The History of Perfume - From Ancient Times To Nowadays

Perfume is a familiar scent to most women and men in the world. Scents ranging from sweet to citrus are quite common for perfume. Under each scent are different complex notes that wear off over time. With each note comes a new scent that keeps one fresh throughout the day. There are many people and things that go into each scent.

A fragrance chemist is someone who creates things like perfumes, household products, etc. Their main goal is to create or improve the fragrance market. To become a fragrance chemist one usually needs a Bachelor Degree of Science or higher and extra training. A fragrance chemist gets paid between $39,000 to $150,000. With each fragrance chemist comes new, unique scents.

The notes or layers of perfume wear off at different times of the day, with different scents coming after the next. The first note, called a top note, only lasts for ten to fifteen minutes and is typically a fruity scent like lemon, apple, grapefruit, or berry. After 10 minutes the heart note which is a floral scent like rosemary, jasmine, or lavender blossoms and last for around an hour. The base note is the woodsy or musky scent like cedar, sandalwood, vanilla, or frankincense; which you smell for many hours. Perfume is made of these notes to make one smell and feel fresh, confident, and professional which dates back to ancient years.

The Beginning of Perfume's History

Perfume started in the Bible when it was used for religious ceremonies. Ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, and Greeks were the first groups of people to discover different ways to use perfume. Perfume was used for things like bathing, rituals, and furniture. It began to get more popular when Rome fell and the Arabs rediscovered the art of perfume.

Perfume began to become very popular in France when Louis XIV became known as the perfume king. The people began bathing in perfume daily because of diseases in the water. Later in the 20th century designer scents started to become popular and later inspired other brands to take risks. Brands like Chanel, Estée Lauder, and Revlon were some of the first to take risks. Today unique scents and cool packaging is most important for a consumer.

Gabrielle was one of the first people to have a big name in the perfume industry. She was born on August 19, 1883 in an orphanage. Later in her life she had a boutique and began to play with scents. She decided to make perfume. Her first perfume was called Chanel No. 5, because she was brought five perfume samples and chose the fifth one. That is how her first hit perfume, was created. Chanel No. 5 was and is still so special because she was the first to use a generous amount of aldehydes.

Chanel No. 5 was one of the first perfumes to not just smell like flowers. It gave women the confidence they need to not feel like a girl and more like a woman. It inspired other brands to take bigger risks and think outside the box. Woman today, because of Chanel, have more than two options for scents.

Nowaday Life With Perfume

Perfume, essential oils, cologne, fraiche, natural perfumes, lotion, soap, and candles are common scented products used by the average person. Picking the right one is all about how strong you want for a scent. “Eau fraiche has a very light scent because it’s the cheapest with only 1% to 3% of essential oils”. Perfume and eau de toilette have a much stronger scent and cost more. The price of each scent also depends on the brand and packaging.

Popular brands and designers include L'Oréal, Estee Lauder, Dolce & Gabbana, Calvin Klein, Christian Dior, and Bath & Body Works who are taking over the fragrance market. Brands like L'Oréal and Estee Lauder also have other brands under their names to make more money. More popular fragrance companies also are a chain like Bath & Body Works which has stores in North America, Europe, Middle East, Africa, Latin America, Asia, and Australia. All perfume companies in the world have one thing in common, essential oils.

Essential oils are becoming more popular today. Essential oils are from places like India, Perseia, and Egypt. They are straight from plants and range from scents like peppermint to citrus. They range from $5.00 to $1000 depending on how exotic the scent is. Essential oils are applied to the skin and aren’t as well known to cause irritation, unlike perfume which is becoming known for using synthetics.

Perfume is made up of plants, animals, and synthetics. The oil is the extracted and blended for what the company thinks is the perfect scent. Then alcohols and other substances are added to balance the scent. Once the perfume is finished it is stored for several months at a time before it is sold to age the scent.

Today perfume is made with less natural oils and more synthetics. This is cost effective for companies. Companies are also doing a lot with their scents and advertizments to attractic the opposite sex. Other new technologies include turning sweat into perfume, aromatherapy, and mood swaying perfumes. Companies are often swayed to do something because of the consumers.

People today want gender neutral scents that are unique. Light floral scents are becoming boring and it doesn’t make as much sense for people to spend a lot of money on something that isn’t special. People also care a lot more about the website, store experience, and help from employees. “With Men only taking about 30 seconds to pick out a perfume where as women take around 6 minutes”. If women are taking an average of 6 minutes to pick the perfect perfume, their store experience can easily turn a customer off.

Both Sides of Using Perfume

Research is now showing that perfume can be bad for society. It can especially take a toll for infants health because of the chemicals. It also causes more pollution than a car, and it negatively impacts the environment. Animals also are being tested on constantly. To make it worse, it can give people allergic reactions. Perfume is still very popular even with all of the cons.

It is so popular today that it is estimated to be worth $46.5 billion by 2023. “It is estimated that the market will grow 6.2% as people purchase more goods”. “Women are controlling the market with 4/5 women saying they use some sort of fragrance daily”. This all makes sense because the fragrance market is dominated by feminine products by ⅔.

“Over 2,000 plants contain essential oils that perfume companies use today”. 2,000 plants are used, but most perfumes are made of harmful chemicals. This is because on average the fragrance industry comes out with 400 unique products per year. With all of the products being released, $800 million dollars are going into advertising for each unique campaign.

Biotechnology is a new product that is meant to manipulate scents easily through yeast. Dr. Joerg Bohlmann is working to make scents in mass amounts. It synthesizes the essential oils and makes them safe for use. “Originally scientist would ferment sugar into alcohol, but now they produce fragrance compounds”. Biotechnology costs roughly $136 million.

Human scents is also another new advance to the perfume market. Ani Liu takes samples of scents from one’s clothes. “She then crafts the scents using architecture, augmented reality, and synthetic biology”. These scents are created specifically for people whose loved ones have passed away. This technology works because scents are connected to memory.

Aromatherapy is also a scienece that is now being rediscovered. It dates back to 6,000 years ago in Egypt. Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils to help with different illnesses and to improve your overall mood. One smells or applys the oils and then waits for the results. Aromatherapy should help with any pain, sleep, reduce of stress and anxiety, and help with digestion. This is why many prefer essential oils over perfume.

Issues of Scents 

Chemicals in fragrance, allergies, and pollution are the three main problems coming with scents today. Fragrance chemicals are found in not only scents, but with things like clothes, houses, food, stores, and transportation. Fragrance chemicals are not officially tested for things like asthma, cancer, and allergies, but many think it is a leading factor. Brands are getting away with using fragrance chemicals like tyrene and pyridine because the Food and Drug Administration is not permitted to ask the brands if they are using fragrance chemicals. “This is a major issue because 40% of personal care products are fragranced”.

Brands are finding it more easy to get around the rules of using certain chemicals. In the Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1973 they did not mention anything about fragrances. Brands use this to their advantage and hide the harsh chemicals in their packaging by clumping or putting them under categories that don’t look bad on the packaging. “EWG found that the average amount of hidden chemicals is 14”. Scientists are worried that since the harsh chemicals are hard to find on packaging, people will have a hard time being careful of what they buy.

Over 2 million people have developed allergies because of perfume. Brands often refuse to take out certain chemicals that are prone to causing allergic reactions. Europe is more careful about common allergic chemicals and causes brands to list at least 26 of the common allergic chemicals in their products. Reactions vary for each person from things like itching, swelling, coughing, and inflammation. The United States is not as strong with requirements and many companies are getting away with not listing important chemicals that aren’t safe.

The best way to stay away from harsh and allergic chemicals is to eliminate them and find alternatives. Essential oils are known to be more safe because they coming from natural resources. Air purifiers are good to use when at home or at the office to keep you from inhaling harsh chemicals. Another easy way is to simply put an air filter in your vacuum cleaner. The overall best way to stop harsh chemicals from spreading is to alert your family, coworkers, peers, and friends the risks of common fragrances.

Scientist are now also becoming more concerned with things like perfume and paint. This is because they are not evaporating in the air, which is causing more pollution. Perfume is a volatile organic compound and it reacts with sunlight in order to make ozone pollution. Volatile organic compounds are overlooked and can become a much bigger deal sooner than later. A lot of the products we are using on the daily are contributing to poor air quality and most people do not even realize it.

Pollution today is causing brain damage, death, and other things that are expected increase as the climate changes. As transportation pollution goes down, about twice as much pollution is from products like perfume and other things you would find in a common household. A lot of the products are meant to evaporate in the air because that is how they release the scent. Products like perfume are not regulated as much as transportation pollution. “In Los Angeles they found that around 60% of the particles in the air outside and 87% inside could be from things like perfume”.


Perfume is a popular things throughout the world. Its history begins from ancient time and is stil continuing. Nevertheless, nowaday perfume can cause a harmful effect on the environment and people. One solution is for people to have household plants because certain ones can absorb volatile organic compounds. Weeping figs and spider plants are some of the plants that get rid of volatile organic compounds. Opening windows and doors are also easy things one could do to limit pollution. One could also eliminate fragranced cleaning products and limiting scented personal care items. Every step helps to keep people safer and happier. 

07 July 2022
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