You Don’t Even Want To Know Where Musk Comes From

Musk is just about everywhere, but do you truly understand what it is? You might do a double take once you know its origin.

From Chanel No. 5 to Axe, the compound is used in nearly everything that you can spray onto your body. Its complex structure provides some heavy notes while keeping a fragrance’s lighter notes from evaporating too quickly.

But its origin is a bit less glamorous. Without going too far into the woods here, musk was originally an animal secretion that smells like urine. In the earliest days of making musk, the musk was processed — stripped, dried and soaked in ethanol — to end up smelling more like a humid afternoon doing laundry in the forest: sweaty, wooly and lightly sweet.

“Musks sometimes smell very fruity, sometimes floral. Always soft,” said Will Andrews, a principal scientist at P&G Prestige, an arm of Proctor and Gamble that designs perfumes for labels such as Hugo Boss, Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci. “They are a paradox as far as these things go. They’re very heavy, that’s why they hang around the forest. What they do in the population, they float like a feather. They allow ingredients to project off the skin while at the same time softening it.”

But there’s no need to worry about the commercial musk that you’re wearing today. “These things are really highly unacceptable in today’s world and we don’t use animal derived ingredients at all anymore,” said Andrews.

But here’s a little more background about where musk originated, for curiosity’s sake.

Musk came from a sack in front of a deer’s penis:

Male musk deers, cute little guys with fangs instead of antlers who live in northern Asia and Europe (think Russia and Mongolia), mark their territory and mate by spraying from their musk —> Read More

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