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Wearing too much perfume ‘signals depression’

By HBC Protocols January 06, 2008 0 comments

As retailers well know, smell has a profound effect on mood and memory. They have used them to induce shoppers to buy certain products. Now, a team at Tel Aviv University have found that certain diseases cause the body to attack the olfactory system which governs the ability to detect smells. This means an impaired sense of smell could be a pointer to serious conditions. The team suggest depression could have a biological cause rather than being just a psychological disorder and other studies have confirmed patients with depression have a loss of sense of smell and when their condition is treated their senses improve.

Prof Yehuda Shoenfeld, of the Sackler Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University, an expert in autoimmune disorders like arthritis, lupus and rheumatism has uncovered evidence that women who wear too much perfume may be suffering from depression. Their sense of smell appears to be impaired so they have to use more scent. He found that one of the autoantibodies attacked the olfactory system weakening the sense of smell and inducing depression. “Our scientific findings suggest that women who are depressed are also losing their sense of smell, and may overcompensate by using more perfume.

“We also believe that depression has biological roots and may be an immune system response to certain physiological cues,” he said.

The findings can be applied more widely than just to patients suffering with autoimmune disorders, Prof Shoenfeld said. “People who are depressed seem to respond well to aromatherapy. Certain smells seem to help them overcome the effects of the biological factors, suggesting that depression may have a biological cause.  “I think that science is able to show that aromatherapy might not be just for quacks. After all, some of these remedies have been used since the time of the Egyptians to treat organic diseases.” He suggested that a “smell test” could be used by doctors to help diagnose depression as well as autoimmune diseases. Other studies have questioned if depression is a result of a reduced ability to smell rather than the other way around as the condition is also linked to weight loss as people lose their appetite. Scientists have also used electrodes to establish that the brains of people with depression are less responsive to smells and picked up scents later and at stronger concentrations.

And now there’s a new perfume that sells for $5,000 per bottle. In the United States alone perfume is a $6-billion-a-year industry with products ranging from below $12.99 to $5,000. Is there a difference between a ridiculously overpriced perfume and an inexpensive drugstore brand: or is it all in the packaging? Is there a difference between a $5,000 bottle of perfume and the drugstore special for $12.99? Larry Nielsen of Microanalytics Laboratories tested the two bottles to see whether any difference could be detected. “We could categorize the yellow one as being richer, has a wider variety of components in it, some spices, some animal-type odors in it, and the pink one — it’s just not as rich,” Nielsen said. There are classic perfumes, celebrity eau du toilets, day scents and date-night essences. Now, Mane, the company that developed many of those famous fragrances for other brands, is introducing the first perfume under its own name. It’s called Yu, which means rain in Chinese. And it can be yours for just $5,000 at the high-end department store Bergdorf Goodman. The perfumer who developed Yu (the $5,000 scent) told us how she came up with the smell. “It’s really the idea of the perfumer trying to put together the ingredients to tell a story in a very harmonious way,” Mane Perfumery’s Cecile Krakower said. “The great thing about Yu is that I really had the luxury of time to handpick, or should I say nose pick, every ingredient for its various quality.” It is a scent that won over The New York Times’ resident perfume critic, Chandler Burr. “It’s actually very interesting, aesthetically gorgeous,” Burr said as he spritzed the scent. “You can smell the money in it. It’s almost a fresh quality, like using a very good toothpaste.” While he is impressed with the product, he said the price might not reflect the quality of the product. “$5,000 is marketing, just increases the marketing campaign.”

There’s more to the perfume industry than the money behind it. It’s an art and a science, so the next logical step was the lab. Is there a difference between a $5,000 bottle of perfume and the drugstore special for $12.99? Larry Nielsen of Microanalytics Laboratories tested the two bottles to see whether any difference could be detected. “We could categorize the yellow one as being richer, has a wider variety of components in it, some spices, some animal-type odors in it, and the pink one — it’s just not as rich,” Nielsen said.


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