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Here’s why your favorite Ariana Grande ballad should *always* be part of your beauty routine


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Photo: Stocksy/Bonninstudio

With all of the jellies, bouncy creams, and oils-in-gel out there, the average beauty regimen has turned into a sensorial free-for-all. But while cool textures and touch tend to hog the beauty spotlight, there’s one sense that doesn’t get enough credit: Hearing.

As it turns out, sound can influence everything from your skin health (really!) to the way you experience your favorite fragrance. (We’ll file this under: The more you know.)

Let’s start with the complexion. A lot of the time, sound actually has an adverse effect on the way our skin looks and feels—at least, that’s the case if your life’s soundtrack is filled with traffic noises, construction din, and an incessently pinging phone. “We are constantly exposed to acoustic pollution and stimuli,” says Barbara Gavazzoli, director of communication and education at skincare brand Skin Regimen.  “This increases our level of cortisol and triggers inflammation and tension. The skin is less oxygenated, duller, and tends to age faster.”

But the reverse is true, too. Some sounds can spur relaxation and even the feeling of detachment from the outside world, minimizing the body’s stress response and its effect on skin health. “There is increasing data showing how connected to sounds and music we really are,” says Gavazzoli. “Natural sounds—birds chirping or a stream of water running, for example—and repetitive speech, as in repeating a mantra, have both been shown to reduce brain activity in areas related to stress and mind-wandering.”

Some sounds can spur relaxation, minimizing the body’s stress response and its effect on skin health.

That’s why Skin Regimen developed a Macro Waves Sound track to accompany its bespoke facial, newly available at The Spa at Equinox at the Greenwich Village and Soho locations in NYC. While just about every spa plays soft, soothing music during its treatments to help you relax, this track was intentionally composed to promote healing.

“When we want the brain to relax, we need to use sounds that have a sort of hypnotic effect, like slow repetition, which cuddles the mind and disarms its natural tendency to control and examine everything that happens around,” explains Gavazzoli. “The heartbeat slows down and the body can switch to ‘repair’ mode.” No spa nearby? You can listen to the track here while you go through your nightly skincare routine. (Your favorite chill-out playlist would work, too.)

Then, there’s the phenomenon known as “smound,” a hybrid sense of sorts that’s part sound, part smell. It sounds out-there, but the science is legit. In a study published in Journal of Neuroscience, researchers found that the scent-detecting cells of the brain—the olfactive tubercles, if you’re wondering—are also activated by sound.

These findings confirm what many perfumers have always intuitively known. “The French perfumist G.W.S. Piesse catalogued his fragrances by musical notes—fruity and light fragrances corresponded to high notes and pungent fragrances with low notes,” says Daniel W. Wesson, PhD, an associate professor at the University of Florida and a lead author of this study. “To me, this reflects the brain’s remarkable tendency to link the hedonics—our wanting and liking—of stimuli across our sensory channels. In this case, odors [are linked] with sounds.”

Your sense of “smoud” may even influence what scents you’re drawn to. Think of how advertisers use music and imagery to give you a sense of a perfume’s scent—their song choices definitely aren’t random. “Our previous music experiences and expectations may shape our immediate [fragrance preferences],” explains Wesson.

“Our previous music experiences and expectations may shape our immediate [fragrance preferences].”—Daniel W. Wesson, PhD

So it’s no surprise that fragrance brands borrow inspiration from this connection. 2 Note, a Hudson, NY-based brand, features scents—like Bergamot Chord, Neroli Chord, and Rose Otto Chord—that are comprised of three notes, just like a musical chord. (Founders and musicians Carolyn Mix and Darcy Doniger recommend layering them to create your own “composition.”) “Listening to music, seeing a performance, the element of music in a certain space, a memory of studying or performing a piece—these are all inspirations for our botanical fragrances,” says Mix. “Musical compositions inspire feelings and memories, as do aromatic compositions.”

That’s a similar thinking to Phlur’s approach. But instead of a classical construction, this brand includes a short Spotify playlist for each fragrance to give you a better sense—literally—of each one. For instance, Siano, a floral oriental, is heavy on the Drake and Empire of the Sun, while green and woody Sandara serves up Bon Iver and Death Cab for Cutie. And then, there’s Ephemera, which creates fragrances based on musical reverberations and resonances. So far, perfumer Geza Schoen has developed Bass (a leathery wood scent), Drone (herbaceous and spicy), and Noise (a smoky, spicy floral) in collaboration with musicians, who wrote tracks to accompany each one.

So even though music might seem unrelated to your beauty routine, your brain cells say otherwise. Next time you want to switch out your scent or give your skin some TLC, turn up the volume on whatever you have on repeat at the moment—and maybe take a mood-boosting dance cardio break for good measure.

Sad music can be good for your health, too—science shows it can give you a mood boost. And if emo tunes aren’t your jam, here’s the exact amount of time you need to exercise for that post-workout high to kick in.

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