The Power of Scent | Q&A With Catherine Campbell, Founder of PerformScents

Specific scents have the power to transport us back to certain moments in time. Whether it's the sweet warmth of vanilla from baking with our parents as a child to the uplifting citrus aromas that take us back to the warmth of summer, scent plays a powerful role in recalling specific memories.

But what if certain scents could also help us to focus? That's the idea behind PerformScents, founded by Catherine Campbell. Balancing her studies as a Part One Architectural student while starting up her own business is no mean feat, but PerformScents seeks to help other students as well as adults working from home to discover how scents can help us concentrate on whatever tasks we might have at hand. Here, we interview Catherine to discover the inspiration behind her new venture, and how certain scents can help to enhance our wellbeing. 

What inspired you to create PerformScents?

My first recollection of scents and the benefits they could deliver, was on family trips to Arran as a child. I would visit the ARRAN Sense of Scotland shop in Brodick, see the staff making the soaps and watch the process. The memory and the wonderful smell always stuck with me.

A few years later when I was at High School, I was looking for ways to make my study time more productive and do something to calm exam day nerves. I started to explore scents at that point, experimenting with various things like scented lip balms, settling on essential oils. I researched the benefits of many different essential oils and selected specific oils to match the subjects I was studying, according to the science behind this process. For example, for Maths I selected Rosemary as it’s proven to help with memory. I would study each subject with each paired scent for months.

On exam day I wore that subject’s ‘PerformScent’ to that exam on a scented bracelet. Immediately I felt this familiar scent helped me to recall my hours of studying more easily. It also really calmed my nerves allowing me to remain calm on exam day. In the end, over 3 years this ‘Brain Hack’ helped me gain 15 As from National 5 to Higher then Advanced Higher.

When my younger sister Olivia started studying for her exams, we brought back the 'Brain Hack’ to see if it worked. She loved it and got 7 As at Nat 5 and 5 A’s at Higher. I realised there might be an opportunity here to help students perform better and help with mental health and wellbeing matters. I wanted to help all students achieve their full potential. So, I set about turning my idea into a business and ‘PerformScents’ was born!

I wanted to help all students achieve their full potential. So, I set about turning my idea into a business and ‘PerformScents’ was born!

How are you feeling during these uncertain times?

This new decade certainly hasn’t got off to a good start! It’s been a challenging time for all, adjusting to working or studying at home. We’re all in unchartered territory however, I have decided to focus this positively on the creation of the business using the power of scents to help all students especially with their mental health and wellbeing. This is a concerning time and PerformScents will help. I see more people working from home and a working environment is no different from a studying environment. Having the right scent to motivate you and energise you throughout the day to boost your performance, is vital!

I have decided to focus this positively on the creation of the business using the power of scents to help all students especially with their mental health and wellbeing. 

I also discovered recent research that some essential oils have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. The presence of different types antimicrobial compounds found in some essential oils means that they are effective against a diverse range of bacterial, fungal, and viral pathogens. Essential oils such as Grapefruit and Lemon have shown in studies that they display antimicrobial properties against potentially harmful bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus faecalis, and Escherichia coli. One study comparing five essential oils found that grapefruit essential oil was one of the most powerful in its antimicrobial effects against MRSA. In a world now more focused on cleanliness, this is a great addition to keep your work environment fresh.

How can we use scent to enhance our wellbeing?

One thing that motivated me during the setup of PerformScents was the way in which a scent can instantaneously transport you or remind you of a memory from another time, place or person. The science behind this is pretty amazing! When you smell a scent, the scent receptors in your nose sends signals via the ‘olfactory lobe’ which is directly connected to your ‘hippocampus’, which is the memory centre of your brain and the ‘amygdala’, which is the process of your emotions. It’s therefore no surprise that scents can improve your performance and emotions. The right scents can provide calm and clarity, positively affecting your mental health and wellbeing.

Which scents would you recommend for alleviating feelings of stress?

From the PerformScents range, my go-to scent for alleviating feelings of stress would be Frankincense. It has a warm and deeply relaxing aroma. It’s ideal to use for moments of mindfulness.

Taking a long hot bath and washing my hair with Arran’s Lavender and Lemongrass Shampoo from it’s Formulas range is another great relief for stress. Lavender has wonderful calming qualities and the antioxidant properties in the Lemongrass along with its citrus scent has been shown to have positive effects on anxiety. Not only is this is a great way to unwind and lift the stresses and strains of the day, the familiar scent transports me back to those wonderful trips to Arran when I was a child.

Lavender has wonderful calming qualities and the antioxidant properties in the Lemongrass along with its citrus scent has been shown to have positive effects on anxiety.

Which scents would you recommend to help boost our mood?

Arran have a number of mood boosting collections such as Glenashdale. An invigorating morning shower using the Glenashdale Bath & Shower Gel, with its grapefruit and vetiver scents, followed with the Glenashdale Body Lotion will leave you feeling powered up and ready to go!

Other energising scents such as Spearmint and Cinnamon can really give your performance and mood the positive boost it needs. A few drops of PerformScents Cinnamon in my PerformScents ultrasonic diffuser in the morning can really kick start my day!

Do you have any tips for those of us who are working from home, or family members at school or university?

There is so much to learn at school these days. My advice to any parents with children at school or university would be that in order for your child to perform at their best on exam day, its vital that they start training their brain as soon as possible.

This is done by connecting the key PerformScents to the subjects that they are studying. The sooner they start using PerformScents, the stronger the connection their brain will make between that scent and that subject. Then when it comes to exam day, they just need to add a few drops of that subjects’ scent to their snap-on wrist band, which comes with the PerformScents ‘Study Bundle’, and they are all set! Not only will their memory recall be improved, but at the very least their nerves will be calmed by the familiar scent. It worked for me, my sister and for those we know who are using our products and techniques.

For those working at home, our ‘Work from Home Bundle’ also comes with a free guide full of hints and tips to help you improve your performance and productivity during your working day. Having a fresh smelling workspace makes your tasks more achievable, allowing you to perform better with less stress. In addition, sleep, fresh air, exercise, diet and hydration are so important too!

Find out more about PerformScents here, or follow on Facebook and Instagram

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