Scent-imental1

With all hours of daylight spent in the confines of an office, and the inevitable greeting of torrential rain as the first foot steps out the door, it's plain to see why our moods are affected by the seasons. Moreover, factors such as the economy, unemployment and the financial panic looming over families bracing themselves for Christmas mean stress levels are on the up  and mood enhancers are in high-demand.

But if you're still too insulted to retrieve the SAD lamp you were given last Christmas from it's box, it's time cheer up Scrooge 'cause currently in development is a subtler (and certainly chicer) way to lift the lowliest of moods. Cult Beauty expert and aromatherapist extraordinaire Michelle Roques-O'Neil is creating a range of natural, mood-enhancing perfumes, set to be big news in 2011. "I'm trying to create something very much like the old fashioned perfumes made for Marie Antoinette. They were not only to scent her body, but to treat her melancholy," explains Michelle. "There are specific aromas that can help to lift your mood, focus you, or energise you. When I'm working with oils I see certain ones having very strong emotional effects on people. Someone could come in with a very dark mood and by working with oils, such as geranium and ylang ylang, often you see people's whole temperament just change." This is because essential oils work with the limbic system where our emotional memories are stored. The limbic system is directly linked to sense of smell, explaining why people often associate specific smells with certain memories. When formulating perfumes with essential oils it is possible to pick an aroma that will elicit specific emotions; to make people feel sensual; relaxed; uplifted. "I think this is why the whole natural aromatic trend has become so prevalent now. It's not just a smell, it's doing a lot more," says Michelle. Her enthusiasm for natural perfume began five years ago when she began studying with leading natural perfumer Mandy Aftel and was introduced to a more complex way of blending. "I'm really in love with that whole idea of anointing the body and kind of thinking of the body as something very sensual and very seductive as opposed to just putting on blasts of really strong fragrance that scream out who you are. I like things that entice people. Women have lost the emotional connection with their perfume. It's a very sexual world out there, but it's much more predatory than seductive at the moment. The fragrances are kind of about preparing yourself, but it's more about honouring yourself rather than wearing them for other people. That's what's always interested me, creating scents that remind people how special they are." And Michelle believes her mood-enhancing fragrances will help people celebrate their uniqueness by interacting with their own biochemistry. "The perfumes that exist now are made up of synthetics, and even though they're very intense, there's not a lot of light and shade to them," she says. "They tend to be evocative, but they're a bit inert. When you're working with natural fragrances they change and evolve, and have an extra dimension to them." The end of Prozac? Only 2011 will tell.