You know, after all of the spit-up and the dirty diapers, the rotting food that has vanished into the crevices of the carseat, and the (I’m admitting to it) days gone by with no shower – it’s nice to smell something sweet. (Ok, baby’s skin after a bath, or baby’s skin anytime actually, is the sweetest smell.) But, what about yourself? What about pampering yourself with an easy spritz of something so lovely that your nerves calm, your mind eases and you maybe even get a little pep in your step or maybe even experience a tiny waft of glamour, even if it’s just for the most brief of moments.
Perfume can be tricky though.
a) I easily get headaches from certain smells
b) We are not wearing high heels everyday, so us moms just need something easy and subtle that doesn’t make our kids gag
c) Pregnant moms are in a whole other camp. They can’t even keep certain foods down for one third of their pregnancy – a head full of the wrong smell could be disastrous
And, most of us these days are trying to detox our lives, especially with new babies on the horizon. So, what are the options for safe but still luxurious-smelling perfumes? It turns out, there are a lot.
To find them, I visited Ann Onusko, owner of Lakewood, Ohio’s Indigo Perfumery. This boutique perfumery – which I wrote about for Cleveland Magazine in 2014 – is gloriously glamorous inside and the equally lovely owner is a savvy and attentive guide when it comes to finding ones perfectly suited scent.
Ann knew I was seeking out organic and natural perfumes but she did enlighten me.
“Natural is very difficult to do because naturals everyone equates with good and synthetics or aroma chemicals everyone thinks bad. What they don’t know is that a lot of the natural flowers that have been outlawed or the natural ingredients like certain resins have so many allergens in them – way more than aroma chemicals. Aroma chemicals don’t have many because aroma chemicals are usually just one or two chemicals. Whereas in a rose, there is over 250 compounds. The best perfumes have a combination of both. The synthetic – the aroma chemicals – help [a perfume] last longer, help make it a little bit lighter.” Which is key – when we went over to the natural lines, they were all heavier in scent than what is possible with a combination of synthetic and natural. Lesson number one.
Lesson number two? If you like florals, here’s something to know about those scents. “What people don’t realize is that most of the flowers are not [natural oils.] [Like] lily of the valley, gardenia, magnolia, peony – there are many more – they are what they call mute flowers. If you have that in your fragrance, it’s totally aroma chemicals. It’s not real because you can’t get oils from those flowers.”
And lastly, Ann noted that the no-no’s many of us want to shed from our beauty routines, like pthalates, aren’t even in most of the perfumes in her store. These are perfumes mixed with precision and care, for the most part by the perfumers themselves. They are sourcing pure botanicals, organic oils and clean aroma chemicals to create refined and elegant perfumes. That being said, the ones we explore below are all natural lines sans aroma chemicals.
So, with a few lessons behind us, let’s get on to Ann’s scent recommendations.
The Scent Quarter at Indigo Perfumery
I think this is a brilliant idea for pregnant women. Your senses can get a little finicky, right? (Heightened just a touch?) And Ann’s Scent Quarter perfume bar allows women to sit and blend their own perfumes. You can explore aromas to discover a new favorite or head straight to blending what you already know you love. While I assumed most women visiting Ann’s shop would head straight for the vanilla, I was surprised – “They always like the citrus,” Ann told me. And, actually, yes – could you imagine a little grapefruit to wake you up, maybe blended with some ginger to soothe anxieties and queasiness? That would be quite nice. Other favorites? “A lot of people like a little bit of patchouli. Not a lot, but it really adds something. Florals, lily of the valley, some lavender,” Ann said.
Book an appointment and get blending to your (pregnant body’s) desire.
These organic oil blends work with the heat and chemistry of your body to create a unique scent. “They are very soft,” Ann explained to me. “When you put an oil on, you don’t really smell it a lot until it warms up with your skin and [then] it projects. [These] are very soft and pretty.”
The organic oils are sourced from around the world and then hand-blended in Ambre’s Indianapolis, Indiana headquarters. Even the packaging is safe – for the planet, that is – made from recycled and biodegradable materials.
Great for dropping into a diaper bag, the roll-on bottles are convenient and un-instrusive. “It’s just an oil,” Ann explained. “So you don’t have to worry about traveling, you just [roll it on.]”
Ambre Essence: Based in amber oil, this scent is the foundation of the entire line and is the lightest of all four scents. Sweet, gentle, clean.
Invoke: I love this scent. It’s lush and refreshing, fresh and energizing. This is the Ambre Essence enhanced with jasmine, neroli, sandalwood and rose.
Solace: This scent adds vanilla to the mix and very much offers that cozy, cottony, warmth that vanilla scents do. But, don’t be mistaken – the vanilla isn’t obvious. The oils all seamlessly blend into a – at least on my skin – scent that is very, um, maternal? Comforting? I don’t know how best to describe this one other than a mature, sophisticated scent.
Unmasque: This is so fruity and spicy and juicy. It smells like being on vacation. This is for bright summer days and those days that need to feel like bright summer days. I can’t stop wearing this one and I would say, even if you are sensitive to stronger scents, as I tend to be, this one seems to settle in just fine with me.
The recommendation is to buy all four and interchange them. We get desensitized to perfumes we use everyday, and this helps to avoid that, but with the subtle differences in each, I find myself reaching for a different scent based on the mood I wake up to. Either way, if you want one or all, order the sample pack first to see how these sit on your body.
And, if you love a scent, stock up – the line also comes in natural deodorants, lip balms, olive oil body tonics and body creams among other delicious ways to get yourself smelling pretty.
Made with aromatic botanicals and hand-crafted tinctures – organic whenever possible – Charna Ethier, founder of Providence Perfume Company, crafts these 100% natural perfumes with real flowers, fruits, plants and wood in Rhode Island. “You can tell she uses natural materials,” Ann said. “Look at those colors.” And you’ve got to see them – such gorgeous, deep, vibrant hues fill these glittering glass bottles.
“I think is one of my favorite vanillas of all that I have in here,” Ann said. “This is probably her lightest [scent.] And she has some [ingredients] in there which helps add some sweetness without it being sickly sweet.” Like rose, balsams, myrrh and coconut pulp blended alongside the five varieties of vanilla that are packed into this warm eau de parfum.
“[This one] has a heavier feel to it even though you would think honeysuckle would not,” Ann explained. “I don’t know if you can tell?” What I could tell is that often florals, especially honeysuckle, get me right in the headache-zone but this scent was clean and gentle enough. If you are drawn to summery, floral scents, this is your girl.
Herbal, vegetal and so light, this is one of Providence Perfume’s green scents. Inspired by a summer garden, this combines tomato vine with lily of the valley, mimosa, jasmine and violet leaf.
Beau Rhee, the founder of Atelier de Geste, began crafting scents to complement her clothing designs – you should definitely check out her two-toned tights.
Each of the fragrances comes adorned in hand-painted bottles – the swipe of a brush creating a soft, gestural stroke. And, each is part of a limited release and is noted with a unique number from 100-200, depending on the fragrance. It fancies it up a bit, doesn’t it, knowing you have an exclusive, limited-edition bottle?
Blues is the only 100% natural perfume in the line of scents from Atelier de Geste. But, while Blues is the one scent crafted in-house of natural and organic essences, even the other fragrances are solid, safe choices – the entire line is completely free of parabens, sulfates and phthalates and the synthetics are not harsh, reducing allergens.
In a funny way, Blues reminded me immediately of camping in the summertime. There was a sweet citrus and woodsy smell to it (I don’t want to describe it improperly but it immediately reminded me of using really nice all-natural bug spray while you are out camping in the woods. Ann laughed. Understandably.) But, I see why this scent reminder came to me – this is a woody chypre fragrance characterized by citrus top-notes (there’s your all-natural bug repellent smell!) with a mossy base-note (there are the woods you are camping in!)
“It has a natural, earthy smell,” Ann said. Spot on.
This is not 100% natural – there are some aroma chemicals, such as lily of the valley – but it was one of my favorite scents of the afternoon so I wanted to share.
The scent is fresh and deep at the same time. Centered around the earthiness of vetiver, the tomato, ivy and pine notes add a crispness, lotus and nightshade a tropical intoxication.
The two of us just stood there inhaling the little tester strip. “I would describe it as beautiful,” Ann said. It really is.
Handcrafted with natural materials, Hiram Green’s two fragrances came out of a desire the perfumer had to create quality perfumes sans any synthetics. His quest with this line was to make these perfumes just as exquisite as the best quality ones on the market but with only natural ingredients. “[These are] very long-lasting perfumes,” Ann told me. “And everyone is trying to figure out – How did he get them to last a long time?” Because remember, synthetics are usually what allow a perfume to linger.
These perfumes – up until June – were delivered in bottles with atomizer sprays. So glamorous! Alas, the packaging is changing so if you are lucky enough to order from Ann’s website or Hiram Green’s website before they run out, you’ll get to have an elegant little product sitting on your boudoir shelf.
“[This] is based in tuberose with jasmine and ylang ylang,” Ann said,”And it’s very lush and deep.”
“You can definitely smell the spices in this one,” Ann said.
I commented that it smelled like a liqueur.
“He has peach in there and he’s got patchouli in there,” Ann told me. “I know what you mean. Some scents do smell liqueur-ish.”
I could definitely smell the peaches and I mentioned that too.
“Yes,” Ann said. “To me, this is peaches and spices.”
And so, how is that for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up?
Poshly packaged in kaleidoscopic tubes, these soft perfumes look like a flashy tube of lipstick.
The founder of this perfume house is actually the founder of what eventually became Sephora, our giant beauty destination. Isabelle Masson-Mandonnaud has been working in perfumes for over 30 years and someone who is chic enough to get Sephora off the ground, knows a thing or two about the perfect beauty product.
The scents come in inviting names like Zazou and Belle Furieuse and are created without alcohol or parabens, making them ideal for so many skin types.
This one is very romantic – spicy bergamot and pink peppercorn with floral notes of rose, lily of the valley and a layer of sweet almond. This is one of the line’s shea butter-based perfume sticks, perfect for softening your skin.
This also has a floral bouquet to it but with notes of juicy peach and earthy amber and sandalwood. This too is based with shea butter, so more softening goodness for your skin.
“[Both of these],” said Ann, “Are perfect for summer.”
While the two offerings from Ex Idolo are unisex fragrances, I thought immediately of my husband and how delicious he would smell (you already do smell delicious, honey, I’m just saying this would add deliciousness to you) in both of these fragrances, but especially Thirty-Three.
This scent uses wild-harvested Chinese oud oil – sweet and woody – as its powerhouse. But that doesn’t mean its overpowering – it is instead surprisingly soft with a velvety sense.
Sweet tobacco and balmy amber with a full-bodied hit of jasmine, this fragrance mixes the masculine and feminine so well, I suppose my husband and I could share it.
Ok, and to easily cart around any of your perfume choices – and to adorn yourself with something charming – scoop up one of these sparkly gems. These necklaces caught my eye glinting off of a mirror on which they hung in Ann’s shop – little crystal perfume vials in black, champagne, gray or turquoise. They’re so delightful.
All of the above title links take you to the perfumers’ websites and then each of the scent title links take you to shop Indigo Perfumery’s website. If you have any questions, I know Ann would love to answer them for you. And, she offers samples on all of the above scents and encourages sampling – it’s the only way to find out what really works seamlessly with your body’s chemistry. (And if you live in the Cleveland-area, definitely stop in for a visit. You could even test out your blending skills at the Scent Quarter!)
Have fun mommas and enjoy smelling pretty. (Not that you don’t already, just, this is a little amplification of your gorgeousness.)