“Swallowable Parfum is a cosmetic capsule that enables human skin to emit a genetically unique scent about who we are and how we perform our identities. Once absorbed the skin becomes a platform, an atomizer; A biologically enhanced second skin synthesized directly from the natural processes of the body, redefining the role of skin.”
Swallowable perfume—! Is this the logical outcome of precarity, atomisation and hyper-individualism—to reassert yourself, now, as a human atomiser? The vagaries of genetic difference and skin chemistry now allow you, as the ad breathily encourages, to “Go beyond accessory. Express uniqueness. Swallowable perfume: a new cycle of evolution.” Only five years after the Lululemon sweatable perfume hoax debuted, it has already become reality.
And why not. Today, the body is undoubtedly the newest site to be perfected through technology; following on from external appearance, personal scent couldn’t have been that far off. Swallowable perfume, the brainchild of body architect Lucy McRae and synthetic biologist Sheref Mansy, is, as the name suggests, an edible capsule. It’s made of synthetic lipid molecules and hijacks body’s own enzymatic fat-metabolising processes to release its own fragrance molecules seeded within. The scent then gets expired through the skin like microbeaded sweat.
It’s not the only new product that turns on edible fragrance either—remember that favourite old chestnut, the one about a rose by any other name? A few years ago, a Japanese company developed Otako Kaoru, a chewing gum that doubles as deodourant (the name literally translates to ‘men’s fragrance.’) It includes menthol, as well as geraniol, a rose-like fragrance compound that is popular in essential oils, mosquito repellents, and even commercial tobacco. Not unlike its analoges found in garlic, cumin, cardamom or asparagus, it’s a compound that the body is unable to break down. As a result, it’s instead expelled through perspiration.
Using the same principle is Deo Candy, which takes the form of a hard-boiled sweet, wrapped up in packaging suspiciously reminiscent of feminine hygiene products. Like the gum (and many other nutricosmetics, it’s sugar free—ingesting stray calories in the name of
looking smelling better would presumably be a travesty—and also smells of roses. In this case, the flowers come from Bulgarian rose oil, but it’s easy to imagine ritzier luxed up versions. Perhaps a version of Chanel no 5, sourcing from the famous rose and jasmine fields of Grasse? I’m wondering, too, how long it will be before the human body becomes just another billboard for smellvertising, in the tradition of SXSW’s disastrous try at homeless-as-wifi-hotspots. In the service industry, meanwhile, will brand-fragrancing candy become a mandatory part of employee uniforms? After all, one Chinese airline is already having its recruiters sniff tests on potential pilots to make sure they meet the job requirements.
This may seem like mindless speculation, but it’s worth noting that these edible fragrances might potentially have staying power far greater than more traditional perfume formulations like eau de toilette or eau de parfum. One serving, or four pieces, of the candy promises to scent a 145-pound person for around 6 hours. While there’s no information given about safety limits; it’s certainly worth exploring what might happen to the scent’s longevity or sillage.(I especially love the evocative industry term for this, which comes from the French word for wake—think ship or airplane trails. It’s used to describe the projection of a scent versus how intimately it sticks to the skin of the wearer.)
Worth noting too, is the bonus side effect of any product containing geraniol: it’s a strong natural mosquito repellent (though it does at the same time attract honey bees). Natural perfume essential oils are already beginning to enhance food and cocktails; will we soon see rainy season specials like ‘Monsoon Mojitos; (or similar) containing rose and other geranoilics? Secondary products that somehow magically bind to nasal receptors to detect, neutralise or otherwise alter geranoil, in the manner of miracle fruit?