Hannah English has become my go-to girl for all thing skincare; partly because of her knowledgeable ingredient breakdowns, partly because of the dreamy, perpetual sunset vibe she creates on her feed (and frankly, I’m heavily invested in the progress of her impressive plant collection).
But I’ve also delighted in Hannah’s intelligent exploration of fragrance, which resists department store white flower staples (“bottled mediocrity!”) in favour of self-expression and plenty of skin testing.
Plus we have a shared opinion about fragrance in skincare products: that we wish it would go away.
“So for me, the fragrance in skincare is not doing anything for my skin,” explains English. “With skin, I’m always asking myself, ‘am I giving to my skin or taking away?’ and that extends to avoiding most essential oils and a lot of fruit or plant extracts.”
The issue of non-specific fragrance listings is something that frustrates the scientist in her. “It could mean almost anything, any number of otherwise undeclared ingredients, as it’s considered proprietary information… But more and more, with discussion around ingredient safety and plasticisers in particular, I’d love to see this practice abolished and for every single ingredient to be listed.”
But going fragrance-free with what she puts on her face doesn’t mean personal fragrance is off the agenda (that wouldn’t make for a very good Scent Selector story now would it?).
“I don’t like to put perfume on my neck or chest, because I’ve usually put skincare there!” says English. “So I apply before I get dressed on the back of my neck and the back of my shoulders – areas that won’t get any sun, because fragrance can be volatile and make UV damage worse. I also think it’s more intimate this way. Sometimes it goes in my hair, too,” she confides.
And while Instagram favourites like Black Saffron have tempted her to blind buy in the past, English is now all about that skin chemistry. “For me to want to try something, maybe the name and the story are intriguing, but I need to wear it and get a feel for it in my life before I want to buy it. For example, Flowerhead from Byredo has a beautiful story and name, but on me, wow, is it too much. Radio Bombay from DS & Durga has an intriguing name and story, but Rose Atlantic was more my match once I went to try them on.”
Her aversion to white flowers led English to two favourite notes. For home, it’s fig, and for personal scent, heliotrope. “It smells like humid walks in the springtime. I’ve got this incredible perfume from Regime des Fleurs called Cacti and it’s this bold heliotrope, it’s divine. But also I think hinoki is pretty trendy.”
The topic of “trendy” is a tricky one. English has so obviously mastered the balance between brains and beauty in her content, essential to getting cut-through on Insta. “I feel like those with the most nuanced take on a fragrance or other product don’t always get seen, because our lizard brains are just mindlessly scrolling, not consuming the media with intention,” she ponders. “It’s not enough to have painstakingly tested and described a product for Instagram, it must also be photographed in a way that catches the eye immediately,” she says.
“I think what makes a recommendation genuine is when you keep seeing it pop up on someone’s feed. It’s all very well to receive products for free and make one post about them, but if I keep seeing it on someone’s vanity, stories, skincare/makeup/beauty routines, I know it’s real.”
And increasingly, that real recommendation is why we increasingly reject glossy posed celebs, she believes. “Perfume and beauty ads have historically depicted thin white women in a sexualised sort of context. That’s a problem … we’re brainwashed to think we must smell bad and are dirty. Not OK.”
With creators like English setting the agenda from now on, those days are certainly gone. Brains and beauty from now on. So much more than white flowers.
Complete the sentence: I wear perfume because…
It’s self-expression, I can be anyone I want to be.
Do you have any scent memories from your childhood, weird or wonderful?
My grandma would often be making jam or stewed apricots, so I remember the smell of warm sugary apricot
A favourite smell from outside perfumery?
Eucalyptus – it smells like home.
Biggest trend in perfume at the moment?
I feel like a lot of the innovator brands are making unisex fragrances, and I’m living for it.
What’s the scent you would wear on a Saturday night?
For me, a Saturday night is often date night with my partner (and recent fiancée, you heard it here first). So I like to wear Rose Atlantic, it’s probably my signature scent even though I do mix it up a lot. It’s this incredibly unique salty rose skin scent, one of those where you just can’t stop smelling your wrists. I feel like me, only elevated.
And ditto for a job interview?
Balenciaga L’essence – it feels cool and collected. It’s green and almost watery, so it helps me to feel calm.
And what about on a dude?
Fig. Diptyque Philosykos. Delicious. It conjures the image of marble renaissance statues, wearing nothing but fig leaves.
Favourite new release fragrance and why?
Chanel Les Eaux Venise. It’s not that new now, but it’s pleasant and unassuming, like, what you wear when you just want to smell good and inoffensive. No one comments on how you smell, but they remember that you smell good.
Favourite classic scent, and why?
Jean-Paul Gaultier Classique. I appreciate its longevity and just the beauty of the tonka on the skin. It also looks perfect on the vanity.
The next fragrance you want to buy is?
I have 3 on my list – Vines from Regime des Fleurs, because of the brand’s description including “overripe citrus and indigenous fig”. I want to smell it and wear it first but it’s a fragrance for home and person too. The other one is Cowboy from Mondo Mondo – I absolutely LIVE for the bottle, it’s unisex, and the notes are grass, earth, leather, tobacco, coffee, cedar. I NEED to meet it. Finally, Arizona from Proenza Schouler
You’d never leave the house without?
I never, ever leave the house without sunscreen (Ultra Violette Queen Screen is my favourite).