Does scent have the power to change your mood? If your fragrance happens to be from Los Angeles-based brand Thin Wild Mercury ($165, Amazon), it just might.
The niche fragrance company, which offers up four unisex scents inspired by the city of angels, not only attempts to embody the spirit of L.A. with its aptly-named concoctions — Laurel Canyon, 1966; Whisky, 1969; Zuma, 1975; and Chateau, 1970 — it has ingredients that promise to enhance different aspects of your mood, much like an essential oil. In fact, the company uses many of the same ingredients you’d find in a typical aromatherapy practice (think patchouli, bergamot, and jasmine). But how well do they really work?
On a Monday night, with my mind and heart both racing a million miles an hour courtesy of too much caffeine at work, I decided to find out for myself. As I settled down to watch This Is Us, I delicately spritzed a bit of the company’s woodsy Laurel Canyon fragrance on my wrists and neck.
Comprised of seven stress-reducing ingredients, including hemp terpenes (natural compounds that make up the flavors, smells, and colors in plants) linalool and myrcene, geranium, sweet orange, and Italian cannabis oil (a grassy smelling substance containing no THC or CBD), and patchouli (an aroma that’s been known to reduce anxiety and even depression), Laurel Canyon is meant to be grounding, promote relaxation, and offer an overall sense of calm and wellbeing.
My first impression was one of surprise: It was a far heavier scent than I’m used to wearing on a regular basis, (I’m typically more of a floral gal). Still, the smoky, earthy aroma — which wouldn’t smell out of place on a man — was not an unpleasant one. In fact, I vigorously breathed it in several times simply to take it in.
Its results weren’t quite immediate — after an entire day spent chugging coffee and writing, I still felt a bit jumpy for the next 20 minutes or so. After awhile, however, I did notice myself beginning to relax — a state of being that can be quite hard for me to achieve.
The downside? In my attempt to achieve an instant state of zen, I made the mistake of spraying on more of the product after my initial spritz — far, far more than I should have. Just like an essential oil, a little of this stuff goes a long way, so when sprayed in heavy doses, its concentration can become a bit overwhelming — particularly for those with sensitive skin or allergies.
But, for the rest of the evening, I was able to watch my shows with full, rapt attention, not worrying about what emails I might be missing out on. When I later turned my attention to my book (City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg, $13.39, Amazon), I was able to zone in on the words, completely drowning out everything else going on in the background (namely, my two cats pacing the room).
I vowed to try again the next morning with a new scent and a new, uh, spritzing technique.
For my morning selection, I went with Zuma — a blend of jasmine sambac, bergamot, coriander seed, vetiver, a watermelon keystone, and sandalwood accord, that is meant to evoke the same smell your skin might take on after sitting by a bonfire at the beach. It’s also meant to empower and command attention, as its energizing bergamot works to promote feelings of confidence, with vetiver simultaneously focusing the mind.
This time, I opted to be more conservative with my spray than the night prior, just lightly adding a touch to the pulse point of my wrist. That turned out to be more than enough, as a musky and heady smell with a splash of orange began to wash over me.
Having gotten a good night’s sleep, I can’t say if it was the fragrance that made me feel more alert that day, or the extra zzz’s, but I did feel like a fresher, more heightened version of myself. In fact, be it coincidence or aroma-induced, I was also emboldened to speak my mind more plainly and clearly than usual, making my position known with little to no hesitation no matter who I was communicating with.
Was it possible the scent was actually altering my brain and my subsequent reactions, or were my previously-formed expectations impacting my mood?
While I may never know the answer, science suggests it’s entirely possible that the former is true: A 2005 study showed that “certain relaxing fragrances are able to reduce stress-induced muscle tension, as measured in the shoulder area,” with its authors concluding that “fragrance is indeed powerful enough to counteract stress in a performance task.”
Likewise, another study from one year prior showed that “stimulating odors” produced an increased heart rate and skin conductance in participants who were subjected to them.
It stands to reason, then, that the ingredients found in Thin Wild Mercury’s eco-friendly, cruelty-free fragrance line very well might be demonstrating the same results. Hey, who am I to argue with science?
Where to buy: $165, Amazon
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