Harnessing both the physical and emotional effects of scent in order to positively impact our wellbeing

A recent poll found that 53% of millennials would rather give up their sense of smell before giving up their mobile device, many disregarding the importance this sense has on both our mental and emotional wellbeing.

The physical act of smelling consists of scent molecules travelling through to our brain via the amygdala (where emotions are given meaning and remembered), onto the hippocampus (responsible for making new memories) before arriving into the thalamus (responsible for processing sensory signals). This means all odours have to pass by the parts of our brain responsible for emotions and memories (collectively known as the limbic system) before we even recognise they are present. Research has shown that due to this strong neural pathway, people may be up to 100 times more likely to remember something they smell over something they see, hear or touch. These unfiltered messages and responses have undoubted impact our physical and emotional wellbeing.

The Concept of Functional Scent

Research has found that certain fragrances have significant measurable effects on mood, in particular stress, happiness, stimulation and relaxation. By harnessing these effects through the use of essential oils and supporting fragrance notes we were able to develop a range of fragrances that essentially “bio-hack” the body and mind into performing better.

Studio SSEY - Functional Scent 1

Essential Oils

Essential oils have a unique property which allows them to interact directly with the limbic system. Not only does the limbic system house the emotional area of the brain but it also connected to the area of the brain controlling heart rate, blood pressure, breathing and stress levels.

During the fragrance development process we identified which essential oil gave us the positive effect we required for each specific function. For example, during the development of the Concentration blend we selected Cedarwood essential oil for its ability to relieve stress and tension, this is due to the presence of an active compound called cedrol. The benefits of cedrol include the ability to reduce heart rate and lower blood pressure whilst regulating mood and improving memory through the stimulation of serotonin production.

By combining multiple essential oils into single blends we were able to create a range of fragrances that offer a wider array of benefits.

Essential oil can be extracted directly from roots, flowers, leaves, seeds and fruits. This is achieved through a variety of processes such as steam distillation and cold pressing

Studio SSEY - Functional Scent 2

Supporting Fragrance Notes

The second phase of the development process focused on harnessing the psychological effects of scent, this was achieved through the use of plant based supporting scent molecules. These unique notes allowed for a greater freedom when creating the “scent story” of each blend.

Supporting notes are made using a variety of new processing techniques to extract fragrance notes from excess waste leftover from a variety of industries, this results in new and unique scent molecules.

Supporting fragrance notes can also act as a replacement for certain essential oils due to their safety, sustainability and ecology record when compared. This results in a safer more environmentally friendly fragrance when compared to a pure essential oil blend.

Due to the strong link between scent, memory and response we looked into recreating certain triggers in order to force a positive response in the brain. This phase became very personal in terms of creating the positive trigger, a positive scent for one person may trigger negative emotions in another, this is due to our initial memories and responses when first smelling that specific fragrance.

Each blend takes its inspiration from past memories and experiences. The Concentration blend triggers memories of a University library through the use of old book accord and Sandalwood whilst the Energy blend contains Cassis and cut grass molecules in order to recreate the excitement felt as a kid on the first day of summer.

Combining these supporting molecules alongside essential oils has resulted in what is known as a “hybrid blend”, a relatively new development in the fragrance world. These hybrid blends have allowed us to compound the positive effects of both approaches in order to further impact physical and emotional wellness through scent.

Functional Scent Mood board