The scent in question, Escentric Molecules Molecule 01 is cosy, woody, clean, and a little bit sweet. Supposedly undetectable to the wearer but incredibly appealing to those around, it contains only one ingredient, a unique molecule known as Iso E Super. “Iso E Super is a single aroma molecule perfumers use to create a fragrance in conjunction with other chemicals and naturals,” says master perfumer and Escentric Molecules founder Geza Schön. “Its classification is woody. If it were to be compared to an existing natural product people know it would have to be cedarwood. Furthermore, it has this unique velvety and smooth allure, and it has got this magic to it unlike all other chemicals around.”

Schön’s process for the creation of Molecule 01 began in the 1980’s, a time when loud, powerful scents like Dior’s Poison and Opium by YSL were in their heyday. “There were a lot of fabulous fragrances were around yet some of my friends stated that they would rather not wear a fragrance at all than wear the powerful and strong scents that were around,” says Schön. I thought it a shame that the present offerings would lead them to neglect that opportunity. But, my experience with Iso E Super revealed a possibility for the wearer to leave an impressive olfactoric mark behind, where you appear, yet you don’t inhale your scent with every breath you take.” A decade later and Molecule 01 became a reality when Schön gave a friend a sample of Ice E Super to wear on its own. “We went out to a bar in our hometown. After only a few minutes a woman passed our table and stopped to say ‘what smells so good here?’—the idea was born.”

Right now, skin scents like Molecule 01, are one of the biggest trends in the fragrance game. Light, soft, warm, and clean, skin scents are a more conceptual perfume category, especially in comparison to the more conventional scent descriptors, like ‘floral’ or ‘green’. Instead, skin scents are less about the individual notes and more about the overall feeling that wearing the fragrance provides. “A skin scent enhances the smell of natural skin, in a radiant yet subtle way,” says perfumer Ruth Mastenbroek. “You the wearer are aware of the scent, and confident that you are exuding a warm and comforting aura, while not smelling overpowering in any way. This is a scent that feels intimate to you, familiar to you, that helps you to feel truly comfortable in your own skin.”

As for just why skin scents are having a moment right now, Mastenbroek puts this down to a desire for personal connection during the pandemic. “People yearned for emotional connections with other people, yet needed to feel at one with their own world. You wouldn’t want to have a loud fragrance that shouted out, but rather a quiet fragrance that whispered and caressed.” Skin scents are very considerate of other people, she adds, and Beckielou Brown, creator of skin scent ALTRA Skin agrees. “I see it as as a reaction to the intense ‘beast mode’ perfumes that rely on heavy-duty notes with immense projection, those fragrances that enter the room before the wearer does, and linger long after they’re gone,” she says. “Skin scents are the antithesis to this, they’re never in your face or overpowering and can be seen as perfume’s answer to paired back beauty and skinimalism trends.”

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