Does Fragrance Have the Power to Boost Your Mental Energy?

We tried The Nue Co.’s Mind Energy eau de perfume to find out.

A lifelike doll of a redhead woman lying on the stairs in a park
“Washington, D.C.” photographed by Juergen Teller for W magazine

Where do you begin when choosing a fragrance? Maybe you’re seeking something fresh, citrus-driven, and natural at first hit; perhaps you want a heady, carnal scent, the type of smoky, hedonistic allure that’s become almost synonymous with Tom Ford’s opulent range. Then there are boutique scents like Patrick Kelly’s Sigil, which take on an almost spiritual quality, embodying place, energy, and experience. The process of selection is personal—perhaps more so than any other category in beauty.

Lately though, a new perspective on scents is taking shape that is less about top notes, identity, or even raw and synthetic ingredients, and focused more on function. Enter The Nue Co., a fragrance brand that launched with the release of its perfume Forest Lungs—a tart, woodsy fragrance promising lower stress—and Functional Fragrance, which pledges to help reset your mind during times of intense anxiety. The Nue Co.’s latest scent is Mind Energy, a peppery, velvety aroma developing buzz for its ability to boost mental energy and focus. The company’s own clinical research suggests noticeable improvements in productivity and alertness after 30 days of use.

Will we be replacing mid-afternoon coffee with a spritz of fragrance, or reaching for Nue’s cherry-red bottle in the hours before deadlines? Four editors tested The Nue Co.’s Mind Energy, and gave their honest opinions.

Ashley W. Simpson

What’s your typical approach to fragrance?

My approach to fragrance has always been quite intuitive—about as far from analytical as you can get. I alternate between layered androgynous scents (anything Byredo or Commes des Garçons) and fragrances that remind me of home (Tom Ford’s Soleil Brulant). I’ve rarely thought about function or anything like alertness or productively when selecting a perfume.

Describe your experience using the Mind Energy scent.

The fragrance arrived at the perfect time. I was on my way home from Europe to Honolulu for the holidays, and ready to tackle what is always epic jet lag using any tools available. I was in a total haze, on multiple deadlines, and generally awake at all the times I was supposed to be asleep and half-asleep during waking hours. I have to say, I think it worked. It has a fresh, assertive scent that hits you with a wave then slowly envelops you, softening with time. In terms of effect, I’d say it’s less a strong cup of coffee than a subtle breeze of alertness. Even if it’s 100 percent the placebo effect, I’ll take it. I used Mind Energy once I was getting going in the mornings, usually just as I started working and needed an extra boost. I do think it would be worth integrating into a routine, as an added layer when your energy is low.

Beyond its effect on mental alertness and productivity, did you like the scent?

This is where I’m a bit torn. Scent is such a personal thing and I tend to go for headier, less citrus-y options. It smelled almost clinical on me at first, giving way to a warmer, woodsier clove aroma. I can’t see myself using this for the scent alone.

Will you continue using it?

I’ve found myself reaching for Mind Energy on long days. I also tried it when I had a cold. I definitely would recommend it for a minor boost, and if you are drawn to fresh, peppery scents, it may be ideal.

Maxine Wally, Senior Digital Editor

Which fragrances do you usually wear?

I must clarify that I do not have a notably discerning sense of smell. Lots of things smell and taste very good to me—I have an equal opportunity nose. My sister, W magazine’s senior visual editor Oona Wally, is much more delicate when it comes to fragrance, and is particular about what she wears. Lately, though, I’m loving Issey Miyake’s A Drop d’Issey, and am obsessed with Henry Rose’s Flora Carnivora perfumes.

What did you think of The Nue Co.’s Mind Energy scent?

I wanted so badly to be skeptical of Mind Energy’s efficacy. There’s no way a perfume can make me feel invigorated or less stressed, I thought to myself. But after using this fragrance just once, I noticed a difference in my energy levels specifically. A few spritzes of this scent around the crown of my head gave me an instant boost. I can’t speak to whether or not I was more focused, but I definitely felt like, Let’s get down to business as soon as I smelled Mind Energy. It soon became an association in my brain: okay, I’ve sprayed Mind Energy. Now, I can work.

Apart from its practical uses, did you like the smell? Would you use it again?

I did like the citrus-forward scent of Mind Energy, and I would absolutely use it again. In fact, my sister, that discerning nose, has picked it up on occasion as well—I notice, right when she’s about to embark on a big project during the workday.

Maryam Lieberman, Contributing Beauty Editor

What’s your relationship to fragrance?

I have a very loyal relationship with my two personal fragrances. It’s been almost ten years and I diligently wear one for day and one for night.

I wear Energizing Fragrance by Shiseido for daytime. The notes are so beautifully crafted together: they’re light, very clean, and sexy, even if it’s not a particularly commanding scent. I feel uplifted when I wear this scent. For evenings, I like to go with something really chic and sentimental. There is a black label scent from the couture houses that my mother used to wear in the ‘70s in Iran. I pick up a few bottles when I go back to Europe or find them online. To this day, every single time I wear it, I travel back in time to when I was a child, marveling at my mom while she gets ready to go out. The scent grounds me, makes me feel safe, and epitomizes glamor. In my late teens and early twenties I use to wear Must de Cartier. It was gorgeous, musky and deep. But I’m over that now. My fragrance doesn’t need to arrive into the room before I do.

Describe your experience using Mind Energy.

I loved Mind Energy; I love the bottle, and love to see it perched on my makeup table. Not just because it’s something we tested out for Four Editors Try, either—I legit wear it now with the Shiseido fragrance in the daytime. They both smell a wee bit similarly and the ingredients of The Nue Co. perfume truly do enhance my focus. According to my daughter, I need to bathe in it. I have ADHD and many homeopathic doctors have suggested scents to help me focus in the past, so I am a believer in olfactory healing. Maybe it’s the geranium and juniper that I smell, which make me feel more focused and cheerful.

Did you like the scent?

Yes, I like the scent very much. It’s a clean-smelling fragrance that settles nicely onto my body PH. I will continue using it for many reasons: not only am I hooked on the scent and its effects, but it’s also clean in the sense that it’s free of phthalates, toxins, and hexanes. I feel relieved that I am not spraying anything toxic on my body.

Tori López, Lead Fashion Assistant

Do you have a signature scent?

I absolutely adore wearing fragrance. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found there’s something particularly alluring about smelling nicely. For the past year or so, Tobacco Vanille by Tom Ford has been my right-hand—it’s the perfect amount of sweet and spicy (just like me). Usually when I choose perfume, I look for something vanilla-based. I’ve rarely ever considered mental energy to be a contending factor when choosing a scent.

What was using Mind Energy like for you?

I was actually introduced to The Nue Co., specifically their Functional Fragrance, when I first moved to New York City. At that time, I really felt a difference in my level of stress at work—so I was excited to try Mind Energy for this column. I had no idea how vibrant the color of Mind Energy would be, and was wonderfully surprised when I unpacked it. It’s honestly quite a beautiful bottle. Similarly, using it was a dream, as I expected. I would spray it on myself a couple times throughout the workday—and over the course of the past 30 days, I have found that my attentiveness, multitasking, and focus greatly improved. In the life of a fashion assistant, that’s a major plus.

Did you like the scent?

I did enjoy the scent very much! The Nue Co. products in general remind me of a luxe spa day I am always so desperately craving.

Will you continue using it?

Absolutely. This fragrance has now earned its rightful place on my work desk so I can use it when I come into the office first thing in the AM. I don’t plan on moving it any time soon.