Can this perfume improve your sex life?

Charlotte Tilbury’s latest launch of six perfumes aren’t just designed to make you smell good — they’re engineered to direct your emotions. Madeleine Spencer investigates the rise of mood-altering scents

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Sexy scents: the new generation of perfumes have the power to change your mood
Evening Standard
Madeleine Spencer15 April 2024

There is a very unsophisticated and commonplace aftershave that makes my heart skip a beat every time I smell it.

Only last week, a portly man of approximately sixty was sauntering down the street wearing head-to-toe leather, hair laden with grease Danny Zuko style, and this aftershave wafting behind him alluringly. Reader, my logical brain categorically didn’t fancy this man, but my nose suggested I stay close to him for more sniffs, that perhaps this chap was indeed much sexier than my eyes led me to believe.

I suspect it won’t surprise you in the slightest that my first encounter with said scent was in the arms of an ex I fancied to an alarming degree as a teen, because in all likelihood you will have a similar one that just makes you weak at the knees irrespective of the wearer’s charms — or lack thereof — simply because of the association with someone else.

Our nose is meant to do this for us. Perfume expert and brand founder Veronique Gabai explains that “the sense of smell is received through the reptilian brain, which controls our instincts and what we like and don’t like — and what feels safe or unsafe. The other place where scent is received: the limbic system, which is the centre that stores all of our memories, so obviously a smell that’s linked to a memory will bring us back to that moment.”

So, on the one hand, scent tugs on instinct saying “yes, fancy this person, they’d be a good DNA match for you,” while the appeal is doubled if the scent has positive ties to our past. Perfume has traditionally tacked onto the latter idea: memories, and often draws on the classic smells of holidays or baking, for example. But in recent years, there has been a rise of scents drawing on the science of aromatherapy to take things a step further, to push perfume into the realm of mood-directing, emotion-enhancing. 

Today, Charlotte Tilbury has released six such scents, each engineered by master perfumers to foster: love, energy, serenity, seduction, empowerment, and happiness. Each of them distills the skills of the perfumers alongside Charlotte’s desire to blend emotions and intentions, and the bottle designs — inspired by 18th century perfume bottles and crystals, with colour theory informing each hue — play a role too. 

She isn’t the first to tap into this idea of the fragrance-wellness hybrid and there has been a noticeable rise in the science of scent movement in the wake of covid, which Gabai says is an entirely logical response to the trauma of lockdowns. “Everybody was limited and the only way to copy was to find elements that would bring wellbeing to your day through yoga or cooking or any type of escape — and scent is one of them, part of a wellbeing momentum.”

The best will, as Tilbury says, offer an opportunity to choose how you feel that day, to pick an emotion off the shelf, to some extent. 

Here’s my pick of the best mood-boosting fragrances.

Charlotte Tilbury More Sex

Charlotte Tilbury

The two primary pillars my nose picks out in this: musk and leather. So far, so sexy. Add in the black pepper and juniper berry, and you have yourself a very heady, very come hither scent by Master Perfumer Anne Flipo that dries down to sweet and sensual on the skin.

Buy now£130, Charlotte Tilbury

Veronique Gabai Aroma Heart Eau de Parfum

Veronique Gabai

Veronique’s AROMA range of three scents have been proven to provide up to a 58% uplift in brain-positive interaction, and this one in particular with its joy-boosting blend of sparkling grapefruit, lemon, and jasmine whisks me away to a place of happiness.

Buy now£150, Harrods

Cosmoss Sacred Mist


Created by homeopath Victoria Young, this scent by Kate Moss’ brand is geared to bestow a sense of peace and balance upon the wearer. I’ve been spritzing it daily since its launch a year ago whenever I feel a bit wobbly and it has absolutely offered a sense of calm.

Buy now£125, Cosmoss