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  1. #1

    Smile An abnormally detailed Skin Chemistry thread

    So I might be heading toward a dead end here, so please excuse my rambling

    I've become curious about learning the specifics behind the relationship between what we call "skin chemistry" and fragrance. We talk about skin chemistry often here, and it's usually used to preclude our fragrance opinions ("on my skin...," "well it could just be my skin chemistry, but this stuff smells nasty on me."). We all know that our individual skin chemistries affect how fragrances smell on us. An accord that blossoms beautifully on one person can smell foul or stale on another. This has been discussed here at length.

    But what about the specifics? Skin chemistry generally refers to the characteristics of a person's skin: pH level, personal odor, oiliness, etc. From what I can tell from the small amount of research I've done, pH levels have the largest effect on fragrance reactions.

    So I'm wondering: Is there a way to know what fragrance notes or accord types coordinate best with various pH levels? It would be really convenient if, for instance, we figured out that amber did not react well with acidic skin. Someone who knows they have acidic skin could simply avoid amber and save themselves a lot of trouble and frustration.

    Most adults have a skin pH between 4.5 (acidic) and 6 (close to neutral...neutral is 7). Babies are closer to neutral, and children have more acidic skin, to protect against disease. According to the excerpt below, many compounds commonly used in fragrance are not designed to function in acidic environments (such as human skin, in most cases) or basic environments. In fact, acidic or alkaline environments may cause these fragrance compounds to degrade. Odd, considering that most people have slightly acidic skin. [edit:] Conversely, some fragrances are designed to release odor in acidic environments. There are so many factors to consider!

    Could it be that people for whom all fragrances just seem to "work" just have abnormally neutral skin that doesn't need to alter the pH of fragrance compounds as much? (see last paragraph below)

    From http://www.patentstorm.us/patents/70...cription.html:

    "Fragrance characteristics can be varied by manipulating pH, component solubility and molecular weight, among other factors.

    [...]

    Perfumes which release their fragrance materials in an acid containing medium such as the acid mantle of skin can be suitably formulated into highly alkaline matrices which typically comprise roll-on deodorants, creams, lotions, etc. Many of the fragrance ingredients which comprise perfumes, colognes, eau de toilettes, after-shave lotions, etc. are not suitable for inclusion in an alkaline pH environment; for example, many of the commonly known fragrance notes are esters and they are susceptible to hydrolysis at pH levels much above neutrality.

    Human skin exhibits a "buffer capacity" which vigorously maintains a fairly constant pH value. This buffer capacity is referred to as "the acid mantle." Human skin acts rapidly to neutralize acidic or alkaline insults outside this constant pH value."




    Thoughts?
    Last edited by LiveJazz; 26th September 2009 at 09:39 PM.
    "It's not what you look like when you're doing what you're doing; it's what you're doing when you're doing what you look like you're doing."

  2. #2

    Default Re: An abnormally detailed Skin Chemistry thread

    I always found it interesting how people percieve frags differently BESIDES just not liking certain ingredeints, maybe this is why

  3. #3

    Default Re: An abnormally detailed Skin Chemistry thread

    Wow Jazz your hardcore! You do the research on that and get back to us will ya!

    Also, I always wondered how heavy smoking and/or drinking affects your skin chemistry...

  4. #4

    Default Re: An abnormally detailed Skin Chemistry thread

    Your question is ambigious in more ways than one.

    So I'm wondering: Is there a way to know what fragrance notes or accord types coordinate best with various pH levels?
    First of all, what is 'best' ? Different accents in a scent may be of different liking to different people.

    Second, 'accords' and 'notes' are already simplifications that us mortals use to describe perceptive images that we get when sniffing certain combinations of aromachemicals. A certain 'note' can be made using hundreds, if not thousands of different combinations of aromachemicals, and as long as you cannot for sure say which ones are used, your question cannot be answered.
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  5. #5
    Frag Bomb Squadron XVII
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    Default Re: An abnormally detailed Skin Chemistry thread

    Perception of scents may also vary with distance. Certain notes project further while others stay closer. Perhaps it is these differences that account for differing perceptions. Someone who tells you you smell good may feel differently had they brought their noses much closer to your skin which is how many of us tend to do while evaluating a scent. May not even be a skin chemistry thing. Just my thoughts of course.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: An abnormally detailed Skin Chemistry thread

    Possible too-much-information, and not pH-related, but I have diabetes, wherein the body has too much sugar in it. Because of this, the body is constantly finding ways to put out sugar, most commonly through urine, but also through sweat.

    So, over the course of the day, my frags are constantly being infused with sugar as is it being slowly sweated out of my skin.

    I know this effects fragrances, especially ones that are naturally sweet and become extremely cloying on me. Sniffing throughout the day, I can note the sweetness amplifying in some frags.

    As for pH, you're going over my head...
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  7. #7

    Default Re: An abnormally detailed Skin Chemistry thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Stereotomy View Post
    Your question is ambigious in more ways than one.



    First of all, what is 'best' ? Different accents in a scent may be of different liking to different people.

    Second, 'accords' and 'notes' are already simplifications that us mortals use to describe perceptive images that we get when sniffing certain combinations of aromachemicals. A certain 'note' can be made using hundreds, if not thousands of different combinations of aromachemicals, and as long as you cannot for sure say which ones are used, your question cannot be answered.
    Hence my warning at the beginning of the post. I realize that I might be barking up the wrong tree here.

    I don't know the anwer to these questions, or even if they are questions worth asking. I'm sure that some peoples' skin chemistry changes accords for the better. Also, I have to agree with you that it would be very hard to predict what notes work best with what pH levels (assuming pH is inducing the change to begin with...). Like you said, a given odor could be the result a wide variety of aromachemicals.

    And who knows...professional perfumers might already know how their chemicals interact with skin acidity, and compensate for potential negative effects.

    In response to your point (which is again valid) that the words we use to describe notes are arbitrary and subjective: I suppose what I'm wondering if how skin chemistry might cause scents to differ from how they would smell in a neutral environment, like on a scent strip.

    Thanks for helping me clarify my thoughts! This is why I posted.
    Last edited by LiveJazz; 26th September 2009 at 09:41 PM.
    "It's not what you look like when you're doing what you're doing; it's what you're doing when you're doing what you look like you're doing."

  8. #8

    Default Re: An abnormally detailed Skin Chemistry thread

    Interesting post!

    Sorry if this is a silly question, but what is the best way to test the pH of dry skin? Is sweat accurate?

  9. #9

    Default Re: An abnormally detailed Skin Chemistry thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Cors View Post
    Interesting post!

    Sorry if this is a silly question, but what is the best way to test the pH of dry skin? Is sweat accurate?
    This's actually one of my questions. I have no idea, but would love to know.
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  10. #10
    Hillaire
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    Default Re: An abnormally detailed Skin Chemistry thread

    It would be interesting indeed, to know if there was consistency of claims, say from people with a certain PH range, about which fragrances 'work for' or 'fail' them.

    However subjectivity alone makes the scientific quest useless.

    I also muse often about the role of other factors and how they interact with fragrance: e.g. blood sugars (as Rogolal mentioned), skin tone (risky business here), and body type, just to name a few. And relating these these "theories", I have made some meritless, quixotic, personal observations over the years (which I won't share).

    But, in short, I wouldn't doubt acidity/ alkalinity plays a big role.

  11. #11

    Default Re: An abnormally detailed Skin Chemistry thread

    Quote Originally Posted by LiveJazz View Post
    This's actually one of my questions. I have no idea, but would love to know.
    Universal indicator solution is an easy method of testing skin pH.

    I think that when people cite skin "chemistry" as the cause for differences in how perfumes smell on their skin that it is more about the types of foods one eats than it is with the pH of the skin or any other factor.
    Last edited by surreality; 27th September 2009 at 03:37 AM.
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  12. #12
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    Default Re: An abnormally detailed Skin Chemistry thread

    Here's a great link on the variation of skin pH:

    http://www.cwimedical.com/incontinence-skin-ph.html

    They actually get into some nitty-gritty about what pH you likely have after washing, etc. Also the effect of diseases on skin pH.

    Note from this article that the pH also affects skin flora and fauna (basically bacteria and fungi), with different species evidently preferring different conditions. This affects metabolic degradation of scents, since different species of microorganisms presumably have different rates of degrading different aromachemicals.

    Food consumption definitely affects skin chemistry, as surreality notes. I've had serious variations in skin condition (at a medical level) over the years, fluctuating in response to significant changes in diet. Basic oiliness and wetness vary strongly with diet in human skin.
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  13. #13

    Default Re: An abnormally detailed Skin Chemistry thread

    That article is genius Redneck, Thank You for sharing

  14. #14

    Default Re: An abnormally detailed Skin Chemistry thread

    If I understand them correctly, Turin and Sanchez have very different views on this topic. Turin is well know as believing that the whole skin chemistry issue is a red herring, and that fragrances smell the same on everyone. Sanchez disagrees, though I have been less able to get a detailed account of her views on the topic. It was just one of those interesting things I remembered from interviews then the book was published. I think it's a fascinating issue, and would love to get more information from reliable, informed scientific noses in the field.

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  15. #15

    Default Re: An abnormally detailed Skin Chemistry thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Hillaire View Post
    It would be interesting indeed, to know if there was consistency of claims, say from people with a certain PH range, about which fragrances 'work for' or 'fail' them.

    However subjectivity alone makes the scientific quest useless.

    I also muse often about the role of other factors and how they interact with fragrance: e.g. blood sugars (as Rogolal mentioned), skin tone (risky business here), and body type, just to name a few. And relating these these "theories", I have made some meritless, quixotic, personal observations over the years (which I won't share).
    Yes, good post. Some cultural and ethnic considerations are difficult to discuss without raising the specter of stereotyping and even prejudice. There really are too many possible factors to account for, even if we ignore the potential for any interplay between these factors.


    Quote Originally Posted by Redneck Perfumisto View Post
    Note from this article that the pH also affects skin flora and fauna (basically bacteria and fungi), with different species evidently preferring different conditions. This affects metabolic degradation of scents, since different species of microorganisms presumably have different rates of degrading different aromachemicals.
    Damn, that's getting deep into it! Thanks for the article!


    Quote Originally Posted by SlimPickins View Post
    If I understand them correctly, Turin and Sanchez have very different views on this topic. Turin is well know as believing that the whole skin chemistry issue is a red herring, and that fragrances smell the same on everyone. Sanchez disagrees, though I have been less able to get a detailed account of her views on the topic.
    I too have often wondered if skin chemistry really affects scent. I sometimes suspect that people assume "skin chemistry" is the culprit when in fact they just don't like an accord. Even if skin-related factors really do affect a smell, would it really be enough to notice?

    To find out, you would have to apply scents to two different people have someone with a really good nose determine if there is a difference, then test both subjects' skin for pH and whatever else we can test for that might affect scent.

    But you would still be depending on one person's unavoidably subjective observations.

    So...this is probably futile, but at least it's interesting!
    Last edited by LiveJazz; 27th September 2009 at 05:35 AM.
    "It's not what you look like when you're doing what you're doing; it's what you're doing when you're doing what you look like you're doing."

  16. #16

    Default Re: An abnormally detailed Skin Chemistry thread

    Just some non-scientific thoughts here . . .

    I am sure what you put into your body must play a part in the make up of your 'skin chemistry' to an extent and that in turn could well effect what you put ON your body . . . when sweat and perfume meet each other on the surface of your skin.

    I stopped drinking alcohol quite some yeras ago and I'm now probably more sensitive to people who 'sweat alcohol' around me. Surely that will interact with a scent? I smoke and recently the Head of Fragrance at one of the better known houses (who spends 2 or 3 days a week at the counter meeting and spraying clients) mentioned that she can pick up if someone smokes or not by the reaction of scents on their skin - she smokes herself BTW - and she pegged me and the lady with me as smoker and non-smoker immediately.

    I also drink probably more black coffee during the day than I should and notice a 'coffee note' sometimes when I'm physically active (i.e. hot and bothered in a panic about work) in the studio. Maybe this is why I am so attracted to MPG Eau des Iles?

    My apologies if these personal observations gross anyone out but I would propose that it is quite possible if someone has, let's say, a heavy meat and sugar (acidic) diet, as opposed to someone who is, perhaps, a fruit and salad type (alkaline) then it's possible a scent might sit on them and be affected by their sweat / acid vs alkaline PH / skin differently?

    Thoughts?

  17. #17

    Default Re: An abnormally detailed Skin Chemistry thread

    I think quite a number of valid arguments have been expressed regarding the influence of the skin mantle. The skin mantle itself is influenced by gender, body type, age, hormone level, nutrition, physical and brain activities plus the inner hour it seems.

    More important perhaps than all of that is the absolutely unique personal odor of each human individual from the moment he/she is born. We seem to also be born with a specific pattern of fragrance preferences, according to recognized facts found in the course of genetic research. Grenouilles killings were based on a false assumption and futile !
    My personal likes or dislikes for specific perfume notes are so constant that body chemistry (smoking and drinking excessively at certain stages, an occasional but constant preference for garlic) cannot really be considered to be the true cause. Also the unperfumed body smell of one individual attracts me while that of another, in many respects rather attractive person, can work as a repellant almost. The smell of shoes can be a shock to some and is a fetish to others, so there!

    As has been stated before, Turin seems to believe that individual skin differences do not matter much. He may have a point there. Why else would billions of people across the globe consent on their favorite (Camay) soap, (Gilette) shaving foam, or (Nivea) creme? If people dislike the smell of amber (lavender, whatever...) on their skin - how do they like the same smell in a candle, sprayed on his jacket, or worn by another? Some perfume qualities seem to develop better on warm skin while others (primarily longevity) excel on 'neutral surfaces' like textiles or hair.

    I stopped wondering about the variety of acceptance of any perfume. No cologne is bad enough to not find at least one ardent admirer. I learned a lot of that in six years here, and I have also lived long enough with perfumes to know that environment and education have reduced the influence of my inherited preferences. Statistically speaking I am as average as the vast majority of perfume lovers and will continue to be marketers' prey.
    Last edited by narcus; 27th September 2009 at 12:35 PM.
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  18. #18

    Default Re: An abnormally detailed Skin Chemistry thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Diamondflame View Post
    Perception of scents may also vary with distance. Certain notes project further while others stay closer. Perhaps it is these differences that account for differing perceptions. Someone who tells you you smell good may feel differently had they brought their noses much closer to your skin which is how many of us tend to do while evaluating a scent. May not even be a skin chemistry thing. Just my thoughts of course.
    I think you're onto something significant here. The wearer of a fragrance IMHO will experience / perceive a fragrance differently from a person who smells that fragrance on someone else. The non-wearer gets a sudden "snap-shot" of the fragrance molecules which are easliy picked up from a distance while the wearer is smelling a different balance of notes. Scent fatigue might also desensitize the wearer to certain notes that the non-wearer will have no problem noticing in that initial from-a-distance "snap shot" of the sillage. So what some might be writing off as "difference in skin chemistry" might actually be the difference in wearer and non-wearer perception.

  19. #19

    Default Re: An abnormally detailed Skin Chemistry thread

    @ R_P, this article is truly useful piece of information I might take into account in future.

  20. #20

    Default Re: An abnormally detailed Skin Chemistry thread

    I'm bumping this old thread because I was contemplating this subject today, and this is the best discussion I came across on the topic.

    I got to thinking about it a while back, because I mentioned skin chemistry in a thread, and a couple members actually scoffed at the notion. Surprised me, as I just assumed it was commonly accepted that a scent will smell different on different people, therefore I always advocate testing on the skin, rather than off of a card before purchase.

    Then this morning, the subject came back to me again. My wife accidentally sprayed on my Tabarome Millesime, mistaking it for Millesime Imperial. An easy mistake to make, as the bottles are very similar, and I typically have MI sitting on the counter because we both use it quite a bit. Just so happens that I swapped the two, and put the MI back in the cabinet so I'd remember that I wanted to wear TM this morning. My point being, that as soon as I walked into the bedroom and towards the bathroom, I knew what had happened, because I could smell the sillage from her application of TM, and it smelled incredible. I recognized the scent, but it was considerably different than it smells on me. I asked her about it this evening (she was out the door before I was out of the shower), and she realized her mistake, but loved the way it smelled on her, too. I like to wear it, and do so quite often, but it's just not one of those scents that normally makes me go "wow." While the sharper notes stand out on me, it was much "rounder" on her.

    One difference is that she has dark skin, and uses considerably more moisturizer than I do. I tend to have fairly dry skin, but don't have to use a lot of moisturizer out of the shower--plus, I'm just too lazy to use as much as I probably need. I am also a red wine drinker, and she's not. I presume that this adds some acidity to my skin over hers.

    I've found that most scents work pretty well with me. The only note I've come across that just really doesn't work too well on me is vetiver. In high concentrations, such as in Encre Noir and Guerlain Vetiver, it just smells like straight-up green vetiver. Others note the "darkness" of EN, and the leather notes in GV, and I get neither. I actually like the smell of EN, but not on myself. Maybe I should let my wife try it. In smaller concentrations, with a more complex blend, I love it. Creed's Original Vetiver is a summer staple for me. Fat Electrician is also great.

    So there's my rambling, mostly pointless thoughts on skin chemistry.

  21. #21

    Default Re: An abnormally detailed Skin Chemistry thread

    All I know is aquatic type sport scents sour on me. Sweet scents have the edge taken off them so they aren't as sweet, wind up being perfect and not too cloying. Woody and spicy stuff seems to blend in just right on me. So call it skin chemistry or whatever, I know what works on me and what doesn't. Even beyond 'preference'... which there are things I simply love on paper but just get funky on my skin.
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  22. #22

    Default Re: An abnormally detailed Skin Chemistry thread

    I don't think I noticed this thread on the first go-round, but it's a very interesting notion. I've noticed sometimes that certain identifiable scents smell better or worse on some people. I think about comments on here where some people get compliments on some scents that I never get compliments and vice versa. I seem to always get compliments on spicy, warm scents. Sometimes I'll decide a scent isn't for me, and then a few years later, I try it again and it seems to smell better on my skin. It could be a matter of taste, but there's likely other factors as well.

    Maybe we should put a compliment ticker feature on our drobes that we can make a note of when we get a compliment on a particular scent. Then after a year, we can each take a PH test and crunch the numbers. Just kidding. Still, I think there's something to the notion of skin and PH affecting the perception of scent.

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