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Fields of lavender, which is a key scent in the new Le Petit Marseillais line of products
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Health & Wellness
Secrets of a Scent Scientist: 6 Unique Fragrances That Can Boost Your Mood
Fig. Poppy. Orange Blossom. These are just some of the novel scents featured in the new Le Petit Marseillais line of bath and body products. A Johnson & Johnson expert shares the science behind them.

Anyone who’s ever found themselves meandering down memory lane while shopping the bath and body aisle can tell you that fragrance does so much more than simply smell nice.

Scent is so powerful that just a whiff of a certain fragrance has the ability to help calm you down, trigger a fond memory, and even lift your spirits.

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Victoria Dole

The reason is actually rooted in science: When we process a smell, the information travels to the brain’s limbic system, where emotions, mood and memory are processed. That’s why a scent can quickly bring on emotional associations.

Lavender, for example, can conjure memories of a Mediterranean vacation, or the soap your mother used when you were a child. Instantly, and unconsciously, you may feel happier, or more relaxed.

Johnson & Johnson harnesses this knowledge to help create its products, like Le Petit Marseillais, a scent-rich line of European bath and body products featuring such lush ingredients as poppy and fig that’s debuting in the U.S. this year, including a special expanded collection hitting Walmart stores this month.

To learn more about how these novel scents could impact your psyche, we spoke to Victoria Dole, a scientist who does research in the Raw Materials Center at Johnson & Johnson, for her expert insights on the power of scent.

1.
Lavender
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Provence is famous for its fields of fragrant lavender, so it's no surprise that the scent can be found in everything from soaps to sachets in French apothecaries. And for good reason: the Latin root of the plant name lavender means “to wash,” and the flowering herb (a member of the mint family) has been used to perfume baths for centuries.

“Lavender is well-researched for its therapeutic effects,” Dole says. “It’s been found to help calm anxiety, and even ease sleep problems and depression.”

Developing fragrances that capture the essence of certain ingredients is "both a science and an art," explains Dole, adding that perfumers work hard to create scents that elicit a certain feeling.

In the case of lavender, Johnson & Johnson Consumer market research found that people identified the plant's aroma as "calming," "comforting" and "reassuring," which helped inform how the scent for this product was developed.

The new bath product: Le Petit Marseillais Lavender Honey Extra Gentle Shower Crème Body Wash

2.
Orange Blossom
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Orange groves are prevalent throughout the Mediterranean, and the fragrance distilled from the trees’ white flowers is intoxicating. (The essential oil of orange blossom, also known as neroli, is used in perfume and aromatherapy.) In fact, King Louis XIV, who had a passion for perfumery, adored the scent so much that he had citrus trees planted in the gardens of Versailles.

“In nature, the purpose of the flowers’ smell is to attract bees that pollinate the trees to create more fruit,” explains Dole. (Orange blossom honey is another sweet byproduct of this natural process.)

So it makes sense that Johnson & Johnson Consumer studies found that people associated this fresh, flowery smell with being “happy,” “carefree” and “confident.”

The new bath product: Le Petit Marseillais Orange Blossom Extra Gentle Hand Soap

3.
Chamomile
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The calming powers of this flowering herb are legendary. Just think of chamomile herbal tea, which is made from the dried daisy-like flower. It helps soothe indigestion, induce sleep, and reduce anxiety.

Not surprisingly, Johnson & Johnson Consumer research found that the delicate, herbaceous scent is associated with words like “calming,” “comforting” and “warm"—feelings that scientists strove to capture when creating the fragrance for this chamomile-scented product, notes Dole.

The new body product: Le Petit Marseillais Shea Butter, Chamomile & Fig Nourishing Body Milk Lotion

4.
Poppy
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During spring and summer, the French hillsides turn vibrant red, thanks to blooming poppies.

“When you smell the flower itself, it’s slightly earthy and floral, but it doesn’t have an especially strong odor,” Dole says. “Perfumers actually create the impression of poppies—how we imagine a field of poppies would smell—by blending rose, jasmine and creamy vanilla notes.”

As part of Johnson & Johnson Consumer research, people were asked how the scent made them feel and they used words like “fun,” “happy,” “dynamic” and “carefree,” Dole notes.

The new bath product: Le Petit Marseillais Cotton Milk & Poppy Extra Gentle Shower Crème Body Wash

5.
Fig
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“The smell and taste of figs makes me feel like I’m in the Mediterranean in summertime,” Dole says. “When you bite into one, you taste and smell the greenness of the fresh skin, then you get the juicy sweetness and creamy quality of the fruit.”

Since it’s difficult to extract those subtle aromas from the fruit itself, perfumers come up with a nature-identical essence to re-create it, with notes of sweet, ripe fruit, and a hint of milky vanilla.

"In company studies, consumers said the smell of figs gave them an impression of 'health,' 'wellness' and 'nourishing,'” Dole adds.

The new body product: Le Petit Marseillais Shea Butter, Chamomile & Fig Nourishing Body Milk Lotion

6.
White Peach
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Juicy. Sweet. Summery. These adjectives come to mind when you think of, or bite into, a ripe, white peach. The fruit is made up of 87% water, which is what makes the nectar so refreshing.

“At the heart of the fragrance created for this product is the essence of white peach, of course, and then touches of rose and apricot to channel a fresh, floral, feminine feeling,” Dole says.

Indeed, when asked how it made them feel, consumers taking part in Johnson & Johnson Consumer research said: pampered, peaceful and calm.

The new bath product: Le Petit Marseillais White Peach & Nectarine Extra Gentle Shower Gel