How do you design a body-wash scent?

Ever wanted to know where that sweet sweet shampoo smell comes from? We spoke with a fragrance expert to find out.


September 7, 2020

During the 3 years that Lisa Wilson trained with a master perfumer, she tested scents while sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

That meant holding blotter strips to her nose and sniffing.

“I think people thought I was doing cocaine,” she said.

Wilson runs her own fragrance consulting biz, called Scent and Strategy, where she creates scents for shampoos, body wash, and more.

Er, how do you make a scent? 

With each new job, Wilson samples similar fragrances on the market. Every scent has 3 parts. Take Chanel No. 5 Parfum:

  1. Top note: Your first whiff — bright and citrus-y, but it disappears fast.
  2. Midnote: The defining rose and iris scent. Lasts 10-15 minutes.
  3. Base note: Woody and warm on the finish.

Wilson mixes and matches based on what worked for other brands. Maybe a base really caught her, while a top note fell flat.

Then she takes her ideas to a fragrance house to produce them. She’ll sometimes go through as many as 250 scents before she lands on the right one.

What’s next for scents? 

Out: Gourmand odors — like heavy vanilla or coffee — that blew up 10 years ago.

In: Wellness-inspired aromas. That means a lot of woodsy whiffs.

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