Some Common Misconceptions About Celebrity Perfume

I’ve heard all of these in some variant over the years and maybe it’s time to gather up all my thoughts so the next time I get a question or remark like this, I can refer to this post and copy/paste. One of my resolutions for 2014 is efficiency (sometimes laziness). In truth, I’m just tired of seeing these misconceptions about celebrity fragrances bouncing around.

Kylie Minogue's Sexy Darling

Kylie Minogue’s Sexy Darling

1. Celebrity perfume is low quality and isn’t as good as brand name perfume.
Not really true. Most celebrity perfumes are pretty generic, dull and not really worth the time to fuss over. But their quality isn’t that much better or worse than most mainstream offerings. If it’s quality you really want, you’ll have to do a bit of research and experimentation to find what really works.

2. [Insert celebrity here] designed this fragrance.
More like, the fragrance company or house that partnered up with the celebrity had their professional perfumers come up with concepts, develop the fragrances, ran the stuff through a few rounds of testing and probably a grueling revision process before they presented the celebrity (or their representatives, in some cases) with the proposed product. I’ll never find myself in a situation where a fragrance house wants to make “Eau de Kay”, but lacking any sort of formal aromachemical training, I doubt they would let me do much beyond picking one out of a batch of sanitized samples. The thought of Snooki donning a lab coat to personally formulate her fragrance does make for some interesting mental imagery though.

3. Since this perfume has the celebrity’s name on it, they must use it all the time.
Sometimes true, sometimes not. Some people love wearing the same scent every day, all day. Some people like to mix it up and change scents from day to day. It’s pretty unrealistic to presume a celebrity would wear a fragrance with their name on it all the time. I’m sure some celebrities actually wear the fragrances that they endorse. At the same time, I think many of them wear other fragrances along with the ones they endorse. Then there are those where the fragrance really was just marketing and they don’t wear fragrances at all or wear something else entirely. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t laugh if I saw, “Justin Bieber caught wearing his ‘Girlfriend’ fragrance at mall” in the news. Unfortunately, I don’t read the entertainment column.

4. I like [insert celebrity here]. So I must also like their favorite perfumes.
Nothing would sadden me more than a potential perfume lover being turned off perfumes because they found the fragrances their favorite celebrities liked didn’t agree with them. Wear perfume that you like. Problem solved.

5. Celebrity branded perfumes smell like said celebrities.
I hope not. I would personally find it very disturbing if any human being’s “natural scent” was peaches, blueberry candy, caramel and faux sandalwood.

I had originally written this months ago and kept it on the draft list. Given how much JB’s been in the news lately, I wanted to hold off on release this for a while until things settled down. Heaven knows that kid doesn’t need any more publicity–good or bad!

Petrochemicals and Perfume

So something that’s bothered me a lot in recent years is hearing people complain about petrochemicals in their perfumes and how, since these chemicals are in fragrances, the fragrances must therefore be bad for you.

I’m sure when you say “petrochemicals” to someone, the first thing they’ll think of is either a barrel of oil or gasoline. Then if you link perfume to that word, people will probably imagine dabbing what amounts to unleaded gasoline on their necks and wrists. Of course, it doesn’t help when a tiny local news outlet builds on this misconception with a delightful morning segment they lovingly called, “Are Perfumes Poisoning You?”

So, are perfumes or, rather, are the petrochemicals in perfumes poisoning you? No.

Here’s the thing with petrochemicals, they’re in a lot of things and not just in perfumes. Nor are they in any significantly large quantities in perfumes compared to something like–say, a plastic bucket. I’m not a scientist and don’t pretend to be, but my understanding of petrochemicals is that they’re used in the manufacturing of a lot of products. From things you might expect like plastics, computers, electronics and furniture. Then there are the things I didn’t expect like in medicine. Then there are the cosmetics, which see a lot of petrochemical use as for a large variety of reasons.

See, the thing with petrochemicals is, you really are fighting a losing battle if you want to avoid them. If you’re on the internet, reading this post then chances are, you had to touch a petrochemical product at some point seeing as computers are made of the stuff. Heck, the chair you might be sitting in is made out of it. Perhaps even the clothes you’re wearing, or the soap you use.

When we think about how many products with petrochemicals in them or were made out of petrochemicals that we use, the numbers are really mind-boggling. I could cast my eyes around the room I’m sitting in right now and I’d actually have a harder time finding something that didn’t have a petrochemical in it or wasn’t manufactured using petrochemicals.

Years ago, a friend and I were exploring “healthy” alternatives to big brand cosmetics. We were teenagers, barely into college. We liked cosmetics though. Having read something or seen something somewhere, my friend informed me of all the toxins inside of the big brand cosmetics we were using. We promptly swore off of them and looked high and low for alternatives–the more natural the better.

Eventually, we found an all natural cosmetics line that boasted no preservatives for health-conscious individuals. The packaging was cute, done up in pastels and greens to really drive home that “nature” thing. I decided to ditch my big brand stuff and go for the natural line. Because hey, I was young, I loved make-up but I didn’t want to damage my body over it. With some of the things they say, it’s really no surprise that people become alarmed. I’ve heard everything from, “it’s an allergen” to “it causes seizures”.

Long story short, a few months later and I had the worst acne in my life and my skin was horribly dry. My friend didn’t fare that much better. It seemed the longer I tried using the natural stuff, the worse my skin got. I’m not saying every natural alternative product will do this to people. A lot of individuals use these products to great success. But making my skin dry and break out was what it did to me, and that could be because my skin just didn’t mesh well with the product.

I stopped using the natural stuff. The acne went away, the dryness got better too–but I was still out a lot of money and very disappointed that my foray into no-preservative cosmetics was a disaster. It also took a really long time to get my skin back to normal. I went back to the big brands after that. Almost a decade later and my face is still intact so I guess those petrochemicals aren’t that bad for me after all.

The thing is, when I look back at the reasons why I tossed my cosmetics and jumped on the natural bandwagon was because I was afraid of something horrible happening to me. It took a while for me to realize that people have used petrochemical products for decades or even longer and a great deal of them are perfectly fine. How much does the use of petrochemicals in our every day lives really affect us? And does it matter to me that much in the end?

How long do I expect to live if I swore off all the stuff that I enjoy because someone, somewhere (of questionable credentials, I might add) told me that it was bad for me because it’s not “nature made”? And do I really want to be around that long even after I gave up everything I like to do it? All I really know is that my face is fine and it’s been layered in petrochemical containing products a lot over the years. I’m still kicking and I’ve used perfumes almost daily for a while now. I also sometimes eat out of plastic bowls, drink out of plastic cups, sat on, laid on, stood on plenty of petrochemical-containing materials and I don’t think I’m any worse for wear.

Some more interesting read for those concerned with ingredients in their cosmetics:
Lucas from Chemist in the Bottle on Parabens
Perfume Shrine on the Demonization of Perfume
Chemist Corner on Companies Caving to Fearmongering

How I Fell Into Perfumes

I’m a very new face in perfumes. Barely three years on my belt and not a whole lot of technical knowledge about the art. I don’t even like calling myself a perfumista or accepting the label because I still feel like just an admirer of fragrances, sort of like how I can’t and won’t ever call myself an art critic and am much more content as an admirer of art. I’m still on a discovery journey, and wanted to know how you all came to love, admire, hoard, or blog about fragrances.

Guerlain Collection

I wish they had this image in desktop wallpaper size.

I started out probably in a very similar situation as most people. My mother liked fragrances, had a collection of her favorites that, to this day, whenever I smell I still equate to her at different points in her life. It was her collection that inspired me to start my own, seek out my own favorites. My first perfume was a Nina Ricci. Not one of the classics, of course. It was that apple thing, Nina that came out in 2006. I loved the stuff. I still love it even though it smells absurd on me these days.

One day, I caught a whiff of Chanel No.5 after having been away from it for a few years. My mother wore No.5 since before I was even born. She had been taking a break for over a decade so when the scent jogged some memory in my mind, I had to find out what it was. Having no knowledge of perfumes at the time, still wearing my Nina and being perfectly content with it, I had no idea where to look or what I was smelling.

When I described it to my mother one day, she wondered idly if it was No.5. The next day I smelled it at a department store, saw how many beautiful perfumes there were. Glass bottles, gorgeous displays. I wanted a vanity table covered in perfume bottles. I started collecting samples, all the samples I could get from department stores. Then I jumped online, started talking to others who liked perfumes. Found some friends whose addictions to fragrances netted them massive collections of exotic decants.

The hoarding obsession for me actually started with Black Phoenix Alchemy Labs. I had ordered six samples out of curiosity, having been drawn to their line thanks to a friend. My first six samples didn’t turn out the way I liked. I read the descriptions of the samples I got, decided to go for the ones that my friend recommended and found them too strong for me. One of the bunch was impressive though. It was The Unicorn from BPAL (now discontinued). It was soft, flower, utterly feminine and brilliant to me. I got a full bottle of it that came with more samples. I tried those, liked more of them got more bottles, got more samples and it ballooned from there.

While I was feeding my BPAL addiction, I was also testing out fragrances in department stores. Finding many of them delightfully sugary and sweet. I was young, smelling like a berry explosion seemed acceptable, but I couldn’t commit to any of them because I was still reeling in the BPAL collection that I was amassing.

When I finally found something I liked, it was Guerlain’s Champs-Elysees. If I remember right, it was followed my Guerlain’s Samsara, then Shalimar. A bottle of Opium from YSL (not much appreciated at the time by me), Chanel’s Allure, Coco Mademoiselle. Then I jumped to the big boys by falling in love with Spiritueuse Double Vanille. From there, I got more serious and had started blogging a few months before.

I started taking note of what scents I preferred. Writing down the stuff that I like and the stuff that I don’t to the point where I have amassed a list of flimsy maybe “yes” and possibly “no”. I found out shortly afterward, that notes that I like or don’t like didn’t necessarily lead me to winners and favorites. I still find that whether or not a fragrance contains or copiously uses a note that I love or loathe seldom correlates with how much I like the juice. It really is in how it’s mixed, the proportions, the combinations, the quality of the ingredients itself.

The result is my position right now. I find that I like very general things. Scents that are classical, heady and historical. I like light scenes, clean things that aren’t aquatic. Authentic and spicy vanillas usually melt my heart. Good honey-based fragrances make my nose happy. Incense and spices and ambers keep me coming back. I’m turned off by heavy uses of cedar and aquatics–maybe I’m crazy, but I think a fragrance can smell clean without resorting to a bunch of aquatic notes. I don’t particularly like the sharp twang of generic woods that a lot of mass market men’s fragrances sport. Nor do I adore the sugary sweet fruity florals that I once used to love.

I think perfumes is an ongoing journey that will never end. Even if the juices get more basic, more mass marketed, more sugary and sweet there’s still a huge amount of history in fragrances that used to be. And there’s still plenty of wonderful choices in the lesser known stuff. Niche and especially independent perfumery is more and more exciting place every single day.

So how did your fragrance journey start? 🙂

Amusements of a Vintage Perfume Addict

One of the best things about being a vintage perfume fan is finding a tiny, hand-labeled vial of vintage fragrance with a date on it that goes back a few decades. Then squealing excitedly about it, unstopping the vial and lightly coating my skin. The best part is obviously enjoying that wonderous, heady, classic smell that all vintages tend to have. That beautiful thing that makes me imagine what the history behind the scent must have been like. That smell that I think everyone–whether they’re perfumistas, fans of perfume, or just people who are just curious about perfumes in general–need to smell. Whether or not they like it is besides the point. There’s just something completely awesome about smelling history.

Coty Ad

Did I forget to mention that I love vintage perfume ads too? Just beautiful stuff.

Whenever I get to wrangle someone into sitting and smelling stuff with me, I’ll pull out all the stops from the recent stuff that I know they’ll probably like and work them up to some of my most precious collections of old stuff. Hidden away from light and air and major temperature shifts, this old stuff is what I consider to be the real treats. Much to my amusement (and bemusement), most people wrinkle their noses at the vintages.

“Smells like my grandmother.” Seems like the most common response I get. And we already know how perfumistas feel about this particular sentiment. Some other common reactions:

“It smells–old.”

“Wow. That’s weird!”

“Whew, too strong.”

“Hmm, gives me a headache.”

Once in a while, one of my non-perfume crazy friends will be delighted because they think it’s awesome to be smelling something classic. But the most joy I got from sharing my vintages was when I converted one of my friends over to my addiction. Her initial reaction to it was that it was strange, too strong and that it probably wasn’t for her. She kept on the perfume thing, amassing bottle after bottle of mass market, then got more adventurous with niche fragrances. When her and I met up again for a perfume sniffing get-together, she sampled the same vintages I gave her the first time and discovered that not only did she grow an appreciation for the stuff, but that most of it was downright enchanting.

I started out in much the same way. Finding vintages a little strange, too heady, too strong or bitter. After a couple of years, I couldn’t get enough of the stuff and needed more.

Maybe it was because I started out like most young women, liking the Burberry offerings and finding perfumes that smelled like food to be a delightful novelty. So I went and got a bunch of fruity, floral things and wore them. It may have also helped that I blogged about my experiences and maybe it was because I had easy access to some more complex fragrances from the get go thanks to my mother. Whatever it was, I discovered that fruity florals and most teeny gourmands were…well, kind of boring. Maybe it was because I kept smelling those same fruity florals and gourmands everywhere. Or maybe it was because after smelling like a vanilla cake for a few months, I started to be turned off by sweet, sugary things and wanted something else with a little more kick. After all, it’s not all that fun to smell like everybody else–or have your dog look at you accusingly because he thinks you ate a cake that he would have liked to stare at and whine about first.

These days, I look in antique stores on the faint hope of finding an intact bottle with beautifully preserved juice inside of it. I don’t go antiquing often, my husband being of the mindset that he’d really rather get new things than old things (weird), but when I do go, I often see stuff of the non-perfume variety. Just as well, I suppose. I mean, the bills still need to be paid. I also find it incredibly hard to walk away from a vintage fragrance. I need to smell it. I need to know what it was like. I think it’s because those vintages were better built. But then, I’m biased, and mass market fatigued. Mostly, I’m tired of the berry candy openings, and the faux rose middles, with finishing splashes of plastic vanilla. At this point, I’d much rather be accused of smelling “old” and while knowing that fine fragrance is an artwork, than being told that I smell nice because of Cupcake Explosion No.45 by Faceless Celebrity. Heavens know, Justin/Selena/Katy/Gaga/et al. don’t need any more of my money.

So maybe vintage isn’t for everybody. But it’s got a way of winning over people who’ve been mired in the scent scene long enough to get fatigued from all the modern fruity florals, the floppy, same-y flowers, and the boring vanilla sandalwood dry down.

Now, the next best thing about being a vintage perfume fan is watching your friends who enjoy the latest and greatest in mass market fragrances look on it horror as you slap some decades-old juice on your skin. One of my friends actually cringes when she sees me do this, like the old perfume might turn me into some sort of swamp thing. Her loss.

Yay, New Layout

New design for That-Smell thanks to my day job at Iron Ion. Decided to keep it simple, especially since it is a blog layout first and not a full website. I’m happy with it. Happy with the colors. Happy with the look. Especially happy that if something were to go wrong, I can at least pinpoint the problem!

I have always had trouble designing for myself and feel like nothing is ever quite as good as I imagined it to be. I think a lot of artists and designers feel this way–or maybe it’s just me. It feels like my hands produce something different from what I had in my head. But for now, this new layout makes me happy.

I’m Still Here

Things have picked up with work, which I am simultaneously happy and a little frazzled about because I have less time now to dedicate to That-Smell, which makes me all kinds of sad.

At the same time, I am also working on a redesign for That-Smell using a custom theme. I had been using out of the box options so far (and this latest iteration is no different) and I haven’t been happy with any of it. So coming soon–I hope–will be a nice, clean, new layout for this blog and a signal for me to return to something I love–smelling things. :-3

Perfumes Celebrities Wear

One of the questions I get asked in surprising frequency is what perfume I think a certain celebrity wears. This confuses me for a number of reasons. Chief among them would be that if my television service wasn’t bundled with my internet service, I would gladly turn it off. I never go to the movies either. Buy movies. Or go out of my way to find out what’s coming out next. In fact, I’m not even sure who most of these celebrities are until one of their fragrances lands in front of my nose and I find myself having to do the barest amount of research.

Then the best comes when I tell people about the website that supposedly lists the fragrances that celebrities wear and they’re shocked the celebrities don’t wear the fragrances with their names on it. And I have to ask, why would they? After all, most celebuscents are cookie cutter tragedies that smell pretty similar to one another. Once in a while, you get a diamond in the rough but the majority of the time, if it doesn’t smell like Britney Spears Fantasy, it’s a miracle.


So what fragrances are celebrities wearing? Well, here are some of the more commonly asked for:

Britney Spears
Britney’s one of those celebrities who does end up wearing some of the stuff with her name on it. But she’s also into other things that don’t really surprise me. Like Comptoir Sud Pacifique’s Vanille Abricot. Hey, I don’t blame her, Vanille Abricot rocks.

Lady Gaga
I really wanted to stop talking about Lady Gaga, but since it’s the new year and so many people kept asking me what I thought she wore. Lady Gaga, apparently wears Thierry Mugler’s Womanity. Not really surprising and pretty fitting.

Angelina Jolie
No joke. I had no idea Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were together and had a large mass of children under their roof until someone asked me what I thought her fragrance of choice was. The last time I saw Angelina anywhere was in the movie Hackers (yeah). Anyway, she apparently favors Creed’s Love in White.

Kim Kardashian
You know, I was a much happier person before I knew who the Kardashians were. Regardless, Kim’s fragrance of choice is Michael by Michael Kors.

Michelle Obama
Color me surprised when I found out the first lady was enjoying quite a bit of celebrity status. The local paper actually had the answer to her favorite fragrance. She’s a Creed Love in White fan too.

Ashton Kutcher
Last I saw of Ashton Kutcher, he was on That 70s Show. Color me surprised when I found out it stopped running and he’s been doing other things since. Ashton favors Arpege Pour Homme.

Katy Perry
She’s apparently a fan of Vanille Abricot too. Doesn’t really surprise me, I was just hoping for something with a little more variety.

Taylor Swift
Oddly enough, the only celebrity that really got in my face this year was Taylor Swift. She was everywhere for some reason. On billboards, at stores, on TV on the rare occasions when I’d turn it on, on websites and in ads all over the place. She has quite the list of favorites, but the most notable would have to be Estee Lauder’s Bronze Goddess. Good choice.

Nicki Minaj
I really had to do some research on this one because I had no clue who or what Nicki Minaj did. Whatever it is, she prefers Chloe.

Mila Kunis
She apparently likes Carnal Flower. Good choice.

Selena Gomez
Laugh at me all you want, I thought Mila Kunis and Selena Gomez were the same person. They don’t even really look the same. Selena Gomez likes Daisy Eau so Fresh.

You can check out what other celebrities are wearing at:

If I had more room for the title, I would change the one for this post to be, “How out of the loop is Kay? Oh, and some perfume”.

Toning it Down, Dialing it Back

For 2013, I have decided to focus a little more on my career as one of my New Years Resolutions. Writing for That Smell has been a joy–not to mention a fantastic vehicle for meeting some wonderful people, I cannot commit to posting twice a week any longer as I have recently struck out on my own as a freelancer.

From this week and onward, That Smell will only be updated once a week, either on Tuesday or Wednesday (more likely Wednesday).

I will still be around plenty to read your posts, respond to your emails and comments as usual.

My Kingdom for a Candle

My candle obsession comes in waves, and I have the lack of choice and awareness of candles to thank for that. Most of my collection comprises of Bath and Body Works candles of varying degrees of fruity florally-ness. The rest is a perplexing medley of luxury candles that I use sparingly. And after about the hundredth time, lighting up B&BW’s Eucalyptus Spearmint candle, I decided it was time I gathered the old collection together and assess my candle needs.

Cire Trudon Candle

Cire Trudon Candle

One of my favorite candles of all time is aforementioned, Bath and Body Works’ Eucalyptus Spearmint. Of which, they must have realized was very popular because the last time I bought one, it was in a beautiful frosted glass container. Now it sits in a uniform, rather boring, clear glass container with a metal lid like their other candles. They also have a much larger line-up of products. I found myself somewhat intimidated by all the Eucalyptus Spearmint-scented products and decided I might file away the candle for now.

Another of my favorites was a pricy little piece from Diptyque. Their Chevrefeuille Honeysuckle candle brings a smile to my face and a nice, pleasant creamy honeyed scent to the home. I love coming out of the shower and getting a big whiff of Chevrefeuille. What I don’t like is the price tag. At $60.00 for a candle, I find it difficult to even take the thing out and use it most of the time.

Cire Trudon is another one of those candle makers with beautiful candles and crazy prices. Their Pondichery candle is one of my favorites. Lovely crisp and fresh scent, nice projection and the packaging looks great sitting anywhere. It’s a bit difficult to find their candles unless you head to a higher end department store, and when you do the price tag hurts even more than Diptyque’s candles.

What I wouldn’t give for a beautiful, less expensive version of Pondichery or Chevrefeuille. I’m tired of Eucalyptus Spearmint. So if anyone has any candle suggestions, I am all ears!

Dog Perfume, What?

I have a friend, well-meaning, if somewhat misguided who was taking care of a particularly rank dog. The evidence of the smell itself inspired me to advise said friend on multiple occasions to take his dog to the vet when he proclaimed he had no idea why Sparky smelled so bad.

One day, said friend asked me if they made perfumes for dogs–you know, because they make perfume for everybody and everything else. And, he reasons, everything else is scented and the dog was smelling worse and worse. Sparky, to his credit, gave my friend a big floppy dog smile and wagged his tail at the suggestion that he tried some Eau de Mutt.

Perfumes for pets exist. I didn’t tell my friend this because there are a few things I don’t believe in scenting: New born babies and animals being two of those things. It didn’t surprise me much that pet perfume or fragrances formulated for pets exist out there. What did surprise me was that anyone would spray perfume on their pets to begin with–and often times, these people wouldn’t think twice about squirting Fido with a bottle of Britney Spears Fantasy, never mind a supposed specially formulated pet fragrance.

Now, I’ve never had the urge to spray down my canines or felines with scent whether it was made for them or not. Here’s why: your dogs and cats have a significantly keener sense of smell than you do. My dog could smell coconut oil whenever I moisturized my hands with it. To me, the coconut oil didn’t smell like anything. Imagine how strong perfume smells in the bottle and magnify that by 100x. Imagine that time someone who bathed in fragrance walked by you and it felt like they were ramming their perfume down your throat and that’s why I wouldn’t spray my pet with perfume.

While you might appreciate smelling like your juice of choice, Fido probably wouldn’t like it much on himself. It’ll likely irritate his nose, possibly irritate his skin, annoy him, and who knows what else. Perhaps the adverse effects could be even more serious. Besides, a fruity floral scented dog just sounds silly to me.

So please, keep the perfume off of your pets.

As for what was wrong with Sparky? Turns out he needed some dental work done and a good bath after a trip to the vet. Now he smells like a dog should. No perfume would have solved that.