Many people feel that the perfume they wear doesn't last at all long, but in reality this is likely to be because they lose the ability to smell it after a short period. As with most of our olfactory quirks, there is a truly fascinating explanation!
In an average day we will all inhale at least 23,000 times - and each breath holds a cacophony of scents; from the smell of your shampoo lingering on your hair, to the BBQ that is firing up three doors down, to the reed diffuser you have placed on the mantlepiece. Around 7 centimetres up both our nostrils there are millions of olfactory receptors, which pick up scents and communicate to our olfactory bulbs, which then relay information about the odours to our brain. The brain then translates what the scent means in order to conclude things like, 'Aha, the neighbours are having a BBQ... I haven't had a steak for ages... I wonder if I can blag an invite...'
However, in the history of the human race, registering that one fancies a steak hasn't always been the priority function of our sense of smell. Back when we lived in caves, for example, we relied on smell - along with our other senses - for survival. We needed to be able to detect the odour of an approaching sabre toothed tiger, or to avoid eating something that was decaying and would poison us (no fridges in those days, apparently).
As our sense of smell has evolved from a survival tool, brains are programmed to register and alert us to changes in the smells that surround us – otherwise our grey matter would be wasting a lot of energy and distracting us constantly, just to tell us that everything was the same. When we wear fragrance, it soon becomes part of our ‘constant environment’, so our brain stops registering its presence. This is particularly the case with our ‘linear’ style of Colognes, because they don’t evolve and change on the skin, like many traditional perfumes: they smell the same when you first spray them as they do some time later, so they very quickly become part of our ‘constant environment’.
Trust us, other people will often be able to smell the fragrance you are wearing, even when you can’t! If you want to get a solid impression about how long your fragrance lasts, spray it on a tissue or a piece of fabric and leave it in another room. Pay it a visit every hour, or even after a few hours' time, and you will be able to experience the same scent that others experience when they encounter you wearing the same fragrance, after the same amount of time.
Of course, there are different strengths of fragrance formulations (learn more about the different between perfume, EDT, EPD and Colognes, here) that last for different amounts of time, and each individual scent molecule that goes into making a fragrance has its own density, which affects its lifespan. Plus, different skin types can often affect how long a fragrance lasts... BUT we'll save all these topics for another time. Check back soon for more posts about the wonderful world of scent.