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Solar Notes in Perfumery: A History Rooted in the Beach
The introduction of paid holidays in France led to a new need: sun protection products. As sunbathing on the beach became a widespread leisure activity, the demand for products to prevent sunburn increased. Eugène Schueller, the founder of L'Oréal, decided to develop a sunscreen product based on benzyl salicylate, a synthetic molecule already known in the United States for several years. In 1935, the famous Ambre Solaire was created, featuring this molecule.
When it was later discovered that benzyl salicylate was not an effective UV filter, L'Oréal removed it from the Ambre Solaire formula. However, this decision backfired, as the French consumers were so enamored with the unique sun-kissed scent that sales plummeted. Consequently, L'Oréal reintroduced benzyl salicylate to the formula, this time as a fragrance agent. Since then, solar notes have become an enduring presence in the world of perfume.
Infusing Sunshine into Perfumes with Solar Accords
The solar note, created using benzyl salicylate, comprises ylang-ylang, frangipani, tiare, and carnation. Thanks to Ambre Solaire, this note has become an essential component of cosmetics and, subsequently, perfumes. The solar note harmonizes with a wide range of fragrances, with the floral-salicylate family being one of the most renowned for its solar scents. A prime example of this floral-solar family is Nina Ricci's L'Air du Temps, released in 1948. While solar accords had been used earlier in fragrances like Caron's Fleurs de Rocaille, L'Air du Temps was the first to combine solar and floral notes in such a distinctive and transparent way.
Today, fragrances with solar notes remain a popular choice, as they evoke the pleasant olfactory memories of vacations and the beach. Although these scents experienced a temporary decline in popularity, solar and exotic scents have made a strong comeback, gracing sun-and-escape-seeking skin and necks.
Fun Facts About Solar Notes in Perfumery
- The term "solar notes" is not limited to benzyl salicylate but also includes other ingredients that evoke the warmth and sensuality of sun-kissed skin.
- Many solar fragrances also feature marine or aquatic notes, adding a refreshing, beach-like quality to their scent profiles.
- Solar notes are not exclusively found in women's fragrances; they can also be found in men's perfumes, adding warmth and depth to the composition.
- Some contemporary niche perfumers have embraced solar notes as a key component in their creations, emphasizing the connection between scent, memory, and emotions.