor.
A neuroscientific explanation
Gasoline, coffee, glue or wet earth, these addictive smells obsess us. They have the power to send us back to distant memories. If these so particular perfumes matter to us, it is because they possess an emotional power rather extraordinary. The explanation lies in the mechanisms of the sense of smell. Odors are directly confronted with the area dedicated to emotions in our brain, to be then memorized and finally conscious. So even if the memories are shaped by all our senses, a particular smell is enough to revive them in our nervous system.
However, not all these addictive smells are pleasant for everyone. Indeed, we all have different olfactory receptors. Some people will love the smell of fresh paint or varnish while others will feel nauseous just thinking about it! These odors seem attractive because when we smell them, our brain activates a circuit linked to pleasure and reward. It will then release serotonin and dopamine, the hormones of happiness. In the long term, these smells will become real olfactory Proust’s madeleines!
All of these scents inspire perfumers to create fragrances. The challenge in the creation is then to find the right combination, the one that will trigger in you an emotion, a memory. For example in the eau de parfum vanille, the notes of caramel, almond and vanilla evoke to some the sweetness of a mother, and others the festive scents of a kitchen in full effervescence. This idea of well-being, joyful moments and maternal bonding acts on us like a true perfumed cocoon, which reassures us even in adulthood.
At Carrément Belle, we also love the bewitching aroma of coffee… So much so that we have integrated it into one of our compositions. In alfred kafé, the sweet and languorous scent of roasted beans mixes with a green and aromatic contrast to transport you into a relaxing escape. If you’re a fan of the scent of summer rain, your nose will certainly be tickled by the notes of ippi patchouli clair. This citrusy, sunny fragrance conveys the woody freshness of a wet earth, subtly enhanced by a gourmand and praline wake.
And you, what are your olfactory addictions?
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