When Phlur co-founder Chriselle Lim created Missing Person—the sold-out-everywhere fragrance that took PerfumeTok by storm in 2022—she did so with the intention of sharing what she was going through with the world.
"Essentially, what Missing Person was inspired by was loneliness," says Lim in the latest episode of Well+Good's new beauty podcast, Routine Rundown. "I was with this guy for 15 years and married to him for eight, and the hardest thing after our separation was waking up to an empty bed. So I wanted to bottle something up that felt warm, like skin-to-skin contact or that scent of your lover's skin on a pillowcase or a T-shirt they left at your place... but it was really a capture of what I was going through at the time."
Listen to the full episode here:
She didn't necessarily expect the scent to take off the way it did, but taking a step back, its overnight success isn't surprising. "The immediate thing that people smell is the top note of skin musk... and everyone has a scent memory and association of skin musk. Sometimes you really have to dig to find out what it is, but it's a very familiar scent," says Lim. "And the story behind Missing Person really lent itself to people sharing their own stories. So they would spray it, and it kind of became therapy for people, and they would start crying like, 'Oh, this smells like a memory I have with my mom who's no longer here.' There's just something about it that makes people very emotional."
Given the close link between the parts of our brain that process scent and emotion, all of this makes sense. It also explains why choosing—and wearing—a fragrance is such a personal endeavor. So how does Lim, the woman behind one of the buzziest perfume brands in the business, use scent to express herself?
"I view fragrance as an extension of style," says Lim, who has a background in fashion styling and blogging. "It's definitely based on my mood and enhancing what I wear. I'm a fashion girl, so once I complete my outfit I ask myself, 'What would be an extension of this outfit,' and then I go into how it makes me feel. I have my go-tos for date night with myself or the girls, I have a fragrance that I wear to meetings, I have a fragrance that I wear during the day... But Missing Person is always the base for me. I'm always spraying on Missing Person, and then [decide] if I want to add something on top of that."
Though she's adamant about the fact that there's no "wrong" way to wear fragrance—after all, her whole ethos is that it's meant to make you feel good—there's one common mistake Lim often sees people making in their applications. "We should never rub skin...it messes up the chemistry, and you have to allow it to sit because the notes take a minute to really get into your skin chemistry... and if you're rubbing it in, you're not giving it the chance it needs to fully come alive," says Lim. "What I like to do is spray a little bit everywhere, so I spray it on my neck first, and then my wrist, and then I spray it in the air and walk through it. Our scents last through the day, but I'm not really good about reapplying so I like to start off strong."
All of this is only the tip of the iceberg of what Lim and I covered in our conversation. To find out why signature scents are on their way out (and to learn which ex-boyfriend Missing Person reminds me of every time I spritz it on), listen to the full episode on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your Podcasts.
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