Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Adventures in Scent: Bella Des Patchouli Champa Hand Cream

There is no middle ground when it comes to how patchouli and champa affect olfactory preferences; one either loves or hates these tenacious beauties. Both ingredients flirt with the sacred and sensual. Historically, patchouli is a shapeshifter; a sign of luxury in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the aroma of hedonism in the 1960's. Champa became routed in olfactory consciousness around the same time free love took over stateside. The scent is derived from a type of incense used in ashrams and continues to appeal to many as a tool for meditation. Champa is made from a combination of plumeria, halmaddi (a tree resin that contains the psychoactive β-Carboline) and sandalwood. It is lush, floral, resinous and hypnotic. Those who love champa know it can steal you away in a curl of incense smoke faster than you can chant "om shanti om."

Desiree Watson is a classically trained biologist who started Bella Des Natural Beauty because she couldn't find skin care products that performed well on sensitive skin. She has an affinity for natural ingredients and is highly in tune with the affects of scent in skin care products, "Scent can be a barrier or an invitation. Smell is the first sense a product interacts with. Hand someone a new product and watch what they do. They almost always smell it before anything else. If someone doesn't like a product's fragrance, it doesn't matter what other fabulous ingredients are in it, they are done. I want my scents to be appealing, but not overwhelming, so almost everyone, after smelling it, will try the product on their skin."

Bella Des Patchouli Champa Hand Cream reflects Watson's exacting standards and technical prowess. It also illustrates what she does best; creating the perfect balance between formula and scent. Where does she find inspiration for her products?  "I get a lot inspiration from food. I love to cook and I love cuisine with lots of interesting flavors. My favorites are Indian, Thai and Mexican. One of the first products I invented is Virgin Coconut Hand Cream. I was cooking a lot of Thai at the time and was inspired by some of the dishes I was making. That is how lemongrass and coriander essential oils became part of the formula for Virgin Coconut Hand Cream. These scents blend perfectly with the subtle creamy coconut aroma that organic virgin coconut oil lends to the product. I also created a beauty product that is" technically" food. My Natural Sugar Body Polish in Ginger Lemon is natural, edible and it tastes really good! This one was inspired by my love of fresh ginger; I will add ginger to any dish that lends itself to the flavorful root's refreshing and spicy qualities."

For Watson, champa is part of the smellscape encountered in Indian supermarkets in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she actively seeks new sensory experiences and nurtures those close to her heart. She is as fierce a cook as she is a chemist, seeking inspiration from the ordinary to the exotic. This is how champa rekindled its love affair with patchouli in Bella Des Patchouli Champa Hand Cream. "The incense aisle at the market has always been a part of the shopping experience. For me, champa creates a backdrop against the aromas of foods and spices I discover in the store. The mixture of scents is like a perfume that tells me where I am. It's like travel; the sights the sounds, the smells, all of these things influence your memories. The memories follow me back into the lab."

There is a distinctive synergy in Bella Des Patchouli Champa Hand Cream that makes the combination of patchouli and champa instantly appealing. A warm woody quality weaves between the two raw materials and steadies the delivery of the scent. There is something refreshing in the mix that resembles a lactonic lemon note, which is where the hand cream's olfactory balance is rooted. How did patchouli get mixed in with the champa? "I can remember that my older sister, who I literally thought the sun revolved around, used to wear patchouli. I used to go into her room and smell her perfumes when she wasn't home. She really likes Bella Des Patchouli Champa Hand Cream. Perhaps I subconsciously made it for her. That's funny, I never really thought about my first encounter with patchouli."

Speaking of first encounters, be on the lookout for a Bella Des ultra rich face cream which is currently in development. The delicate scents in Ms. Watson's facial care line revolve around natural ingredients versus aromas added to camouflage chemical odors that are part of mass market moisturizers. Judging from the samples sent to Glass Petal Smoke, something scentastic this way comes...

Bella Des Natural Beauty makes rich and luxurious body products that exceed expectations when it comes to price and performance. Glass Petal Smoke recommends Patchouli Champa Hand Cream, Inspiration Foot Cream (gorgeous application of Eucalyptus citriodora and rose geranium), 100% Natural Vitamin Lip Balm (mild aroma of coconut oil, lasts and lasts), Orange Ginger Pin-up Soap (fresh citrus and shimmering ginger),  Facial Hydrating Spray (binds moisturizer to skin and refreshes), and the cream-based Facial Cleanser.

"Patchouli Has a Flashpoint of 190°," is a great piece of olfactory chic. The t-shirt is made by and is available in a variety of colors/styles on Zazzle. You can view the selection by clicking here. Rights to the photograph featured in this post revert back to

A "smellscape" is a space defined by smell. The space can be a store, a landscape, a neighborhood, any place with defined boundaries. This interview with olfactory artist Sissel Tolas on Edible Geography delves into the smellscape concept. Architects are also interested in smellscapes as olfaction is a part of the landscape that relates to the planning and design of buildings.