Interviews, Quotable Magazine

Wake up and smell the roses

‘Scentologist’ Sue Phillips is helping people recovering from Covid-19 get their sense of smell back.

One very common lingering side effect of being diagnosed with coronavirus is losing one’s sense of smell. Some people gain it back after a few weeks, but for others, it can take months.

‘Scentologist’ Sue Phillips develops scents for perfume brands, and is now shifting the focus of her talents to tackle this irritating side effect of the virus. Since May, the perfumist has helped over 60 people in New York City gain their sense of smell back, and is now working with scientists and doctors to further her work.

Can you tell us more about your scent-work and how you got started?

I came to New York on a vacation and instantly fell in love with the energy of the USA, so I immigrated here. I became involved in theatre groups and managed to perform at night in off-off Broadway plays to fuel my passion for theatre. Along the way I met a headhunter, Frank Shields, (Brooke Shields’s father) and because of my ability to speak and perform in front of an audience, he sent me for an interview with Elizabeth Arden. They felt that I would be able to motivate and inspire department store beauty associates about fragrance, as they also liked my British/South African accent! I had to be trained in the olfactory arts and met with perfumers and fragrance professionals. Along the way, I spent a day with a well-known marketing licensing guru, Jim Morton, who said to me, “Sue, become a fragrance expert!” I didn’t realize at that time how prophetic his advice would be!

Thank you, Jim Morton, for planting the seed and for encouraging me to follow my passion and to have the mindset to become a fragrance expert!

I was thrilled when I was hired to become the national training director of fine fragrance as my love for perfume stems back to my native home, South Africa, and the natural aromas of the exquisite African earth and flora. There are times I experience a familiar scent when going from one appointment to another in New York (usually in the spring and fall when the seasons change) and suddenly I am transported back to my childhood and the memories are palpable.

After years of working on developing perfumes for various brands, I established my company, Scenterprises Inc. in 1990 to share my passion and knowledge of fragrance. I have had a lifelong love affair with fragrance and have had a rewarding and exciting career in many blue-chip companies creating and branding fragrances.

I opened the first custom perfume studio in Tribeca, New York, which I called The Scentarium, and created custom fragrances for A-list celebrities such as Jamie Foxx, Katie Holmes, Zendaya, Susan Sarandon, Laurence Fishbourne and many others. I literally have created thousands of fragrances and The Scentarium was written up as the most popular destination for all aspects of fragrance.

How did you come up with the idea to help recovering Covid patients gain their sense of smell back?

Due to COVID, sadly, The Scentarium closed and I had to reinvent myself yet again. I wrote my book “The Power of Perfume – How to Choose it, Wear it & Enjoy it,” and over the last few months, due to my knowledge about fragrance, have been helping COVID “long-haulers” regain and rediscover their sense of smell. Three doctors– an ENT, neuroscientist & an integrative medical health doctor– have endorsed the work I am doing, and in the last 90 days, I have helped about 67 out of 70 clients overcome anosmia,​​ the partial or full loss of smell.

The way I have helped COVID-19 patients to regain their smell is by helping them understand how important it is to ‘retrain’ their brain and to SMELL with their BRAIN!

Can you tell us a little more about how that works?

I explain it this way: From the second we are born we smell and breathe. No one teaches us how to smell because it is an automatic response, and so we go through life smelling anything and everything and not really paying attention to it!
Anosmia is not new– millions of people have lost their sense of smell from various catastrophes: car accidents, pneumonia, viral problems and of course, now, COVID.

One relatively positive thing about COVID is that it has accelerated ‘awareness’ of sensory loss. Suddenly people realize how devastating life can be without their sense of smell. So what we do is take our clients on a ‘Scent Healing Journey’ by showing them our beautiful perfume ingredients, and help them to see if they can:
–Smell anything at all?
–Try and identify if it is pleasant… or if it is fresh, woodsy, floral, fruity, if it reminds them of a masculine or feminine scent?
–Determine what fragrance family it belongs to? Flowers, Spicy, Woodsy, etc.

It becomes very emotional when they can actually smell different aromas and their reaction is palpable. We repeat the process and usually after the first ‘journey’ they are able to smell again. Usually my clients are able to smell after about 45- 60 minutes, and it lasts. I do invite them to practice with our Olfactory Rediscovery Kit, as it is important to engage their receptors constantly. The fact that I have been in the fragrance industry for many years and am a fragrance expert has helped me articulate and describe fragrances, by the way I talk about aromas and guide my patients to discover their olfactory receptors. In fact, my new book “The Power of Perfume” was written during COVID and describes how important fragrances have been throughout the centuries.

I find that I also get emotional when my clients can finally regain their sense of smell and I am truly humbled that I have been able to help them. I also believe that the quality of my fragrances makes a huge difference, as they are complex and multi-faceted and the ingredients are not single-notes– so the client really is training their brain to smell again. Many people have found us by searching online for Smell therapy or a Fragrance Expert. I am so motivated to help as many people as I can to rediscover the joy and magic of fragrance.

That is so incredible! What a wonderful gift to be able to give to people.

I feel so grateful that I found what I love to do and that I have been able to help people feel better about themselves and also to help those regain a positive attitude through fragrance. I am also grateful to my mom for giving me a love and appreciation for music and art-– all of which are so connected to fragrance!

Connect with Sue Phillips

Photos Courtesy of Sue Phillips

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