The Sensuousness of Sandalwood
by Rachel McCormack
The scent of Sandalwood is unmistakable. Warm, soft, and deep, it commands attention with a quiet authority. In perfumery, Sandalwood oil is valued for this distinctive aroma, and also its ability to enhance the longevity of a fragrance, which is why at Barbershop Botanicals we use it as part of our Sartorial blend. We wanted to know a little more about it and so we asked writer Rachel McCormack to shed a little light on its background.
Sandalwood was once in great demand as a material for furniture and decorative objects. Textiles kept in a chest made of this aromatic, beautiful wood emerge from it clean, smooth, fragranced, and free from attack by insects or mould. For perfume lovers, sandalwood essential oil is steam distilled, taking between fourteen to thirty-six hours, but creating a very high quality oil. Quality counts with sandalwood because any encounter with a degraded or counterfeit oil is guaranteed to be unpleasant. This is why people often shy away from this wonderful, versatile ingredient, and that’s a great shame because it offers so many benefits to body, mind, and soul.
Alongside strengthening and complementing floral, citrus, and other woods, sandalwood also soothes the mind and the emotions without making us feel sleepy or drowsy. On the contrary, it promotes a state of healthy alertness, helping us reach a level of focused attentiveness that’s only possible when truly relaxed. This explains why sandalwood is particularly prized as an aid to meditation and is an important ritual element in many world religions. It’s also highly valued in skincare because it absorbs well and leaves the skin feeling hydrated. However, its gentle astringency has purifying and calming properties, which makes it effective for soothing and evening the complexion.
Sandalwood also has antiseptic qualities and it’s this effect that makes it so useful in treating oily or blemished skin. It’s easy to forget this aspect of sandalwood because we tend to associate cleansing and clearing ingredients as being bright notes such as tea-tree or peppermint, rather than the warmer and woodier aroma of sandalwood. However, it’s worth remembering because it means it’s truly an effective ‘all-rounder’. East Indian Sandalwood Oil is also a staple in Chinese traditional medicine and in the Ayuverdic medical tradition, and is considered to aid in wound healing and adds a deeply emotional impact to any massage.
Rachel McCormack is a fashion and beauty writer based in London.