To Bean or Not to Bean? Can Coffee Beans Truly Prevent Olfactory Fatigue?

At Scent Journer, we believe in a mindful approach to experiencing fragrances. Part of this experience is understanding how our senses interact with different scents, and one common issue is olfactory fatigue. 

In the world of fragrance shopping, you have likely encountered a peculiar yet familiar sight: Coffee beans in little glass jars, placed strategically at perfume counters in huge beauty retailers like Sephora. Many perfume enthusiasts claim that sniffing the strong scent of coffee beans between fragrances allows one to ‘reset’ the nose, preventing olfactory fatigue. However, is there any truth to this popular belief, or is it simply a myth perpetuated by popular culture? Let’s dive into the science behind this practice and separate truth from fiction!

What is Olfactory Fatigue?

Before diving into the coffee bean's role, we first need to understand what olfactory fatigue is. Also known as nose blindness or olfactory adaptation, olfactory fatigue occurs when the nose is desensitized to a particular scent due to prolonged exposure. This is why over time you may not be able to smell your perfume on yourself anymore, however, others around you may continue to notice and compliment the scent throughout the day. This phenomenon comes from our innate sensory adaptation and is a natural response of the olfactory system to prevent sensory overload and allow us to detect new odors effectively.

Why the Coffee Bean?

Now, onto the coffee bean itself. Coffee beans are renowned for their strong distinct aroma, which is often credited to their ability as a nasal palette cleanser. It is believed that the volatile organic compounds making up the coffee bean’s scent stimulate the olfactory receptors in the nose and ‘distract’ it, allowing the olfactory system to momentarily reset and enable you to continue smelling new fragrances after fragrance. However, you might be surprised to hear that the idea that coffee beans can ‘reset’ the nose is pure hearsay and lacks concrete scientific backing. 

An odor is made up of many small odor molecules in the air and our noses perceive that odor when these small molecules enter our nose and attach to just a handful of the few million olfactory sensory neurons in our nose, activating them and allowing us to recognize a scent. Moreover, each olfactory sensory neuron is specialized to capture a specific set of odor molecules meaning there is a further limited number of olfactory sensory neurons that can be activated at any point in time. So contrary to popular belief, when one sniffs coffee beans, the molecules in the coffee bean’s aroma could be occupying the neurons that the perfume fragrance oil would have attached to, resulting in the scent being masked and hence unable to perceive the smell in its entirety. There have also been studies proving that between coffee beans, lemon slices, and air, there was no difference in relief of olfactory fatigue in participants, thus fully debunking the myth that coffee beans can relieve olfactory fatigue!

So if coffee beans can’t prevent olfactory fatigue, what can? 

A Mindful Approach to Olfactory Fatigue

At Scent Journer, we believe in taking a mindful approach to experiencing fragrances. Here are some of our tips and tricks to prevent olfactory fatigue and keep our noses sharp! 

Use unperfumed surfaces: 

When sampling fragrances, it is best to test them on scent strips or other unscented surfaces depending on whether you have already sprayed perfume on your wrists or arms. This helps to minimize olfactory interference and allows you to smell each scent individually. It is also a good idea to avoid letting the strips rest on surfaces or against each other to prevent contamination of the scent with other fragrances or dirt.

Smell your skin:

As we are constantly exposed to our bodily scent, our olfactory sensitivity to our skin is heavily decreased, allowing it to act as the perfect neutral baseline (assuming you don’t have any perfume on). A preferred spot to use is the inside of your elbow.

Take breaks!

Allow for sufficient time between sniffing different fragrances to allow the olfactory system to reset naturally. You can also go outdoors or in well-ventilated areas to better expose the nose to different odors and prevent sensory overload. 

So the next time you’re on your next fragrance sniffing spree, skip the beans and keep on sniffing! 

Are you worried that your nose can’t differentiate between similar scents?

Here at Scent Journer, each of our fragrances is designed with a unique image and color in mind, featuring very different ingredients and notes that are sure to intrigue your olfactory senses. If you want a perfume that not only smells amazing but can also uplift your mood and enhance wellness, check out our range of mindfully formulated perfumes and find the perfect scent for you and your mood.


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