summer perfumes: 32 posts

Vietnamese Green Oil, DIY Colognes and Other Cool Delights

The second part of my refreshing scents series focuses on non-alcoholic and DIY options. Some people prefer to skip alcohol during hot days, and I’m often asked for inexpensive solutions. Experimenting with scents during summer is fun, but when the temperature rises above 35C, the idea of putting on perfume becomes unappealing.

I instead reach for oils from Vietnam or Thailand, especially Dầu Gió Xanh Eagle Brand Medicated Oil. This popular Vietnamese oil is used for headaches, muscle pains, etc, but I also find it effective on hot days when my head feels heavy. The scent is spicy and incense-like, but it’s unexpectedly refreshing. The oil was created in 1935 by a German chemist, Wilhelm Hauffman, for a Singaporean trading house J Lea & Co. Hauffman was perfecting the extraction of chlorophyll, which gave the oil its color, while the other main ingredients included menthol, methyl salicylate and eucalyptus oil

Green Oil became a household favorite in Vietnam once it was introduced in the 1960s. On the other hand, its Art Deco-styled bottle and vivid hue would be familiar not just to those who grew up in Vietnam and other Asian countries, but also the former Soviet ones. During my childhood in Ukraine, medicated oils and Cao Sao Vàng (Golden Star Balm) were considered as nothing short of panacea.

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My Favorite Summer Perfumes (at the moment)

I came back from the market the other day with a big bouquet of cornflowers and as I sat admiring their vivid color, I realized that these blue flowers are my quintessential summer blossom. Their scent is delicate, green, slightly musty, but the fascinating aspect of olfaction is how such subtle aromas can evoke strong memories. I smelled cornflowers and I could see the wildflower meadows of Poltava, the region in Central Ukraine where I spent the first 15 summers of my life. I could smell the watermelon, feel the sticky peach juice on my fingers and catch a whiff of my great-grandmother distilling rosewater. Being unable to travel there makes me more nostalgic–and renders the familiar scents more intense. Instead of being melancholy after smelling cornflowers, as one might imagine, I felt rejuvenated and uplifted.


This experience inspired me to focus my new video on my favorite summer perfumes. I reflected on what fragrances I gravitate to in the summer and why. While the exact perfumes might change year to year, the main idea stays the same–I wear fragrances that feel refreshing in warm weather and that evoke the pleasant idleness of a good vacation.

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6 Luminous Musk Perfumes

Why should summer be all about colognes and fresh florals? Why not don a plush tuberose or a bittersweet chypre? Why not explore how our dark and glamorous favorites behave when the weather grows warmer and days longer? None of the “perfume wearing rules” annoy me more than the set-in-stone seasonal suggestions. I suspect that most of them are designed to make people buy more product, rather than enjoy what they already have. The only rule in perfume is to wear what smells good to you (in quantities appropriate for the occasion, of course). A new season is a new chance to experiment, and there is nothing better than experimenting with your favorites and discovering new facets in them.

Musk perfumes, for instance, are among the most versatile. They can be modulated by the type of application. They linger. They range from heavy and warm to radiant and bright. With this in mind here is my list of summer musks–although I wear them all year round.

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Guerlain Herba Fresca : Perfume Review

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Mint plays a curious trick on our senses.  Menthol, the main component of mint essence, triggers the cold-sensitive TRPM8 receptors found in the skin – a phenomenon that is responsible for the icy burst one experiences when eating mint candy or drinking a mint julep. Even a sip of hot Moroccan mint tea on a balmy day will produce the same cooling effect. In the realm of perfumes, you can try Guerlain Herba Fresca.

Herba Fresca has been around for a while, and I don’t even remember the first time I tried it. I only recall enjoying its uplifting freshness and green notes. It’s not a complicated perfume and it holds few secrets. From the burst of verdancy and citrus to the soft musky chords in the drydown, it’s a straightforward blend. But what it lacks in complexity, it makes up for in its vibrant character. It’s refreshing in the summer and rejuvenating in the winter.

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Mint and Other Cooling Perfumes

Have you ever wondered why some perfumes feel cooling, giving you a refreshing sensation, and others produce little effect, despite being dosed with classical fresh ingredients like green leaves or citrus? In my recent piece for the FT magazine, Mint Scents for High Summer, I explain this phenomenon and suggest several fragrances that are cooling.

Citrus, green leaves, tart fruit and lily of the valley are all described as cool scents, but only a few aromas are actually cooling. The difference may seem subtle, but while a cool perfume merely evokes pleasant associations, a cooling one has an instantly refreshing effect. One of the most crucial cooling ingredients is mint. Menthol, the main component of mint essence, triggers the cold-sensitive TRPM8 receptors found in the skin – a curious trick that is responsible for the icy burst one experiences when drinking a mint julep. To continue reading, please click here.

What about your favorite cool or cooling scents? And what perfumes have you been wearing lately?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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