A Symphony of Fragrance: Crafting the Perfect Perfume

What is Perfume?
Perfume comes from the Latin Per Fume, meaning “through smoke.” Perfume can be defined as a liquid preparation used as a fragrance. Perfume is made by mixing various natural and artificial (synthetic) substances or chemicals in a specific formulation tailored to the human body, object, or space. In the course of the story’s development, the story discovers the writings of a chemist named Al-Kindi from his 9th century. He wrote a book called The Book of the Chemistry of Perfume and Distillation, which contained over 100 recipes for perfumes, ointments, and medicines. In the late 10th century, Ibn Sina, a chemist from Persia, began introducing perfume as a therapeutic method. This technique is now known as aromatherapy or essential oils. He also invented the technique of distilling water vapor to produce essential oils.

Perfume then became popular in the 17th century, especially in France. Conditions at that time were very dirty and perfumes were used to smell the body and smell clothes and furniture. In England itself, perfume was widely used during the reign of Henry VIII and his queen Elizabeth I. All public places were perfumed. During Elizabeth’s reign, perfume was burned in all public places because she could not stand unpleasant smells. At that time, perfume was only used by aristocrats when attending certain events.

However, it slowly spread and was used by people from different social classes. Perfume then underwent a major transformation in the 19th century, turning into chemicals that form the basis of modern scents. In the field of modern chemistry, which forms the basis of perfume production, discoveries are being made that create new types of scents that are simpler and more long-lasting. Currently, the value of the perfume industry has reached billions of dollars, and according to Grand View Research, by 2022 its value is estimated to be $38.8 billion. This number is expected to further increase to $55.3 billion by 2030.

Ingredients of Perfume
All perfumes are made from various elements and ingredients. Perfumes are unique because perfume chemists must combine the perfect amounts of substances to create the perfect perfume for a particular company. It is not possible to create a “copycat” perfume because only the perfume chemist who creates the perfume knows the exact composition of the perfume. The main ingredients of perfume are perfume oil, alcohol, and water.

Perfume or fragrance oils are composed of a variety of volatile organic or synthetic compounds. Aromatic compounds such as essential oils (rose, jasmine, orange) and synthetic fragrances (linalool, limonene) evaporate at different rates and interact to create an overall scent profile over time. Fragrances can be extracted by the headspace method, which involves sucking the odor from an object and capturing traces of its chemical formula to recreate the odor. It can also be obtained from flowers, plants, and animals. Perfume evaporates, but you may be wondering why the scent doesn’t disappear as soon as you spray it. Since it consists of three parts, the fragrance of the perfume does not disappear quickly.

These are the layers of perfume scent that appear at different times during evaporation. First, top notes are volatile compounds that evaporate within 1 to 15 minutes (for example : ester). Secondly, the middle notes are less volatile and have a soft scent that lasts for a very long time, disappearing in 20-60 minute (for example : ether). Thirdly, base notes are non-volatile compounds and base coats evaporate within hours to days, so they have a long shelf life (for example : musk). Therefore, the fragrance gradually evaporates from top notes to base notes.

Alcohol is an organic compound used in the manufacture of perfumes. The main property of alcohol is that it is slightly polar. Because of its polar charge, this compound can interact with other polar molecules such as water. It plays an important role in perfumery in its ability to dissolve oils and facilitate scent diffusion. Ethanol, a type of alcohol, is often used in perfumes because it dissolves oils, evaporates quickly, and releases scents quickly. A study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science found that higher concentrations of ethanol (60-80%) maximized scent intensity earlier, while lower concentrations prolonged scent release.

Water is a polar solvent in perfumes and acts as a solvent for the active ingredients and perfume carrier. The water content in perfumes has a significant impact on volatility. Different volatilities of fragrance ingredients lead to different durations of scent perception. So, oil gives fragrance to perfumes, alcohol allows rapid dispersion, and water controls evaporation over time to establish “top, middle, and base notes.”

The longevity of perfume
Whether you realize it or not, perfumes come in different concentration levels. The most well-known are eau de parfum (EDP) and eau de toilette (EDT). So what does concentration mean? In other words, aroma is created when essential oils are diluted with alcohol.

Below is a list of different types of perfumes with different concentrations.
• Perfumes containing approximately 15-30% essential oils have a shelf life of approximately 6-8 hours or more.
• Eau de Perfume (EDP)
This type of fragrance has a low alcohol content, concentrated fragrance ingredients with approximately 12% to 18% essential oils, and a long-acting duration of approximately 4 to 6 hours. This type of eau de parfum is perfect for people who do activities all day long. It has a captivating perfume-like scent and is reasonably priced.
• Eau de Toilette (EDT) A fragrance type with a light scent and a duration of 2 to 4 hours. It has a high alcohol content and the aroma is concentrated in the range of 5-7%. This fragrance is usually available in spray form. Affordable price for those who always value fragrance. This type is suitable for atmospheres that do not require long periods of time, such as at a party or while hanging out at a cafe or movie theater.
• Eau de Cologne (EDC) The lightest type of fragrance, the scent only lasts about 2 to 3 hours. Contains 3-5% concentrated flavoring and has the highest alcohol content compared to the other four groups. EDC is commonly known as body mist, body spray, or body splash in the market.
• Since Cologne only contains 1-3% essential oils, you can expect it to last around 2-3 hours.
You will find that the perfume lasts the longest compared to other fragrances. The difference is that some perfumes are oil-based, while others are water- or alcohol-based.

In addition, there are several other factors that influence the longevity of a perfume, namely its molecular composition. The molecular size and scent of a perfume oil or chemical are directly related. For example, if you pay attention, you might notice that a sweet, musky scent with large molecules lasts longer than a light citrus scent with small molecules. Therefore, if you are looking for a long-lasting perfume, it is better to choose fragrances with large molecules. Size determines the rate of oxidation of the molecule. Small molecules tend to oxidize more rapidly than larger molecules. This is because fewer electrons are given up.

There is also a factor of skin type. Perfume lasts longer on oily skin. The reason is that even on oily skin, the fragrance molecules are better retained and the fragrance lasts longer. Although it looks oily and is most prone to acne and pimples, they are quite positive when different types of scents are concerned. The reason is that the fragrance molecules adhere better to oily skin, ultimately increasing the longevity of the perfume. Many experts recommend moisturizing your skin before applying perfume if you don’t have oily skin. It can extend the duration of the fragrance to some extent.

In summary, perfume has been used for centuries and continues to grow into a multi-billion dollar industry today. The perfume production process involves chemistry and the art of finding the right composition to create the desired scent. Although perfumes are made of chemicals, they can provide a pleasant sensation to the wearer. From the appearance of the package to the impressive scent and the memories it evokes from the past. Technology and research continue to perfect the unique and complex art of perfume making. Understanding the science behind it will give you a deeper understanding of the creative process and craftsmanship that goes into creating perfumes that bring beauty and happiness to the wearer.

By: Ayu Puspita
Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia

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