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Think about your favorite perfume for a second: Mmm, it smells delicious on your skin. But do you know what actually goes into the scent? There’s one distinct aroma that can be found in many popular perfumes, but chances are you missed it at first whiff. Enter ylang-ylang (EE-lang EE-lang). Heard of it? Same. Have no idea what it actually is? Neither did we. So we did the research. Here’s everything you need to know about the flower, most importantly, what does ylang-ylang smell like?

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What is ylang-ylang?

Ylang-ylang is a yellow, star-shaped flower derived from the Cananga tree. The flower can be found in tropical rainforests in India and parts of the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia. The scent itself comes from steam distillation, and the processing time can determine how potent the fragrance is in essential oil or perfume form.

What are the benefits of ylang-ylang?

The flower has a host of benefits (based on scientific research and cultural traditions), ranging from beauty (it’s known for its fragrance) to wellness advantages like:

1. It improves your mood. The ylang-ylang essential oil has been proven to reduce anxiety, depression and overall mood. In a 2009 study, the flower increased calmness in participants. Whether it’s applied directly onto the skin or inhaled through a diffuser, the components found in the flower can be a great stress reliever.

2. It can help lower blood pressure. There are no reports on ylang-ylang lowering blood pressure alone. However, when mixed with lavender, bergamot or neroli oil, it has the potential to get the job done, according to the Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing and the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation. It’s important to note that while it may help lower blood pressure, it shouldn’t replace any medication or treatment.

3. It reduces infections and alleviates pain. A compound called linalool can be found in ylang-ylang. It has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties (talk about a triple threat). The compound works to kill bacteria (like head lice), reduce infections (fungal) and ease any pain.

4. It acts as an aphrodisiac. There’s no research to back this claim. However, the flower’s calming properties have been linked to stimulating sexual desires and balancing mental health.

5. It enhances the appearance of the skin. The key ingredient—linalool—uses its anti-inflammatory to nourish, moisturize and repair the skin. In a 2017 study, the benefits include soothing skin conditions (dermatitis and eczema), clearing the appearance of acne and improving elasticity over time.

OK, what does ylang-ylang smell like?

As mentioned before, the ylang-ylang scent can depend on the distillation process. But the standard (and most popular) fragrance associated with the flower is a fruity, sweet and romantic aroma. (Think jasmine, neroli or carnations as references.) At other times, it can also give off rich, spicy and strong fragrance instead.

When produced into an essential oil, the potent (or the notes) can be labeled as one, two, three or extra. The extra level can be found in most perfumes and has the highest floral, sweet and fruity fragrance, while the other three levels can vary in radiance, pureness and floral notes.

Here are seven perfumes with ylang-ylang to try:

While you can depend on the essential oil to get that significant scent, ylang-ylang is known as the “perfume tree,” and is found in many popular perfumes. So, if you’re a fan, try scoring one (or two!) of these items to add to your routine for a beautiful, balancing fragrance.

Chanel

1. Chanel No. 5

Best Overall

This parfum has been a staple since 1921 for good reason. When people think of ylang-ylang’s scent, Chanel No.5 instantly comes to mind (along with the signature bottle of course). You’ll find the distinct scent with a blend of neroli, jasmine and vanilla too.

BUY IT ($340)

Macy's

2. L’Air du Temps by Nina Ricci

Best for Mature Skin

The blend of florals (like ylang-ylang, rose and jasmine) and spicy scents (sandalwood and carnations) make for a fragrance that can be used any time of day. It’s been a popular perfume for decades, and many still gravitate toward it today: “I have loved this perfume for over 40 years. The parfum spray lasts a long time after a few sprays on the body. Love it!!”

BUY IT ($71)

Ulta

3. Givenchy Amarige

Best for Summer

If you’re looking for a soft, light fragrance, look no further than this Givenchy pick. A blend of ylang-ylang, neroli, gardenia and tonka bean turns the eau de toilette into a sweet choice, especially for the warmer seasons.

BUY IT ($78)

Sephora

4. Dior J’adore

Best Floral Scent

Whether you’re into the figure eight design or the blend of fruity notes ylang-ylang, damascus rose and jasmine), this perfume is definitely a fan-favorite. With over 1,000+ reviews, Dior provides a feminine and fresh fragrance to fall in love with.

BUY IT ($75)

Nordstrom

5. Estee Lauder AERIN Beauty Tuberose

Best Warm Scent

We get it, sweet and light isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Thankfully, this parfum is a mix of warm and floral scents—thanks to ylang-ylang, sandalwood, vanilla and bergamot.

BUY IT ($240)

Sephora

6. Tom Ford Jasmin Rouge

Best Spicy Scent

Want a bit of spice in your fragrance? Tom Ford offers peppercorn, ylang-ylang, amber and jasmine to give that warm blend with a kick you’re looking for.

BUY IT ($250)

Anything else I should know about?

Ylang-ylang could be irritating to those with sensitive skin or severe skin conditions. Consult with a health professional or do a patch test first before incorporating the ingredient into your daily routine. Also, if you’re considering using it as an essential oil, mix it with a carrier oil (like jojoba, avocado or sweet almond oil) before use. Now, go forth and bask in the sweet aroma of the ylang-ylang (and get yourself that Chanel No. 5 too).

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