The only thing more depressing than waking up when it’s still dark outside is… watching the sunset from your desk and then trudging home when it’s, yet again, dark outside. This time of year, most of us are lucky to score even a few sun-soaked minutes outside—and even those precious moments aren’t all that great when they’re paired with below-freezing temps.
While we may still be a ways away from rooftop hangs and park picnics, there’s some light to be had within this months-long tunnel thanks to “solar scents” that have found a way to bottle up some of the sunshine we’re all yearning for right now.
“A solar scent can best be described as a scent that evokes the feeling of being bathed in sunlight to the user,” says Fabrice Pellegrin, the principle perfumer at Firmenich, the largest privately-owned fragrance and taste company in the world. “When creating something of a solar scent, we look to utilize notes that are vibrant and warm, and kiss the skin as the sun would.”
She explains that recreating this sun-drenched feeling involves capitalizing on the close link between scent and memory. Since the actual sun doesn’t have a smell, this means using notes that remind people of moments they’ve spent basking in its rays. “To evoke the smell of the sun through a perfume is a challenge because it’s an abstract sensation,” says Pellegrin. “The perfumer can play with different types of notes to translate this scent.”
She points to citrus (“for its luminosity”), orange blossom or ylang-ylang (“for their sunny floral sweetness”), coconut (“for its tropical inflections”), vanilla (“for its warmth”), and warm woods like sandalwood or cedar (“that recall the sensation of the sun’s warmth on the skin”) as a few favorite components for sunshiney scents.
Though solar scents seem to be exactly what the doctor ordered for our mid-December blues, there’s an even broader reason why these types of fragrances have begun to hit the market in full force in recent months. “Solar scents are especially popular at the moment because they offer a contrast to the gloomy and stressful times that many of us have been through in the last couple of years,” says Natalia Lebedev, the chief fragrance officer at Native, which launched its Fall Escape collection—a line of sunshine-inspired body-care products—earlier this year. “Solar scents can help boost your mood, confidence, and creativity, as well as make you feel more connected to nature and yourself.”