Relaxing Fragrances : How Perfume Alters Our Moods

What fragrances do you find relaxing? What perfume do you wear when you want to wind down?

A scent that I invariably find relaxing is that of orange blossom. It soothes and calms me in a way that few other things do. Annick Goutal Néroli, Tom Ford Neroli Portofino and Atelier Cologne Grand Néroli are among my favorite relaxing orange blossom scents. For days, when I simply want to kick back and de-stress, I choose something mellow, with an intimate aura. Recently, Guerlain Tonka Impériale and Bulgari Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert have been my staples on such days.



  • KathyT: Lately my relaxing scents have been colognes or gourmands. Guerlain Eau Imperiale is always a favorite for me as well as Chanel’s Eau de Cologne. The other day I found a sample of Biehl PC02, and it was perfect for the rainy cool day. My daughter got into the car and said that it smelled like a cookie! I don’t want to smell like a cookie everyday, but it is nice to have something uncomplicated at times. Now if I could only find a bottle of that Biehl’s PC02… March 12, 2011 at 8:13am Reply

  • Austenfan: My favourite calming scent is probably Caron Pour un Homme. It’s such a beautiful lavender. Aromatics Elixir is another scent that I find quite focussing and relaxing, although I will never wear that one to bed.
    On the citrus side; Any good cologne will do. Eau de Guerlain is still my favourite but I always hasten to add that I have never smelled the famous Chanel cologne, nor any of the Institut Très Bien ones. March 12, 2011 at 9:14am Reply

  • Myra: I found smooth gourmands have a de-stressing effect on me. I keep reaching out for Ava Luxe’s Love’s True Bluish Light and Guerlain’s Gourmand Coquin. March 12, 2011 at 10:15am Reply

  • Mare: You know, until very recently, I would have said that gourmands relax me but lately Bal A Versailles is what I reach for when I get home from work and want to de-stress. I find it so soothing, yet I never reach for it first thing in the morning. March 12, 2011 at 10:23am Reply

  • Francesca: What I think of as gentle fragrances: Après l’Ondee, Angeliques sous la Pluie, various vanilla scents. Also incense scents, for the cold weather. March 12, 2011 at 11:12am Reply

  • Todd T: Vanille 44 and Spiritueuse Double Vanille are my relaxing perfumes. Just find something comforting in them. My also likes them on me for that. March 12, 2011 at 11:26am Reply

  • Todd T: Meant to say My wife likes it on me also. March 12, 2011 at 11:40am Reply

  • Ines: I find mellow orientals and the scent of tea relaxing.
    I will have to give your orange blossom choices a go, I love the smell of orange blossom but I can’t say it relaxes me, it makes me smile and generally feel happy. 🙂 March 12, 2011 at 6:51am Reply

  • key change: I have to agree with the vanilla theme here for when I want to relax. I’ve lately been a fan of orange blossom as well, though it tends to make me think of a fresh, happy spring day. It’s so interesting how different scents can evoke such different associations for us eh? March 12, 2011 at 2:04pm Reply

  • behemot: Very often fragrances like SL Louve are relaxing to me, bot most of the time Bulgari Eau the Vert and Armani Aqua di Gio for women do the good job. March 12, 2011 at 2:14pm Reply

  • Ann C: Another vote for gourmands, at least in cooler weather. Today I’m lounging around the house wearing Sensuous Noir, and it’s wafting beautifully around me. Perfect! I’m going to my sister’s for a casual spaghetti dinner tonight. Usually I’d switch to something different, but today I think I’ll stick with Sensuous Noir. March 12, 2011 at 2:36pm Reply

  • Meggie: Lately, Guerlain Bois d’Armenie has been helping me sail through my Anatomy & Physiology class. March 12, 2011 at 2:37pm Reply

  • Olfacta: Vanilla blends are a favorite relaxation scent of mine. I often wear Tocade to sleep. Or Organza, sometimes even Shalimar. It’s nice to wake up in the middle of the night and smell Shalimar. March 12, 2011 at 9:47am Reply

  • Debbie: Shiseido Feminite du Bois is a very relaxing scent. Even more so when served up in the original bottle rather than via Serge Lutens – must be something about the colour and tactile shape.

    A recent aquisition that falls into many categories for me, including comforting, is Tom Ford Amber Absolue; the gourmand followed by the incense…..(sigh) March 12, 2011 at 3:15pm Reply

  • rosarita: Encens et Lavande is calm in a bottle, for me. I just have a decant, but one spritz is instantly soothing. I agree with other commenters about Caron Pour Homme & Shalimar being calming, as well. Really awful days are soothed in part by coming home and wafting huge clouds of Shalimar through my house. Other soothers for me are CdG 2 & Kyoto. Gris Clair would be on the list except that it constantly changes on my skin and kind of demands attention. Love it, though. March 12, 2011 at 3:18pm Reply

  • axum: When I really want to relax, my taste gets kinda cheap! Sea Island Cotton is wonderful in flannel pajamas. Burt’s Bees milk & shea butter bodywash (smells like milk and honey). Body Shop Japanese Musk oil, Hypnotic Poison and Cashmere Mist are all comforting on a nasty, cold evening. When I’m in the tropics, fresh jasmine flowers or frangipani flowers – not perfume, mind – do the trick. Orange blossom doesn’t exactly relax me, but when I’ve had a tough day and have to keep going, it’s a great pick-me-up. March 12, 2011 at 3:32pm Reply

  • aotearoa: I love Goutal’s Neroli but it is summer days to me. For calming comfort at work I like Santal Blanc and Bois et Fruits. At home I find the big guns excellent – Tribute Attar or Pure Oud.
    I am exploring lavender so enjoyed some lavender suggestions – so far Caron’s Third Man has a lovely lavender note.
    Fantastic reviews and discussion lately which are continually appreciated. March 12, 2011 at 3:40pm Reply

  • Ann C: I thought of another one. I love Chanel No. 5 after bath powder. It’s very soothing and relaxing to me. Just the thing after a post-workout shower. March 12, 2011 at 3:51pm Reply

  • Marina: I’d say vanilla, not too strong, not too sweet March 12, 2011 at 11:06am Reply

  • breathesgelatin: I might be in the minority here, but a really heady rose fragrance I find completely soothing and relaxing. March 12, 2011 at 4:13pm Reply

  • KJanicki: Orange blossom for me too. I often wear Penhaligon’s latest Orange Blossom to bed. March 12, 2011 at 12:50pm Reply

  • maggiecat: I find vanilla scents relaxing and have found lately that jasmine essential oil helps me go to sleep! March 12, 2011 at 6:30pm Reply

  • Olfactoria: Orange blossom – thanks to your recommendation at a time of need – is my go to relaxant now too. Grand Neroli and Escale a Portofino are great. In the evening I also like to relax with Spicy oriental scents that make me dream, Frapin 1697 is my current favorite, Amouage Epic a trusted old friend. 🙂 March 12, 2011 at 2:18pm Reply

  • For me the one that does the trick is Serge Lutens Sarrasins. It is not a perfume, it is liquid air to me, cooling, soothing and nurturing. March 12, 2011 at 2:59pm Reply

  • Gitcheegumee: The one fragrance for which I always reach when attempting to “center” myself is one I have never heard mentioned here,yet. It is “Magic” by Marilyn Miglin.

    (Years ago,Lauder made a fragrance called Pavilion,which was debuted along with a couple of others,including White Linen,IIRC. “Magic” is the closest thing to what I recall Pavilion to have smelled like,as the Lauder scent has been discontinued.)

    I got MANY comments on Pavilion,as I do now with “Magic”-and it magically relaxes my psyche,everytime,without fail. March 12, 2011 at 8:33pm Reply

  • Lily: I like to lounge around wearing something undemanding, like Stella or The pour un Ete, or a lovely scented body lotion. Some of the jo malone’s fit the bill too – especially Vanilla and Anise. March 12, 2011 at 9:10pm Reply

  • Suzy Q: Fig! Just one whiff of a fig perfume and I can feel my heartrate slow down. March 12, 2011 at 10:42pm Reply

  • Throughout the long, humid Aussie summer – when I’m most likely to be tired and a teensy bit heat afflicted and cranky – it’s ‘Gardenia’ by Ambrosia Jones of Perfume by Nature. This crystal clear, floral-green beauty is a gorgeous rendition of a bunch of gardenias. It soothes my spirit, smells wonderful, and is the kind of perfume you can wear all day. Not only that, it’s entirely natural. March 12, 2011 at 9:42pm Reply

  • Kait: I wish I could add an actual perfume but synthetics give bad headaches. I can wear Puredistance sometimes and sigh as it’s a bit of olfactory heaven that relaxes me.
    I work with all natural fragrances and exiting rare botanicals all day. Composing these perfumes can put me in a sort of sensory overload to the point of physical and mental exhaustion. It may seem off the mark to others on this page, but I turn to patchouli to wind down. I find it immediately grounds and calms my racing brain. Years ago I poo poo’d patchouli until I started working with so many different kinds. A well aged patchouli is actually quite floral and lacks harsh notes. Note: I don’t leave the house after a patchouli therapy slathering. 🙂
    Real infused vanilla bean oil is comforting as well. March 13, 2011 at 5:19am Reply

  • Katya: I love to wear Osmanthus Yunnan to bed-I find it so soothing and comforting,another comforter is Lostmarc’h Lann Ael-milk and buckwheat cereal. March 13, 2011 at 8:44am Reply

  • Victoria: My mom's vet sprayed her cat with orange blossom water to calm him down before the usual check up. It really worked! 🙂 March 13, 2011 at 10:24am Reply

  • Victoria: Gourmand scents certainly have that effect, probably because of what we associate with them. All in all, it works for me too. March 13, 2011 at 10:25am Reply

  • Victoria: Chanel Eau de Cologne is very good, especially given how simple it is. Also Thierry Mugler Le Cologne. March 13, 2011 at 10:26am Reply

  • Victoria: Tocade is perfect for that, so comforting! March 13, 2011 at 10:27am Reply

  • Victoria: I am not that familiar with Ava Luxe, but I keep hearing such good things about this fragrance. March 13, 2011 at 10:28am Reply

  • Victoria: That's one gorgeous fragrance! I love how plush and opulent it is, and yet, it has a wonderful elegance about it. March 13, 2011 at 10:29am Reply

  • Victoria: I immediately think of Nicolai Vanille Tonka! March 13, 2011 at 10:29am Reply

  • Victoria: Incense is a favorite for me too, very calming. March 13, 2011 at 10:30am Reply

  • Victoria: Those would be my top vanilla choices too (and L'Artisan Vanilia.) March 13, 2011 at 10:31am Reply

  • Victoria: I still haven't tried it, but it sounds very good. March 13, 2011 at 10:31am Reply

  • Victoria: I've noticed the same thing, although there are many similar themes too! March 13, 2011 at 10:32am Reply

  • Victoria: This reminded me to revisit Louve. I don't think I cared much for it initially, but perhaps I didn't give it a fair chance. March 13, 2011 at 10:34am Reply

  • Victoria: Ok, where is my sample of Epic? 🙂 Everytime you mention it, I want to revisit it. March 13, 2011 at 10:37am Reply

  • Victoria: I love the idea of matching a fragrance and your activity like this. This combo sounds perfect. Sensuous Noir is a terrific fragrance too. March 13, 2011 at 10:40am Reply

  • Victoria: Oh, good luck! What a fantastic study aid you've selected. 🙂 March 13, 2011 at 10:40am Reply

  • Victoria: One of my own favorites among jasmines! March 13, 2011 at 10:41am Reply

  • Victoria: Amber Absolute like other dark, sweet ambers really has the same effect on me. Annick Goutal Ambre Fetiche is in the same category too. March 13, 2011 at 10:43am Reply

  • Victoria: I love Lutens' take on lavender. That hint of incense and spice gives this familiar note such an interesting effect. March 13, 2011 at 10:44am Reply

  • Victoria: Have you tried BBW Cotton Blossom? It is among my own favorite cheap thrills. March 13, 2011 at 10:45am Reply

  • Victoria: I love Pure Oud for this same effect. It also reminds me of the time I've spent in the Middle East, which is always a wonderful memory. March 13, 2011 at 10:46am Reply

  • Victoria: Oh, No 5 EDT works the same way for me. It is probably the only time I wear it these days. 🙂 March 13, 2011 at 10:48am Reply

  • Victoria: Makes perfect sense to me! According to my aromatherapist friend, rose has relaxing and calming properties. March 13, 2011 at 10:49am Reply

  • Victoria: At one point, I would burn jasmine scented candles in the evening, which helped me to fall asleep. March 13, 2011 at 10:50am Reply

  • Victoria: I have never tried Magic, but now it is on my to-sample list. Thank you! 🙂 March 13, 2011 at 10:51am Reply

  • Victoria: Vanilla Anise is my favorite Jo Malone fragrance. It is just so pretty. March 13, 2011 at 10:52am Reply

  • Victoria: Sounds wonderful! Few things can rival the beautiful scent of gardenias. March 13, 2011 at 10:53am Reply

  • Victoria: One of my friends also mentioned fig to me as relaxing. I associate green notes with a more refreshing effect, but these things are so personal. Which is why reading these comments is fascinating. March 13, 2011 at 10:54am Reply

  • Victoria: True, different patchouli oils have very different characters. Plus, different processing methods. March 13, 2011 at 10:56am Reply

  • Victoria: Osmanthe Yunnan is wonderfully comforting, I completely agree. March 13, 2011 at 10:56am Reply

  • Persolaise: An interesting question. My answers would probably be Bulgari Pour Homme, Cuir De Lancome, No 5 Eau Premiere and possibly L’Instant De Guerlain Pour Homme.

    Perfume DEFINITELY has the power to calm me down. March 13, 2011 at 12:11pm Reply

  • behemot: A lot of people criticize Louve being an “easy” and “not challenging enough” SL frag. Maybe for the same reasons I find it relaxing? Besides, It is simply pretty and comforting to me. March 13, 2011 at 4:36pm Reply

  • sara: Incense and woods scents are the most calming for me. I keep a vial of Yosh’s Phenomenon in my bag in case I need to destress. Other scents that calm me are Costes, Zagorsk and CdG Man 2. March 13, 2011 at 4:43pm Reply

  • Lucy: Ineke’s Balmy Days and Sundays really captures the essence of relaxation for me like no other. March 13, 2011 at 1:03pm Reply

  • Natalia: I love wearing Chanel Elixir Sensuel to bed. it sits close to skin, but is very beautiful, warm and delicate. Also, incense is something i always turn to – lately been obsessed with Timbuktu, i liked it when i first tried it but now when i revisited it i can’t stop wearing it, it’s wonderfully comforting and so brilliantly made. I prefer perfume to body creams and shower gels because I usually use the scented ones in the morning to layer with fresher fragrances on top, but at night a well composed perfume literally is “soul caressing”, as my better half puts it 🙂 March 13, 2011 at 6:20pm Reply

  • Natalia: oh! and simple patchouli oil put into one of those little diffusers with tea candle inside never fails to relax me, as well. March 13, 2011 at 6:22pm Reply

  • *jen: Patchouli for me, as well. March 13, 2011 at 2:33pm Reply

  • Victoria: What interesting choices! These also happen to be among my favorite perfumes. 🙂 March 13, 2011 at 8:06pm Reply

  • Victoria: I really like this one too, comforting is a perfect way to describe it. March 13, 2011 at 8:06pm Reply

  • Victoria: Sometimes just pretty, but well-made is exactly what fits the bill! Not everything has to be challenging and cerebral. That can get tiresome. 🙂 March 13, 2011 at 8:06pm Reply

  • Victoria: Incense… I love to burn frankincense at home time to time. March 13, 2011 at 8:06pm Reply

  • Victoria: Soul caressing–what a beautiful way to describe perfume! March 13, 2011 at 8:10pm Reply

  • Mapelina: This post was so fascinating, and somehow so important to me personally, that it moved me past my anxiety and uncertainty about entering this wonderful blog. I’m so afraid of getting addicted, having spent half the night the last few weeks reading up on so many perfumes and subjects discussed here, and not believing that there really exists a community of like-minded people who love and value and CARE ABOUT scent and fragrance as much as I do–people who don’t (I hope) think it’s weird to smell your food before you taste it, which always got me in trouble as a kid.

    All of the comments were so interesting, and the very first response from Ines got me thinking about the question, so deceptively simple, about what scents we find relaxing or good to wind down with. Ines said about neroli/orange blossom that she didn’t so much find it relaxing as making her smile and feel happy. That sounds to me a lot like feeling relaxed, the way she put it with the smile–not the wild exhilaration kind of happiness, but a feeling of contentment, which goes with relaxation (and is probably more sustainable than the surge of adrenalin kind). It’s a winding down kind of happiness rather than a ramping up sort.

    I also find that I wear a lot of ambery,vanilla-ish scents in the evening and to bed, and it occurred to me that then we are more focused on ourself and our relationship with ourself, and more likely to wear skin scents (I don’t know the right terminology) rather than scents that project our identity to others in public. These relaxing and nighttime skin scents are for our private self, and I wonder if it’s just a coincidence that the French put so much emphasis on feeling good in one’s own skin–perhaps another way of describing a feeling of relaxation and contentment? March 14, 2011 at 11:06pm Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you so much for de-lurking and for such a wonderful, thoughtful comment. It reminded me how I felt when I first discovered the online community and the likeminded individuals.
    As a child, I also got into trouble for smelling my food before eating it! 🙂

    You've pointed out exactly what makes my favorite relaxing fragrances so special–they make me feel completely content and comfortable in my own skin. So, yes, our choices in this matter are always personal, formed by our own experiences. March 15, 2011 at 10:19am Reply

  • Lena: I think neroli is the most relaxing ingredient. I had a knee surgery lately and put on “Oranges and Lemons say the bells of St. Clements” by Heeley. My boyfriend was laughing about me and told me that it is not allowed to wear perfume in the hospital. But I knew it would help me and sprayed it all over me! I felt safe and cozy even after the surgery when I was lying in my bed. This was a really special experience how perfume can liften up your mood and relax! March 15, 2011 at 4:21pm Reply

  • Victoria: Lena, good luck with the recovery!
    There definitely must be some scientific basis to the relaxing properties of orange blossom/neroli, as even the veterinarians recommend using orange blossom water on pets to calm them down. March 15, 2011 at 4:41pm Reply

  • Mapelina: Victoria, thank you so much for those warm and welcoming words–it made me feel as good as a relaxing perfume!

    I agree with Lena that the right scents can be a big help in stressful situations with a physical or medical component. I’ve had several dental surgeries, and while not as serious as knee surgery, they still are no fun. I always try to wear something that makes me feel enveloped, yet not projecting enough to distract the dentist! Of course, when I get home, I can spritz to my heart’s content. I love the way Lena created a nurturing environment in the hospital so she could feel “safe and cozy”–it might even make a difference in recovery time.

    I think certain scents were traditionally used in childbirth by midwives to relax the mother-to-be before the era of hospitalization and medication, but would love to know more, if you have any thoughts on this subject. March 15, 2011 at 8:49pm Reply

  • Victoria: 🙂
    Your point about scents and childbirth is interesting. I have a friend who is a midwife, so I will ask her if she knows anything on this topic. I am sure that in the days before anesthetics, there were some herbal means to alleviate the stress and the pain. March 16, 2011 at 10:48am Reply

  • Mapelina: I would think so, too, and will be interested to hear what your friend says. I just finished a novel about Rashi’s daughters–he was the great Torah commentator of the mid-11th century in France–and while not at all great literature, it gave such an interesting view of what life was like in the middle ages in a fairly large “market town” both for Jews and Gentiles, and especially what the life of girls and women was like. The girls’ aunt was a midwife, and that was a really important occupation–highly respected and valued–and she placed a great emphasis on herbs for many aspects of childbirth, though the primary focus seemed to be medical/functional rather than psychological or mood-affecting. March 17, 2011 at 9:35am Reply

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