scent memories

Mona Kattan Hates the Smell of Rubber Gloves

Photo: Elizaveta Porodina

Call it the Proust effect: Memories are often triggered by smells. Scientific studies confirm that, of all the senses, smell offers the best recall. In Scent Memories, the Cut asks people about the scents they associate with different times in their lives. Next up is Mona Kattan, sister of Huda Kattan and Global President of Huda Beauty. Mona also is the co-founder of Huda Beauty’s first sub-brand, luxury fragrance line KAYALI. KAYALI, (which means “my imagination” in Arabic), emphasizes layering fragrances and currently consists of four scents designed to work together to help you build your own unique scent. The Cut caught up with Kattan to talk May roses, candle wicks, and rubber gloves.

My first scent memory is: Rosewater and sugar. It goes back to when I was in Tennessee growing up and my parents used to bake these Arabian feasts. Something we’d try to do every holiday was bake an Arabian version of baklava and they would use this beautiful rose water when they’d bake, and I just remember the whole house would smell like rosewater and sugar. It’s such a pretty scent and delicious too! Arabs put rose water in everything.

Happiness smells like: My parents, and my father in particular, I’m a total daddy’s girl. Every time we’d have family gatherings, my dad would always pick jasmine flowers. All the houses we had or the apartments we ever lived in, there were jasmine flowers everywhere; he’d always find them somehow. He’d always pick me a jasmine flower and I’d keep it by my bed forever, until it was dry and would wither away. I remember the smell being so beautiful and comforting.

Love smells like: Roses and vanilla. I remember wearing it on the first date I ever went on, and even today, every time I smell it I think of those butterflies you get before a date that you’re excited about. I always feel romantic when I smell roses and vanilla; I find it so cozy and warm. My home smells like roses and vanilla too, I like to be in that state at all times.

Friendship smells like: Citrus, because it’s energizing. Every time I smell orange blossom, or pink grapefruit, or lemon, I think of happiness and empathy, which makes me think of my friends.

Heartbreak or loss smells like: I don’t associate many smells with negativity but if I had to pick one: Burnt candles, like when the wick is burning. Every time I’ve gone through depression or heartbreak, I usually light candles, and they’re so beautiful when they’re lit, but when you blow them out, you have that few seconds where you smell that burnt wick.

Regret smells like: Have you ever smelled your hands after you’ve touched stainless steel? That weird, metallic smell? That reminds me of regret. Maybe it’s because every time I touch it, I instantly regret it because it’s so hard to get that smell off your hands … but it’s this bitterness that doesn’t smell good or energizing, it just makes me feel kind of sick, which reminds me of regret.

Success smells like: The mixture of leather and amber. They’re both super luxurious and that blend makes me think of a brand new car with leather seats or a new bag.

The worst smell is: Rubber gloves. You know when your hands smell like rubber gloves? And you’re like how do I get this smell off my hands? To me that’s awful, and again, it takes forever to get that smell out.

Vacation smells like: Coconuts and vanilla. Any time I smell those coconut body sprays, it reminds me of being on a beach and it just transports me to Thailand or Mexico; somewhere tropical and relaxing. Coconut perfumes or candles just transport you to holiday mode.

Sunday morning smells like: Coffee and sleep. It’s interesting, a lot of brands nowadays are working on coffee fragrances which I think is awesome, I’m a coffee addict, so I love seeing coffee included in their juices. There’s one brand specifically, Atelier Cologne created something called Café Tuberosa and its absolutely stunning. It’s energizing, but not too energizing. It’s perfect for a Sunday morning.

Monday morning smells like: Coffee again, but with mint this time. Actually, my father, funnily enough, put together a really interesting mix the other day when we were mixing fragrances. He mixed coffee, oud, mint, and lavender, and it was such a beautiful fragrance. It was super powerful and energizing, yet refreshing at the same time.

If I could have one smell on my hands forever, it would be: Roses, specifically Rose de Mais absolute. It’s a rose that only grows in Grasse and it’s an ingredient we use in two of our fragrances in our first collection. It’s a really special rose, and I actually went to Grasse and picked the roses myself, and it’s got a really beautiful story. This woman actually created this special rose type hundreds of years ago when her family was going into bankruptcy, and it actually saved her family. Today there are only two fields in Grasse that grow this rose and it’s so beautiful, so special, and it’s very expensive. [laughs]. Only really top quality brands will actually use this rose because it’s so pricey.

I smell like: A million layers. Our hashtag is #EveryLayerofMe. When we created Kayali, we wanted to emphasize that everybody has so many layers to themselves and we encourage the concept of layering many fragrances. I used vanilla, rose, jasmine, oud … pretty much everything. If I had the time, I’d literally layer 20 perfumes before leaving the house. I smell like a big combination of Arabian perfumes.

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Mona Kattan Hates the Smell of Rubber Gloves