What to Know About the Perfume Ingredient Coumarin?

It's yummy sweet, but can you eat it?

Tonka Beans

Coumarin is a chemical compound with a sweet, distinctive vanilla-like odor with grassy elements, which makes it a popular fragrance ingredient. Found naturally in some plants, coumarin may also be produced synthetically. It is used by perfumers as a base note to add warmth and depth and is found in some of today's best-selling designer perfumes.

Where Coumarin Is Found

As a natural substance, Coumarin is usually derived from the tomka bean but is also found in other plants, including lavender, sweetgrass, and sweet clover. It is also present in cherries, strawberries, and apricots. Coumarin is commonly synthesized artificially for use as a perfume ingredient.

What It Smells Like

Coumarin has a sweet odor profile, said to evoke both the scent of newly-mown grass or hay and a distinctive vanilla aroma. Its scent profile is generally pleasant and sweet, but at high concentrations this compound can smell complex and produce notes of tobacco and aldehydes, making it a valuable ingredient for masculine perfumes. In feminine compositions, coumarin is generally used as a base note  (often in combination with vanillic or chypre components) to impart warmth and sweetness.

Toxicity and Health Issues

Coumarin is currently banned as a food additive in the United States due to concerns about its potentially toxic effects on the human liver and kidneys. It is still used to produce anti-coagulant medicines, rat poison, and as a valuable component of perfumes.

Coumarin Fragrances to Try

Some perfumes for women that feature coumarin in their composition include: Dior Addict, Dior Fahrenheit, Thierry Mugler Angel, Givenchy Amarige, Versace Blue Jeans, Chanel Bois des Iles, Chanel Coco, Chanel Coco Mademoiselle, Burberry Brit, Calvin Klein Contradiction, Cacharel Gloria, Guerlain Jicky, Bulgari Jasmin Noir, Guerlain Samsara, and Guerlain Tonka Imperiale.

A selection of men's fragrances employing coumarin include: Alfred Dunhill Dunhill Fresh, Hermes Equipage, Versace pour Homme, Azzaro pour Homme, Carolina Herrera Chic for Men, Gaultier Le Male, Moliard Musc, and Givenchy Pi.

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