Fragrances can be hard to define, but they are often divided into four primary scents — floral, oriental, woody, and fresh (via Perfume Direct). According to Allbeauty, floral aromas are one of the most popular in perfume and are particularly present in perfumes made for women. This is partly due to their “mass appeal” and tendency “to make people happy, evoking their favorite memory or a special time,” Scentsy perfumer, Martha Noyles, told Scentsy’s blog Top Notes. “They can also be blended with other notes,” like wood or oriental, “to appeal more to men or others who may not want such a flowery smell,” she added.
Among the flowers used in perfume and fragrances, the three most often used are rose, jasmine, and ylang ylang, according to the fragrance blog Viroa London. However, among those floral notes, ylang ylang is probably one that you have yet to typically come across. The flower is native to countries in and around the Indian Ocean, including the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia (via Healthline). But what does it smell like, and why is it used so much in fragrances?
Some of your favorite perfumes have ylang ylang in their notes
Ylang ylang is a small, yellow flower that grows from the Cananga tree (via Healthline). It has a “heady, aromatic scent” that is “fruity, flowery, and rich.” It’s often used in aromatherapy for this reason. As an essential oil, it has the potential to “boost mood, reduce depression, and alleviate anxiety,” according to a study published in Scientific Electronic Library Online. Fragrance blog Viroa London describes the smell of ylang ylang as a “rich and sensual floral scent” that “also has subtle buttery banana tones.” Some of the world’s most popular perfumes use this ylang ylang as a floral note in their scents, including Gucci’s Bloom Profumo di Fiori and Gorgeous Gardenia, Tom Ford’s Soleil Blanc and Black Orchid, and Dior’s J’adore (via Who What Wear).
According to Who What Wear, ylang ylang is usually paired with “classic scents” like “vanilla, rose, and jasmine” to boost floral fragrance. So if you’re wearing a floral scent, chances are ylang ylang is in there somewhere.
Ylang ylang is also used as a herbal remedy and in skincare products
Aside from its use in fragrances, ylang ylang is also used as a herbal remedy and essential oil for conditions like rheumatism, gout, and malaria (via Healthline). According to the alternative health website Indigo Herbs, the flower has been used for centuries worldwide for all sorts of ailments. For example, in the Philippines, healers used the oil as an ingredient in ointments “to treat cuts, burns, and insect and snake bites.” Ylang ylang oil was also used in the Molucca islands, an archipelago in Indonesia known as the Spice Islands (via Royal Observatory) to create Macassar oil, which was used as a hair pomade to style hair (via Public Goods).
Ylang ylang oil is also beneficial in skincare routines. Described as a “restorative plant extract” by Glamour magazine, it can “support balancing oil production within the skin” and act as an “antibacterial, anti-inflammatory” step to your routine, as facialist Abigail James told the magazine. Holistic facialist Nataliya Robinson added that ylang ylang oil can stimulate “the growth of new cells, releasing tight muscles and smoothing wrinkles” and that “because of its anti-inflammatory benefits, it can target inflammatory conditions in the skin and reduce the size of pores and kill bacteria.”