Sometimes, when I’m exhausted by work, or feeling anxious, or the moon is pulling strangely on my brain, I take special measures. I draw a hot bath and dig out an old magazine to keep me company in the tub. For dinner I have a bowl of pasta and maybe a generous glass of wine. And I choose a comfort fragrance to wear as the evening winds down.
A comfort scent is calming and not challenging and generally stays close to the skin. You should be able to go to bed in the scent and not be disturbed by it. With a comfort scent, you don’t feel compelled to sniff your wrists every few minutes to follow the fragrance’s development, you just relax into it and let it boost your sense of wellbeing.
For some reason, a lot of the scents that comfort me smell like food. S-Perfume 100% Love comforts me because it feels like a sheer blanket of cocoa and roses with the slight tingle of mandarin orange. I can spray it liberally and never feel that it intrudes, even when the summer heat magnifies every odor. Ormonde Jayne Tolu and Annick Goutal Eau de Charlotte, although they’re different in a lot of ways, share a thick creaminess as they dry down. Tolu is especially creamy, verging on powdery, like falling asleep on a bed of sweet roll dough. It would be a great winter comfort scent. Caron Farnesiana is another warm, creamy comfort scent with its honey and almonds. Some perfumes are a little too foody to be comforting. Hermès Ambre Narguile, for example, would have me running for the apple pie.
Another kind of comfort scent smells more along the lines of fabric softener. These scents are more linear and not always easy to tease apart. Rochas Tocade, a Luca Turin fave, is one I think of right off the bat, although I think it would smell better on a blonde. (Am I the only one who thinks Turin tends to favor perfumes that smell best on blondes?)
Perfumes with a lot of incense or spice, although I love them, don’t seem as comforting. L’Artisan Tea for Two, for example, is a staple when it’s cold and rainy. But it has too much personality to deal with when I just want comfort. Perfumes with distinct wood can go either way for me. I find Hermès Eau des Merveilles’ wood to be too dry to be comforting. But the wood in the drydown of Chanel Bois des Iles or Balenciaga Le Dix is creamy and gentle, although because of their aldehydes I probably wouldn’t reach for them first.
I know everyone may be comforted by something different. For me, the right perfume — along with a hot bath and healthy dose of starch — packs a lot of comfort. And come to think of it, it’s a deal compared to the cost of a shrink.