Listen Up: Scent and Sound Pairings Are Influencing the Next Wave of Sensory Beauty Products

Photo: W+G Creative
It's news to no one that life in 2023 is all about efficiency. We get our groceries delivered by strangers, we take work calls from the Peleton, and 12-step skin-care regimens have given way to efficient, multi-use products that cut our routines in half. All of this considered, it makes sense that when we do have time to spend on self care, we want to make it count.

Thankfully, home fragrance and perfume brands have picked up on this sentiment and found new ways to market and serve their offerings to their (arguably stressed, tired, and burnt-out) customers. In a crowded beauty space, shelling out high-quality products is no longer enough, forcing brands to reconsider what more they can offer to people's routines. This has given rise to an influx of "sensory" beauty products, which turn everyday beauty practices into full-blown wellness experiences.

"Engaging in your senses is a great strategy for reducing that sense of fight or flight [that accompanies] anxiety," says Alison Stone, LCSW. "These feelings often get 'trapped' in the body, so we want to look for somatic ways to introduce calmness and safety into our nervous system." Sensory beauty is another avenue to employ your senses to get out of your head and into your body—hopefully, one that is also well moisturized.

Over the past few years, we've largely seen these sensory formulas use texture (like Yon-ka's new gommage body exfoliant) and scent (like Vacation's beach-inspired sunscreens) to introduce mindfulness into people's routines. But the latest iteration of sensory products on the market stimulates a new sense entirely: Sound.

Experts In This Article

Chances are, you've experienced the instant mood boost that comes along with listening to your favorite song, but the link between sound and well-being extends beyond our individual AirPods. Studies confirm that certain auditory stimulants (like Tibetan meditation bowls and artfully-crafted beats) can evoke positive emotions. Now, brands are finding ways to integrate this relationship into their product offerings. Keep reading to find out how.

How brands are pairing scent and sound

Given that smell and hearing are the two senses most capable of spurring emotion and memories, it makes sense that fragrance brands have primarily led the charge in establishing sound as the next frontier of sensory beauty. To do this, many have begun releasing a musical component in tandem with new scents.

"I believe music and fragrance are the two quickest ways to change one's mood, and playlists are a great way for everyone to get into the vibe of the specific perfume," says perfumer David Moltz, co-founder of D.S. & Durga. He views each fragrance in the brand's repertoire as a little world capable of being expanded with music (along with words, images, and sometimes film) to create an experience that taps into all of your senses. Many of the brand's perfumes are launched alongside a playlist, allowing you to fully immerse yourself into that "little world"—instead of simply spritzing yourself with an Italian Citrus-scented fragrance, why not play some Italian beach party tracks, too?

In 2020—a time when everyone needed a little extra sensory and mental health care—industry heavyweight Aesop began offering five playlists to accompany its products: "Hosting," "Task at Hand," "Mondays," "Midnight," and "Bathing." "We have always preferred to be discovered by smell and sound rather than through loud signage and florid displays," says Aesop's Chief Customer Officer Suzanne Santos. "The soundtracks of our stores, offices, treatment rooms, and soirees have always been calibrated to steer the mood, guide exchanges, and provide an atmosphere that might inspire, calm, or occasionally provoke. Sharing this with our customers was a logical step," she says of the brand's musical additions.

Glasshouse Fragrances founder Nicole Eckels similarly started offering a musical supplement for the brand's fragrances about four years ago to create a more sensory experience. "The purpose [of incorporating sound] is to feel more calm, grounded, and mindful. It's an escape in a good way and a way to feel better, to reconnect with your environment in a pleasurable way," she says. "We've created playlists that go with different scents so that when you're smelling something, you experience [music] that [pairs] with it to get you in that space, that feeling we hope that you feel."

Tatcha, a skin-care brand, found its own unique way to introduce sound into its offerings. To accompany the launch of the brand's new Indigo Calming Ritual, a four-product collection designed to relax the mind and support the skin, the team worked with PlantWave technology to turn the biorhythm of indigo plants into music. "

"We began studying the skin-mind connection and learned how what you hear, touch, taste, smell, and see impacts your state of mind, and in turn is reflected in your skin," says a representative for the brand. "Studies show that listening to natural sounds like wind, water, and bird song soothe our nervous system and encourage healing, so we thought this could be a great opportunity to care for the skin holistically."

To develop the soundtrack for the Indigo collection of products, "[Our tech] monitors the activity of plants, reads the subtle micro-activity changes in conductivity within the plant, and translates that into pitch," says PlantWave founder Joe Patitucci. "Those pitch waves are translated into music." Syn's Nick Wood then composed the eight-minute track "The Song of Indigo," designed to be played when someone uses the products in the ritual.

In truth, this concept of deriving pleasure from your beauty routine seems to be lost in our race for the most efficacious ingredients and formulas possible. But practicing self-care and deriving joy from it isn't simply about reaching the end goal of smoother skin or softer hair—it's about the bliss that can accompany a sensorily rich daily regimen.

Sound & Sensory Beauty is More Than Just a Trend

"I think holistic wellness is becoming very mainstream, and people are definitely interested in exploring multiple avenues for helping with negative thoughts and anxiety," says Stone of the rise of sensory beauty and sound pairings. "Integrating a variety of resources is a great strategy in that you have a multitude of options to choose from if one is not readily accessible."

Coupled with other sensorial components like texture and scent, sound pairings can amplify the mental and emotional benefits you receive from your daily beauty routine. And best of all? If your favorite brand has yet to release a soundtrack for your go-to products, Stone suggests that you can always create a playlist of your own to pair with your morning routine. "It's all about finding the genre that puts you in a good headspace," she says.

Whether that means a soundtrack of crashing waves or a few guilty pleasure songs, sound pairings are the next noteworthy phase of sensory beauty, an industry shift we can all feel good about.

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With our latest podcast, Routine Rundown, senior beauty editor Zoë Weiner sits down with the top beauty minds in the biz to dive into the buzziest beauty trends of the day—while also swapping recs for their use-to-the-last-drop products. Be the first to listen in each week by signing up for eps delivered straight to your inbox.
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