Anya’s Annual Winter Solstice Giveaway Event

I received an email from Anya over at Anya’s Garden regarding her Winter Solstice Giveaway Event and thought I’d pass the news along.

Anya is starting a new annual tradition on her blog. She has long been fascinated with this time of year, when, as a child, she noticed the cold, dark days of Wintertime Philadelphia were made tolerable by the festive lights of Hanukkah and Christmas. In her neighborhood, Christmas lights were kept lit in windows until New Years Eve, brightening the dark streets and making the cold more tolerable.

This year, Anya is inaugurating a Winter Solstice Event on her new blog, hosted on her own website. The former blog site didn’t allow her to see the email addresses of people who left comments, and some giveaway prizes went unclaimed when the winners couldn’t be notified. Now, everyone will be notified immediately after their name is randomly chosen.

The celebration of lights will begin on the shortest day of the year, December 21st, and continue through the lengthening days with a giveaway every day until December 31st. Anya will also write about personal, perfumery, mystical and practical events that have shaped her in her art and life. It will be a lovely journey that she hopes to share with you, and with the giveaway gifts, pay it forward to the community of customers and natural perfume lovers who have helped build her businesses.

You can register at the blog to receive updates on posts, or subscribe to the RSS feeds for posts and/or comments by visiting her blog.

Happy Winter Solstice!

The Story of Fragrances

Here’s a decently-sized video for a Monday morning. It’s a basic guide to fragrance that features some perfumers who talk about how their careers got started and how perfumes approach creating a fragrance. There’s also some mention related to the materials used in perfume, the regulations and restrictions of scent components.


Love them, hate them, agree with them, disagree with them, or indifferent to them, I personally liked seeing the glimpses into scent labs.

I Missed Your Birthday, Flora

I’ve been seeing a lot of people ask how long their perfume will be good for before they throw it into the trash. Then I see people telling them that the shelf life of perfume is two years and after that, into the bin it should go. It was a little strange to see such a set date and time for the expiration of something like a fragrance, but maybe that’s because I’m sitting on a big pile of perfume samples with some having vintages going back to the 1920s. And believe me, they still smell pretty good.

So I did some digging–okay, I mostly picked up a box of Gucci Flora and turned it over. There it was; 36M or three years. Not the two year mark I was looking for but close enough. Oddly, I apparently picked up the only box I had with an expiration date on it first. Everything else was lacking in that little symbol that conveyed the message that when my bottle hit three years old, I should promptly huck it into the trash with some varying level of fear and disdain.

Gucci Flora Ad

Chances are, I’ll probably still be using it five or more years down the road if it’s still good.

There are quite a few things I absolutely agree should have expiry dates to warn people before their products go bad. And while I can’t say much against all expiry dates, I do feel like calling into question the practicality of expiry dates on perfume.

In the first place, the expiration dates aren’t very reliable. At least, they haven’t been in my experience. I have a collection of perfume–like anyone else obsessed with fragrances would–most of them are anywhere from two to fifty years old and all of them are doing just fine. I can count the amount of times I had to throw out an old bottle on one hand–two fingers to be exact. Now we all know the dangers of anecdotal evidence, but I just can’t see the point of throwing out perfume because a date had passed because I’ve yet to experience a need to.

Some argue that perfume expiration dates are needlessly scaring people into thinking their perfume is only good to a certain amount of time before they have to throw it away and buy another (probably expensive) bottle. Others argue that the expiration dates can’t be verified because no one knows how long the perfume has been sitting on the shelf. Both good points and points I agree with. On the other hand, people are saying that perfume is a cosmetic and using expired product could harm or irritate your skin. And some people have had perfume expire on or before the expiration date on it.

This isn’t an issue that’s going to be decided on a blog calling itself “That Smell”, but it did make me curious. Mostly about figuring out the exact age of my bottles. And what do you know? There is actually a way!

The Cosmetics Calculator is a neat little tool that can usually give you a date of when your product was made. I’m not sure as to how accurate it is, and I use it as a good to know type of thing. I was also just excited that parsing those lot codes could so easy.

Here’s how you use the calculator: Grab your bottle of perfume, it probably has to be a major brand because only a limited number of brands are supported by that particular calculator. The calculator has a list of brands it supports too. Find the lot code, it’s often either on the box, on the bottle, or on both. Look under the bottle and box for the code it’s often in one of those two places. You’re looking for a four to five character code. Once you find your code, plug the code into the calculator, select the brand of your perfume, and you should be good to go.

Thankfully, Gucci was supported. So I put in my lot number and my perfume was apparently manufactured on April 28, 2009. So it’s been more than three years.

Oh well. I just sprayed myself down with some Gucci Flora about three times just now. And it smells great!

Clearly my “ancient” bottle of Flora did not go bad at the magical three year mark. See, perfume is one of those things that’s hard for me to to justify throwing away simply because it’s old. Maybe I just have a hard time of it because I have a collection of “old” perfume from the 90s that smells awesome and that I wear sometimes. Maybe it’s because I’ve associated people or memories to those old perfume bottles and those old scents and I can’t imagine throwing those away. Or maybe it’s because I’ve never had a perfume that was properly kept suddenly go bad on me yet.

Whatever it is that makes me keep these old scents around, I just don’t think it’s worth working myself up into a frenzy about all the old product I have. After all, I’m currently scented by an (apparently) expired bottle of perfume and I smell just fine. In the meantime, that Cosmetics Calculator is really fun to play with. Apparently, two of my perfumes were manufactured on the same day. Who knew!

Perfume FAQ, Part 3

Part 3 of the Perfume FAQ for common questions that keep coming up regarding perfume. I collect these questions from common misconceptions and queries I get regarding fragrances.  If you have a perfume related question, please leave a comment.

Q. What is the best perfume in the world?
A. No perfume is widely recognized as “the best”. Labeling a perfume as the best would be like labeling a color as the best. It’s too subjective, there’s too much variety, and everyone has a different opinion. There are classifications for most widely known perfume (Chanel No. 5) and best in class for the year according to certain organizations (FiFi Awards). Then there’s recognition for things that veer away from the fragrance itself such as world’s most expensive packaging (here’s lookin’ at you, Clive Christian). But as for best perfume in the world? Can’t be done. What’s the best depends entirely on you when it comes to this one.

Q. What are some nice perfumes that are inexpensive?
A. Enjoying fragrances doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby. If you like chasing brand names or niche lines, you will punch a hole through your wallet sooner or later. But if you just want to enjoy some nice, inexpensive, scents then check out Victoria’s Secret ($10-70), Bath and Body Works ($10-40), Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab ($17.50-25), The Body Shop ($20-40) and the huge variety of celebuscents that can often be purchased from discounters (like FragranceX) for much less than at a department store. Reputable discounters are good for some designer brands though you shouldn’t expect too much of a discount when you’re dealing with designers like Chanel or niche lines like Creed. Wal*Mart also usually sells legitimate fragrances for a bit cheaper than a department store would. If you know what you’re doing and are confident, then eBay can have a lot of good fragrance deals. And if you want to hook yourself up with some vintage perfumes, estate sales can sometimes yield excellent results and of course, the aforementioned eBay for vintages is always an option.

Q. Is there a difference between a counterfeit fragrance and a designer impostor fragrance?
A. Yes. Counterfeits are fragrances that are manufactured to look like and mimic the appearance of a real designer perfume. It is  illegal to sell, trade or deal in fake or counterfeit fragrances. Many counterfeit fragrances contain poor  quality materials, volatile materials, watered down perfume, and sometimes harmful ingredients. A designer impostor fragrance is a fragrance produced by a company to mimic the smell of a designer perfume. Many times these impostor scents get a few of the predominant notes right but miss when it comes to the rest. This often results in a less complex imitation of the original fragrance and some perfume lovers prefer this. The perfumes marketed as designer impostors are not counterfeits as they are clearly marked as impostors and not as the “real” thing. The designs of the packaging are also not at all supposed to resemble the designs of the real fragrances to further avoid confusion (and lawsuits). Because perfume recipes are kept secret (for the time being anyway) these impostor scents may get close to mimicking the smell of a perfume but rarely get the entirety of the real fragrance correct. Many people confuse these two terms but it’s important to note that there is a difference. You can read up more on Parfums de Coeur, the leading impostor fragrance producer, and how they conduct their business at JiffyNotes >>

Q. What’s the difference between essential oil, fragrance oil, perfume oil and carrier oil?
A. Loaded question. Essential oils are raw materials extracted directly from the plants they were derived from through a variety of extraction methods including distillation, enfleurage, and other techniques. Essential oils are volatile and potent making most of them inappropriate and sometimes even dangerous for straight use on the skin. Essential oils should be carefully diluted in a carrier oil prior to use. If you do plan on using essential oils on yourself, make sure you read up on them very well first because as innocent as many people like to think essential oils are, improper use  by someone inexperienced can result in injury. Fragrance oils are a mixture of natural and synthetic components that produce a specific scent. Scents from fragrance oils can be composed of entirely natural materials or entirely synthetic materials. Often, it is a mixture of natural and synthetic. Sometimes fragrance oils can be made to mimic a natural scent like vanilla or iris. Sometimes fragrance oils can smell like something abstract like aqua or ozone. Fragrance oils, like essential oils need to be researched prior to use. There are fragrance oils made for cosmetic use and those that are not. There are also fragrance oils that need dilution and some that do not. Make sure you know what you are buying and doing before  putting anything on your skin. A perfume oil is a mixture of fragrant oils to create a scent. Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab is one such company that blends essential oils and fragrance oils to produce perfume oils. Carrier oils are oils that are used to dilute perfume, fragrance, and essential oils. Oftentimes these carrier oils have very little aroma or no aroma at all. Jojoba oil and sweet almond oil are two such examples of carrier oils.

Q. I keep seeing people and websites that claim that perfume is dangerous to your health. Are any of these claims true?
A. Perfume has been associated with some contact dermatitis (allergens coming in contact with the skin) and general allergies such as sneezing, stuffy nose, and trouble breathing. It is true that fragrance ingredients always come under fire for potential danger but they are regulated and restricted on a rather rigorous scale. A perfumista can tell anybody about the deaths of many great fragrances and reformulations that destroyed classic scents that had to happen because a component was found to be dangerous or concerning. What people who read online about perfumes and the supposed numerous dangers of fragrances need to understand that this issue is not a simple matter of “I saw it online and it sounds convincing so it must be true”. There is a key element to online research that I feel a lot of people are missing when they choose to believe claims they read on a website. I don’t believe you should or would trust me 100%. After all, where’s my scientific research? Aren’t I some disembodied voice with a website too? And I am but an independent blogger who just happens to like smelling things. I  have no scientific credentials either. What I want you to take away from this rambling is my request for you to study the sources of where your information comes from prior to outright believing it. I am not imploring you to believe me or take my words for truth. I am imploring you to deeply research a subject from credible sources before deciding on a stance and this goes for everything you read about, not just perfume. If the website you’re on does not provide a solid scientific or medical background to its claims that fully backs up what it’s trying to say, do you really want to trust that it’s telling you the whole story? “Safety advocates” have an agenda too. Please keep that in mind.

Q. Does civet really come from a cat’s butt?
A. Almost as good as the “deer butt” question from Part 2. Civet is a musk taken from the rear region of a curious little creature by the same name. Despite popular belief, a civet is not actually a cat. It’s more of a mongoose, really. Civet notes used in modern perfumery are usually synthetic. However, some modern perfumes will still use natural civet as farming and harvesting of these animals is still going on.

Q. How do I check the ingredients of a perfume?
A. You can’t. I always find it a little off when well-meaning individuals with concerns over ingredients suggest to consumers that they should “check the ingredients” of a fragrance. It makes me ask myself if these well-meaning folks have tried to do the same before suggesting it to others. You simply can’t check all the ingredients of a perfume with the present regulations because perfume formulations are jealously guarded by the manufacturers who produce them. The list of ingredients on the back of a box of perfume lists the base that the fragrance was diluted in–not what the fragrance is composed of. The actual fragrant oils and components are kept secret to prevent the copying of the fragrance recipe. The notes list that comes out with  most perfumes is also not a definitive list of ingredients. Sometimes the notes mean absolutely nothing, oftentimes there are more components in a scent than the notes list would indicate, sometimes notes listed aren’t even present in the perfume itself. Notes lists are used to give the consumer an idea of what they should be smelling. They are not ingredients lists. Also you will be very lucky if you contact a perfume manufacturer requesting a full ingredients list and actually get one. Pretty much the only way for the average person to find out exactly what’s in a perfume is to perform a gas chromatography analysis–something highly expensive, complicated, exclusive, and far more trouble than most people would care to go through.

Got any questions not addressed in this FAQ? Please leave a comment.