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Creams For Better Dreams

The new bedtime regimen isn’t just about stellar skin, it’s about putting you in a better head space. Ready for drift-off?

AROMATHERAPY is hardly new: from ancient Greece to hippie co-ops, dabbing your body with essential oils or soaking in a lavender-laced tub has been credited with enhancing your state of mind. But now, beauty brands are spiking their face creams with aromatic formulas, hoping the direct path to your nose will intensify the effect (with the bonus of smoothing out your wrinkles!).

“Depending on the fragrance and the percentage of essential oils in it, skincare can have a major effect on your mood,” says Mary Leber, a consultant for Kneipp, which sells products featuring essential oils to energise and calm the senses. Once you apply it to your face, the scent travels a short distance through your nostrils, up your olfactive nerve to your limbic system, which plays a key role in your emotions, memory, and subconscious mind.

AT Elizabeth Arden, the scent of the new Ceramide Night Cream and Overnight Firming Mask (left) was developed specifically for its relaxing effects. A complex blend of vanilla, sandalwood, musk, and tonka bean, the fragrance has proven to mellow people out. It was tested via subjects’ self-assessment and also through MRI brain scan measurements. The cozy-smelling night cream activates the neurons in the areas of the brain associated with positivity and reward. (The cream and mask also pack in anti-ageing benefits not typically seen in most aromatherapy-based skin care. Both are rich in skin-plumping ceramides and hyaluronic acid, and the night cream has a brightening complex.)

“Aromatherapy is a form of herbal medicine,” says Amy Galper, Founder and Executive Director of the New York Institute of Aromatherapy. She points to linalool as an example: the molecule, present in plants like geranium (in Bobbi Brown’s balm, above), was shown to reduce stress in lab rats in a 2009 study.

Even snoozy old lavender (in Clarins, above) was recently proven therapeutic. Last year, the herb was part of a study in an intensive care unit. The results showed that inhaling lavender improved patients’ sleep and calmed their anxiety. But even in the best of circumstances, there is no guarantee of sweet dreams—once you’re asleep, your sense of smell dulls, says Michael Breus, PhD, a sleep expert. However, you may be able to increase your odds. The scent of roses has been proven to have a positive effect, according to a German study. Researchers pumped the floral scent into the air, then in a different sleep sesh, pumped in sulfur. The rose-tinted dreams were a lot more pleasant.

By: Jessica Matlin