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Perfumer Jo Malone uses scent the way most women use chocolate to increase her energy and elevate her mood. "I love to be able to walk into a room, spritz a scent into the air, and change the mood just like that." Which is why Malone's London townhouse is full of fragrance from the calla lilies in the front hall to her infant son's lavender-infused bathwater. Chances are, your own world has started to smell a little sweeter too. Over the past few years, aromatherapy, once considered a somewhat quirky concept, has become a mainstream, multibillion-dollar industry. What's inspiring aromatherapy products? Research. "Science has proven beyond a doubt that scent modulates mood," says Avery Gilbert, Ph.D., president of the Sense of Smell Institute, in New York City.
A number of researchers are even using scents to alleviate pain, insomnia, and the side effects of chemotherapy. No one in medicine or even marketing claims that scent alone will cure the sick, conquer depression, or get your kids to go to bed on time. What they are saying is that a fragrance can play a powerful role in your sense of well-being. A few ways to bring scent into your life:
Boost Your Brainpower
The Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, in Chicago, found that the presence of a floral aroma increased one's speed and performance on mathematics tests. So the next time you're memorizing something be it a piano concerto or talking points for a meeting why not spritz on a floral fragrance, then wear it again when it's time to recall the material?
Clinique Happy: A Wealth of Flowers (set of three scents, $30; at Clinique counters)
Caudalie Fleur de Vigne ($56; at Neiman Marcus; 800-937-9146)
Sonia Kashuk Freesia Eau de Toilette ($9.99; at Target; 800-800-8800)
Calgon Cool Sunshower Body Lotion ($5.25; at mass merchandisers)
Yves Rocher Pur Desir de Rose Intoxicating Shower Gel ($5.95, 800-321-3434; YRBeauty.com)
Rev Up Your Sex Life
A highly publicized study by the Kinsey Institute in Bloomington, Indiana, found that inhaling a traditional, ultra-masculine men's cologne increased physical stimulation among women who were fantasizing about sexual encounters. A similar study at the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation showed that pleasurable scents increased physical arousal in both sexes. One caveat: Women also have a high incidence of scent turnoffs smells that effectively douse any flickering flames of desire. (Those that surfaced in the study were cherry and barbecued meat.)
Estée Lauder Intuition for Men ($50; at Estée Lauder counters)
Giorgio Armani Mania ($62.50; at fine department stores)
Escada Sentiment Pour Homme ($60; at Macy's and Nordstrom)