An interesting characteristic of the lavender fragrance is that it can quickly freshen the home environment without producing a long-lasting overpowering scent. You’ve probably been in a room where someone is using some type of freshener (room spray, plug-ins, candles, incense, etc.) that never quits. (Think of the ubiquitous bayberry or vanilla candles around the holidays!) You smell it the minute you walk in and can smell it the entire time you’re in the room. This is due to the chemical composition of these fresheners that are designed to remain present in your olfactory sense (aka sense of smell).
The downside of these ever-present odors is that they can conflict with other scents and can interfere with your sense of taste. When strong perfumed fragrances linger, your carefully prepared meal will take on odd or off-putting tastes—because your freshener is overpowering the aroma of your food; and aroma is a key component of how things taste.
Another situation where a fragrance can be overpowering is when people over-apply perfumes and cologne. Once again, most perfumeries create fragrances with the objective of having the scent be long-lasting. In moderation, that is usually okay, but we’ve all been in environments where too much can border on painful.
So this is where lavender is special. When you walk into a room that has been freshened with lavender essential oils or hydrosols (flower water) or if lavender buds are used in potpourris, you will smell it immediately, but after a few minutes, you won’t notice it anymore. It’s still there, providing the relaxing benefits of lavender aroma therapy, but you won’t smell it. That is because lavender has a “low threshold of sensory extinction,” sometimes also called desensitization.
Sensory extinction means that after a time, you no longer can detect a smell, taste, sound, etc. The stimulus recedes into the back of your mind and becomes “cognitively invisible.” In the case of lavender, if you leave the room for a while and come back, you’ll smell the welcoming scent again, so it’s not gone, just soon forgotten. It also continues to mask other unpleasant scents, but isn’t assertive as it does.
When people are looking for a wearable fragrance, a drop of lavender essential oil or a spritz of hydrosol on the clothing are also great for making a good first impression, but do not leave an over-powering, unnatural, lasting effect.