Fragrance Expert Tracy Wan Talks Boosting Your Mood With Scent

Plus, shop a few of our current favorite perfumes here.
Tracy Wan

Tracy Wan.

As we dive deeper into the cold winter months, many of us seek out ways to boost our moods. Whether that means investing in a light therapy lamp to treat seasonal affective disorder, meditating regularly to focus on our well-being or moving our bodies more frequently to keep our energy up, we all have our own ways of dealing with the winter blues.

One creative way of boosting your mood? Experimenting with scent. It’s no secret that particular aromas and fragrances evoke specific memories from childhood, like the scent of fresh-baked cookies or the smell of the first snow of the season.

To get a better idea on how scent and mood are connected, we reached out to writer and scent consultant Tracy Wan, who more than a decade ago turned her hobby for niche fragrances into a unique career, to learn more.

Four mood-altering scents to consider

“Scents definitely affect one’s mood, and depending on the type of mood that you feel like you want to be in, I think scent is a great tool,” she says. “It’s a great tool in your toolbox for adjusting or hacking your mood.”

Wan, who has taken courses at the Institute for Art and Olfaction in Los Angeles and studied at Grasse Institute of Perfumery in France, notes that several scents in particular have proven effects on mood.

“Lavender is very calming and people will use lavender spray on their pillowcases, for example, to go to sleep. Citruses, particularly bergamot, is good for brightening, for picking up your energy,” Wan explains. “And there are scents that are a bit more calming and comforting, like sandalwood. Depending on your sort of cultural associations with it, vanilla can be one that’s either comforting, like baked goods, or cookies and things like that, or some people find vanilla to be very alluring, as well, so you can wear that to boost your mood, feel more confident and more attractive.”

While lavender, bergamot, sandalwood and vanilla are known for their mood-altering properties, Wan says that when it comes to choosing a fragrance to give yourself a boost, it comes down to personal preference and individual scent memory, including the history and associations you have with a particular scent.

“I think it’s a great exercise to follow your nose a little bit and just to make mental note of the things that you respond positively to and seek those out when you’re out in the world smelling fragrances,” she notes.

In order to find your go-to fragrance, Wan suggests going into the process with an open mind. She also advises asking for samples at your local department store and taking time to see how a new fragrance adapts to your body chemistry before making a final judgement.

SI Lifestyle-approved scents

Below are just a few of our current favorite mood boosters.

Phlur Vanilla Skin Hair and Body Fragrance Mist, $20 (

There’s a reason why this product is regularly sold out.

Nette Opening Night, $30 (

This one features notes of bergamot, grapefruit and vanilla.

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Cara O’Bleness


Cara is a trending news writer/editor for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit. A passionate writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience in print and online media, she loves storytelling and believes that words have the power to change the world. Prior to joining the team, Cara worked as a writer and editor across a number of content verticals, including food, lifestyle, health and wellness, and small business and entrepreneurship. In her free time, Cara loves reading, spending time with her family and making her way through Michigan’s many microbreweries. She is a graduate of Michigan State University's School of Journalism.