Over the past seven weeks that I've been stuck in my house due to stay-at-home orders in Los Angeles, I've used the words "in these unprecedented times" more times than I care to count. And though the phrase has become something of a cliché at this point, the use of it isn't unwarranted. This global pandemic has affected every single person in my life in some way or another, and like many of my family and friends, I find myself clinging to normalcy in any way I can. For that reason, I still still wear perfume at home while social distancing, even though no one else is smelling it but me.
I know that quite a few of my friends have been wearing makeup or getting dressed everyday even though they have nowhere to be, but I've been quite the opposite. As an editor, writer, and content creator who is constantly hopping from meeting to meeting and event to event, being quarantined has gifted me a much-needed reprieve from putting my face on everyday. And while getting dressed in clothes other than sweatpants is a total nonstarter and the entirety of my regular beauty routine has gone out the window (save my holy grail cleanser and moisturizer), I've found solace in indulging in the tiny bit of luxury that is spritzing a bit of fragrance on my wrists every morning.
Apparently, there's an actual scientific explanation as to why that is. "We humans like to feel in control of our lives," Dr. Amy Wechsler, MD, a double board-certified dermatologist and psychiatrist, tells The Zoe Report. "Of course there are always things that are out of our control. But during periods of stress — like a global pandemic — we feel more out of control than in usual circumstances. Sticking to routines gives us back a sense of control. There's something very grounding about sticking to the same things that you're used to doing when you're feeling less stressed or when the world seems less panicked and crazy."
She continues, "Sticking to a routine can help lower stress levels, and in turn, lower cortisol levels. Cortisol is a molecule that is pumped out during periods of stress, and it does all sorts of bad things. It creates inflammation, breaks down collagen, flares up acne and rashes, breaks down the skin barrier and leaves it dry and irritated... Cortisol is no good."
She explains that anything that can make your cortisol level go down is good for you. Routine is one of those things, and of course, there are many others. Getting fresh air, exercising, seeing a friend in person (which is obviously hard right now), sex — all of those things help with keeping your cortisol level low. Maintaining personal rituals, like applying your favorite fragrance everyday, is definitely a part of that.
It's a pretty known fact that, of the five senses, scents have the strongest emotional connection in the brain. This is because, according to Dr. Wechsler, smells go to the olfactory bulb at the front of the brain, then that signal goes straight back to the limbic system in the middle of the brain, which contains the amygdala and hippocampus. To put it in the most simplified terms, the amygdala mediates your emotions while the hippocampus mediates your memories. Because of that strong cranial link between fragrances and your emotions and memories, perfumes can have a substantial impact on your mood and overall well being.
"Fragrances are transformative — they can immediately transport you back to a special time or place," Linda G. Levy, president of The Fragrance Foundation, tells TZR. "Even a fragrance you may not have experienced in years can act as a time machine. Perfume is often referred to as an invisible art or accessory, too. The fragrance you wear or use to scent your home is a way to personally express yourself. It is a part of your personal identity."
Though what you consider your own personal perfume is likely sold en masse and hundreds — if not thousands — of other people wear it daily, that smell resonates differently with each and every person. How you incorporate that fragrance into your daily life is completely personalized, and the notes you most enjoy within the formula may be completely different than the ones someone else appreciates. Dr. Wechsler attributes this to genetics, noting that lavender, which is often cited as a calming and relaxing smell, actually irritates her.
I know that fragrances are a relatively pricey investment in the grand scheme of beauty routines. (My favorite Maison Margiela Replica Lazy Sunday Morning perfume is more than twice the cost of my go-to Tatcha Dewy Skin Cream.) But maybe it's that touch of luxury that makes wearing perfume at home such an enticing daily activity. I'm hardly spending money on anything other than groceries and new sweatpants, but feeling expensive enough to spritz on a designer fragrance has done wonders for my productivity during this weird period.
And not only have I relied on my own personal fragrances to get me through the day; I've started to rely on my home scents more than ever before. I've accrued a massive collection of candles over the years that I've never felt a reason to light because I'm hardly home, but spending so much time in my house has motivated me to make my space feel cozier with the addition of a fragrance.
"Home fragrances have become more popular and are enhancing lives in these challenging times," says Levy. "Candles, diffusers, and room sprays have grown from occasional use into a daily ritual." Renowned floral designer Eric Buterbaugh even says that he has been setting his table with fresh flowers as often as he can in order to maintain a sense of normalcy.
Though quarantine life can seem hopeless and endless, fragrance is a way to bring a little bit of light to your daily life and that of your loved ones. Buterbaugh mentioned that he's been gifting flowers and perfumes to his friends and family to lift up their spirits, especially his bookkeeper, whom he says feels just a little prettier when she is able to wear a fancy perfume.
If you've been looking for ways to get out of your quarantine rut and just show yourself a little bit of love, try wearing a fragrance everyday. Find a scent that really elevates your mood, makes you feel uplifted, and makes you smile. This tiny addition to your daily quarantine regimen just might make you feel loads better.
Don't know where to start? Check out some of my favorite perfumes and home fragrances below.
We only include products that have been independently selected by The Zoe Report’s editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support.
Dr. Amy Wechsler, MD, Dr. Amy Wechsler Dermatology in New York