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What Is Musk? Why Is It Used In Perfume?

Posted by: Perfumeaddict, on: Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Have you ever wondered where your perfume comes from or how it is created? This sweet scent coming from a bottle you bought in the fashion store is such a mysterious thing come to think of it. It is a liquid that produces a very strong smell that you apply to your skin to make it smell good as well. This perfume is actually made of “musk”.

You may have heard of this term but did you know that this word refers to various things. Initially, it was coined for the smelly substance, which can be obtained from the male glands of a musk deer. The musk deer is a mammal that does not have antlers like most deer but have a musk gland which is used in the perfumery business. The word also originated from the term “muska” which is Sanskrit for “testicle”.

Going back in history, during the 19th century musk obtained by natural means was used frequently in the perfume business before synthetic musk was introduced to the market. Musk was used most commonly as a “base note” in perfumes..

Musk in Fragrance Notes

Notes or fragrance notes” are like musical notes in that they make up the perfume scale. In order to have a good smelling perfume you must be able to have the 3 note scales all mixed together in a proper way. These three are called the “top note”, the “middle note, and the “base note.”

The “base note” which is made of musk is the one that makes the lasting impression. This type of fragrance note appears after the top note has already evaporated and it works together with the middle note to make a fuller fragrant experience. This is the type of note that stays in your skin for several hours making you smell good the whole day. They are usually from various substances such as sandalwood, vanilla, and others but the most popularly used is “musk”.

How is Musk extracted?

Natural musk is extracted by first killing a musk deer. This may sound very barbaric but in the olden times, this was the norm - they killed an animal in order to make perfume. What they do after killing the musk deer is to cut off its musk gland or its testicle and then dry it under the sun. Other procedure of extracting musk from the deer is by dipping the gland in very hot oil.

Musk Deer Extinction

Since killing deer extracted musk, this led to a widespread sudden drop in the population of the musk deer. Hunters driven to acquire musk from these deer did not care enough about them to the point of their extinction. Fortunately, with new policies and laws placed to protect the musk deer, killing of these poor deer are now forbidden in several countries where they used to hunt for them.

Natural vs Synthetic Musk

Natural musk, due to its nature and molecular structure was one of the best base notes because they produce smells that really stick to your skin for hours. However, in order to procure these types of substances, you must have to kill a musk deer that is an endangered animal.

As a result, science was able to create a way to produce synthetic musk that was made in the laboratory instead of killing musk deer. It was more economical and more ethical this way, and the perfume industry accepted this type of practice because it was better for everyone. Plus, they still had the same effect as that of natural musk.

Other extraction methods for synthetic musk include collecting musk sacs which have been peeled off from the deer. There comes a point when the musk gland of the deer becomes very bloated and consequently itchy for the deer, it usually scratches it on rocks. This leads to the musk sac falling off, this is then collected and turned into synthetic musk.

With all these new methods, it’s safe to say that you need not worry anymore that your fragrance has committed violence against animal.

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