There are plenty of quick-and-easy ways to reduce stress—meditating for five minutes, going for a walk around the block, taking a few deep breaths—and finding which one is best for you is undoubtedly a personal endeavor. What’s worked for me, though, might just be the simplest one of all: inhaling a sandalwood perfume.
The warm, woodsy scent truly tantalizes the senses. It’s mysterious and sexy; sensual but not aggressive; comforting yet confidence-boosting. Spritzing myself with sandalwood has become a regular part of my routine zen-inducing routine, and apparently, there’s a scientific reason why it works so well to chill me out.
“The smell of the sandalwood oil is particularly smooth and sweet-woody,” says Jacques Huclier, a senior perfumer at Givaudan, adding that it’s reminiscent of a milky cream. Sandalwood has long been used in Ayurvedic traditions as both perfume and incense, as it helps promote mental clarity. “It facilitates the feeling of relaxation and peace, which is why it is frequently used for meditation,” says Nathalie Feisthauer, an award-winning Master Perfumer from Paris.
Apparently, there’s actual science to back this up. A 2017 study in Worldviews in Evidence-Based Nursing found that sniffing a sandalwood-lavender scent reduced anxiety better than orange-peppermint aromatherapy or a placebo, while an older paper in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice concluded that sandalwood oil has anxiety-minimizing effects.
“Sandalwood, native to India and named Latin Santalum Album, belongs to the category of fragrant trees or aromatic woods,” says Feisthauer. “It is becoming increasingly rare, and increasingly expensive; the price of the oil increases considerably as the tree grows.” In other words, sandalwood is similar to a fine wine—the older it is, the more valuable it becomes. According to Huclier, a tree must be more than 30 years old before it’s ready to produce the quality of oil that’s typically used in fragrances.
Thankfully, sandalwood has superb staying power. “When you dip a blotter in a bottle of this oil, the smell stays on for many days,” Huclier says. So though sandalwood perfumes are pricey, you can invest in them knowing that their velvety finish will stay put on your pressure points for easy access to instant stress relief.
Ready to try this mood-boosting scent yourself? These editor-approved sandalwood perfumes below will make you feel at ease — even if it’s just for a moment.
Krigler Subtle Orchid — $615.00
A cozy combination of coffee, vanilla, and sandalwood feels like a warm embrace, and hints of patchouli and lemon balance out the subtle floral sweetness that contribute to this French perfume’s femininity. We love that this bouquet-forward perfume is super velvety (dare we say ethereal) and well-balanced. With hints of solace and seduction, sniffing this one is almost like being held by your new flame.
Le Labo, Jasmin 17 — $99.00
Far from those basic floral perfumes you’re bored of, this vivid scent marries fragrant white flowers with sensuous sandalwood for an intoxicating combo that’ll keep you hooked. This is the type of perfume you can buy blindly or gift. We find Le Labo’s Jasmin 17 to be easily wearable from day to night, but fair warning: This jasmine-inspired scent is no wallflower — everyone will ask you what you’re wearing.
Donna Karan, Cashmere Mist — $130.00
Picture sitting fireside wrapped in a cashmere sweater, because this is exactly the vibe this soothing eau de parfum gives off. It combines lily of the valley, Moroccan jasmine, and sandalwood for an oh-so-cozy scent that’s as versatile as it is inoffensive. The bottle, designed by Karan’s sculptor husband, was inspired by the female body; and the middle-of-the-road price point means you can spritz this on your clothes, on your sheets, in your hair, everywhere.
Krigler, Abrakaadabra — $40.00
With sandalwood, lily of the valley, and musk, this warm, floral scent sneaks just enough spice to command attention. The aldehydes in this perfume guarantee the scent will last on your skin and project well for hours. Abrakaadabra is rooted in lore, with notes of Scottish Hawthorn, which is said to manifest strength, resilience, and sensuality (things we could all use a little more of, right?).
Le Labo, Santal 33 — $230.00
Woody, leathery, and slightly smoky, yet well-blended with hints of iris and violet, this perfume encapsulates mystery and strength in its minimalistic, apothecary-style flacon. You can easily layer it with a warm vanilla scent to round out its intensity but Le Labo’s cult following knows you can wear this coveted scent on its own.
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