Behind the Scenes at P&G Headquarters in Cincinnati

Think perfumers only make perfumes? Nope—they tinkered with your shampoo and moisturizer, too.
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Michelle Villett
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Think perfumers only make perfumes? Nope—they tinkered with your shampoo and moisturizer, too.
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This is a picture from my trip to Procter & Gamble's headquarters in Cincinnati a few weeks ago. It's a mural in one of their hallways—bet you didn't know they make Joy by Jean Patou, did you? (At one time, it was the priciest perfume in the world, thanks to the 10,000 jasmine flowers and 28 dozen roses that are required to create just 30 mL.)

But that's just the tip of the iceberg, really. Not only does P&G make actual perfumes, but, like many other brands (including L'Oréal), they put an INCREDIBLE amount of brainpower into figuring out what every other beauty product you use should smell like.

Why beauty brands put a shiz-tonne of thought into how their products smell

I guess it's pretty obvious when you think about it: the way a product smells can determine how likely you are to initially buy it, actually use it (and therefore see or not see results) and then whether you'll purchase again. Here's an excerpt from a story I did on aromatherapy a few years back for ELLE Canada:

[M]any beauty brands are now giving scent a starring role in their formulations—even if they're not marketed as aromatherapy products.

Stacy Hertenstein, a beauty care perfumer for Procter & Gamble, works with a palette of more than 2,000 scents to create an "enhanced experience" for users of Herbal Essences hair care. "Fragrance can help define the personality of the product, because the centre of the brain that processes smell is also involved with memory and emotion," she says. "A light product may need an upbeat fragrance—think citrus, green and fruity notes—while a more luxurious one requires something more sensual, such as a gourmand blend of chocolate and vanilla."

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At Biotherm, having the right scent even makes it easier to achieve better skin. "We know that efficacy is linked to using the product every day," says Marie-Caroline Renault, the company's director of face care development. "If you don't like the fragrance, you're going to abandon the product, but if it's good, you'll apply it morning and evening—which means you'll see better results."

Scent also influences the perception of how well products work. "We've demonstrated that a product for oily skin with the scent of honey will seem less effective than the same one with a citrus scent," says Renault.

A real-life example: Biotherm Aquasource Skin Perfection Moisturizer

All of this is SO true. I've just filed a story that involved some major product testing, and one of the products was this:

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It's called Biotherm Aquasource Skin Perfection, and normally I wouldn't have switched up my usual routine to use this brand. (Nothing against Biotherm, but I'm a hippie chick at heart.) But! I really, really love it, partially because I think it works (more on that later), but also because of the watery, marine-note scent. And who knows, maybe the scent is what's making me THINK it works.

Oh, and your shampoo has "notes"

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Speaking of notes—just like fine fragrances have top, middle and bottom notes, so do your other beauty products! For example, in the new Pantene I raved about the other day, there are top notes of blackberry and plum, mid notes of orchid, tuberose, gardenia and violet, and the "dry down" is musk. Neat, huh?

Chances are your shampoo or moisturizer borrows its scent from a mainstream fragrance, too. Fun fact: Herbal Essences Long-Term Relationship was inspired by Britney Spears Fantasy! (I'm not sure if that makes you want to use it now or not...)

So let's discuss...

How important is it to you that your beauty products smell great?

Or do you wish they wouldn't put fragrances in them at all?

Is there anything you use solely because you can't get enough of the scent?

P.S. I'm leaving you with one last shot—from P&G's corporate archives, again in Cincy. Just in case you thought of them as just a mass-market, drugstore type of beauty company, here's some other stuff they make besides Jean Patou. (Anna Sui! Lacoste! Escada!)

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