One of the bigger trends that have seen an uptick in popularity since the COVID-19 pandemic began is Aromachology, or the idea that fragrance can play a factor in our emotions. This concept is nothing new—especially not because of the pandemic—but experts are increasingly suggesting that Aromachology could become a major trend in the cosmetics industry as the pandemic continues to carry on around the globe. As people navigate through the day to day stresses of dealing with the pandemic, small luxuries like beauty products are marketed as small pieces of self care that can ease day to day tension.
What is Aromachology?
The concept of Aromachology began back 1988 when a scientist named Shizuo Torii at Toho University studied the connection between emotion and scent. Torii found that scents like lavender and chamomile enhanced feelings of relaxation, while things like orange peel awakened the senses and made the subject feel more alert. This quickly bled into the cosmetics industry, where cosmetics companies around the globe began marketing their products according to the psychological benefit that they would have on consumers rather than simply what the fragrance smelled like.
Aromatherapy vs. Aromachology:
The idea is similar to aromatherapy, though there are some key differences—the biggest one being that Aromachology does not seek to treat or cure through fragrance in the same way that aromatherapy might suggest that tea tree oil could fight acne or lavender could calm a headache. Aromachology focuses, instead, on how fragrance can have an impact on a person’s mood or feelings. Aromatherapy, while popular, also strictly refers to only the use of natural fragrances or essential oils to boost or alter the mood. Aromachology, on the other hand, claims that both synthetic and natural fragrance can have a mood-altering effect on the brain. Aromatherapy, for example, claims that lavender oil can physically relieve tension in the head that causes headaches. Aromachology, on the other hand, would claim that lavender—whether synthetic or natural—helps relax your mind by boosting your mood, easing mental stress and preparing you for sleep.
Some consumers—especially those interested in wellness products—might be wary of synthetic fragrances because of their ability to irritate sensitive skin. Products that contain synthetic fragrances are often used comparatively in marketing products with natural fragrances as a way to attract consumers that are interested in wellness because of their alleged negative side effects. While the science behind why synthetic fragrances are harmful is often rife with the argument, there is no doubt that consumers in the wellness industry are more likely to purchase a product with essential oils rather than synthetic fragrances.
Brands that want to incorporate Aromachology or aromatherapy into their products while simultaneously addressing any concern that consumers might have with fragranced products should be transparent in their branding and marketing.
Fragrance as a form of therapy
Fragrance therapy is a major aspect of the cosmetics industry already, and as the northern hemisphere heads into the winter months during the COVID-19 pandemic, experts are predicting that—thanks to Aromachology—they’ll only become more popular. Products with mood-enhancing scents are often marketed to consumers according to how they’ll make them feel—such as a lavender bubble bath that helps people feel a sense of relaxation and bliss or a citrus face wash for the morning that refreshes and awakens the mind.
These types of popular self-care products are popular, especially during stressful periods or the winter months. In Denmark, the philosophy of Hygge encourages people to get cozy in their homes and enjoy simple things like candles, blankets, and finding time to read a book as a way of creating a sense of comfort in the colder months. Similarly, the self-care and wellness industries operate on the same ethos—where Aromachology products, luxurious products, and products that can boost your mental and physical health are marketed to consumers as a lifestyle rather than a hygiene product.
Aromachology doesn’t have to be reserved for relaxing environments, though, and the idea that fragrance can uplift or change your mood is used in many different environments. The study on how odors influence the mood depends on how certain odors and fragrances trigger reactions in the brain. Certain odors, like citrus, for example, trigger olfactory pathways in the brain to create a neurological response to the odor. Scents that cause these triggers can be used to evoke certain emotions in a person—it’s why casinos or retail stores might spray fragrance into the air to make a customer feel sexy and bold enough to want to spend more money, or why a spa might use eucalyptus or lavender to evoke feelings of refreshment or relaxation.
Role of fragrance
Fragrance companies use elements of Aromachology in creating new fragrances, and the name or tone of a fragrance might depend on the scents that are used in it. For example, a scent described as “playful” might contain notes of fruit vanilla, while a fragrance described as sultry might contain notes of oud or santal. These fragrance notes are associated with moods or personalities, meaning that Aromachology has a profound impact on all aspects of the cosmetics industry, not just wellness products.
Examples in the beauty industry today
In the beauty industry, the fragrance is used to add a sense of luxury to products. Where aromatherapy products use fragrance as a sort of active ingredient—such as the claim that peppermint oil can treat headaches or that eucalyptus oil can treat acne—other beauty products use fragrance to make a product evoke a sense of happiness or feelings of comfort or luxury. The luxury hair care line OUAI uses a signature, high-end fragrance to tell its customers that the product is not only a top of the line hair care product, but that it evokes a sense of luxury, happiness, and cleanliness in its signature floral scent. The company even collaborated with a luxury fragrance line to create a limited edition product that combined the company’s highly rated dry shampoo formula and a luxury perfume. The fragrance collaboration technically doesn’t add anything to the function of the product, but it evokes a sense of bold adventure with the addition of the Mojave Ghost fragrance.
Too Faced, a makeup company known for its kitschy marketing and packaging, uses fragrance to add to its packaging themes. The company’s holiday lines, for example, often add warm ginger and brown sugar fragrance to evoke a sense of celebratory holiday spirit in the brand’s gingerbread-themed line. Another line dedicated to warm nudes and peach-tones has a fun, fruity peach flavor to evoke the lighthearted, playful tones in the makeup line’s packaging. By using fragrance in products that don’t normally contain fragrance—like eyeshadow, for example, Too Faced was able to leverage its branding and set itself apart from other industry competitors simply by making its products appeal to several senses at once, giving consumers a new experience in the products they use every day (in this case, it bought the company unique press to promote the products).
Aesop, for example, uses fragrance to tell a story and alert the customer how to feel about the mood that it creates. An intense fragrance that uses warm spice notes and is called Marrakech is marketed as being for pleasure, and is given an entire profile that evokes a sense of adventure. Meanwhile an earthy, crisp fragrance is meant to evoke a sense of refreshment.
Aromachology is a great way to connect a product to the consumer. The psychology behind scents is widely used across multiple industries—like hotels or retail stores that have a signature candle fragrance or perfume—or simply bath products that evoke a sense of comfort. Using fragrance in your products can help your customers feel more connected to the products that they use by invigorating their sense of smell, telling their bodies how they should feel when they use your product.
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