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 Courtney Somer, founder of Lake & Skye, the clean and crisp fragrance line known for its aromatherapy-oil blends, floral waters, cult-favorite candles, and celebrity-loved scents. Today, the brand launched its fourth fragrance, Côte du Paradis, a sunny spritz that smells like a toasty summer spent on the French Riviera, with notes of palo santo, almond, tonka bean and vanilla. The Cut caught up with Somer to talk about the wisest of all essential oils, morning pet therapy, and her nighttime face routine.
My first scent memory: I always think of my mom and a ton of kitchen smells. She was born and raised in Williamsburg, she’s very Italian, and she was a huge baker and cook. Every Sunday was about fresh herbs and rolling the pasta, and every time I’d come home after school, the kitchen was full of sweets and treats that she baked.
Happiness smells like: The beach. I grew up on Long Island in the ’80s, so when I was a kid, we used to go out to Montauk and Jones Beach. They were very different places in the ’80s than they are now. We used to drive our Suburban on the beach with the back down, with the kids all hanging out. To this day, smelling the ocean, being outside with the sand, and all those amazing smells remind me of happiness.
Love smells like: My kids, hands down. The smell of my two girls, especially as babies, up to how they are now. It’ll be interesting to see how that smell will change as they grow up.
Regret smells like: Failed hangover cures. I haven’t done it in years because I stopped drinking a long time ago, but back like 20 years ago, regret probably smelled like drinking a ton of lemon water, eating a bunch of food, getting outside, sleeping, and none of it really working to get rid of the hangover in the end.
Success smells like: Fresh wildflowers like lilac and lavender. That may sound strange, but I feel like the day has been successful if I’ve been present and aware, versus those hectic days that just fly by and I’m like, Oh my God, what just happened? How did this all get done? When I’ve taken the time to get fresh flowers, either from a farmers’ market or by picking them with my girls, it makes me feel like I’ve truly taken a moment. Having them there makes me remember that I paused for a second — not to literally stop and smell the roses but to be more present and remember everything I’m doing in the moment.
My ideal vacation smells like: Right now, a change of scenery. It smells like palm trees, colorful flowers, crystal-clear water, fruity drinks, and sunscreen.
My home smells like: Jasmine and frankincense. I have two hydrosols, or floral waters, that I use all the time, both for myself or before someone’s coming over, so I’m always spraying down the house with both of those smells.
The first thing I smell in the morning: My dog or my kids. Usually it’s my dog that wakes up first, and no matter what she smells like, it always smells good. She’s a Brittany, and she spends a lot of time outdoors because she loves to run, but she sleeps at the end of our bed, and as soon as there’s any movement in the bed, she’s right in your face. I joke that it’s like my therapy, petting my dog, because it’s just so amazing — her whole smell, everything about her, it’s exactly how I want to be greeted in the morning. If have to get up early or I don’t see her for whatever reason, it’s like I’ve missed a whole part of my routine.
The last thing I smell before I go to bed: I use essential-oil blends, usually frankincense, lavender, or bergamot, and rub them on the bottom of my feet. I do it for my kids as well — oil on the bottoms of all our feet before bed. That way, when you go to sleep, the smell just rises up over you. It’s a really nice way to absorb smaller amounts of essential oils.
A scent or smell I love that others usually don’t: In my house, it’s frankincense. My husband thinks it’s awful; he thinks it smells like an older man, and he doesn’t understand why I like it. I’ll sometimes lean more toward jasmine because it’s a crowd-pleaser, but there’s something about frankincense. It’s just been around for centuries, it feels almost like ancient wisdom, and has so many great healing properties.
I work with someone whose sole purpose and passion in life is to travel around the world and find and source essential oils. When he first introduced me to his frankincense, he described it so well. You know when you’ve been driving around so much that your windshield has all these bugs and debris on it? He said when you use frankincense on yourself, it’s like cleaning off your windshield and you can finally see clearly again. It’s also really good to use before a meditation or during yoga; it clears the air and resets the stage in a way. In New York City, I used to use it like armor. You’re out in the city all day, around so many different energies and sights and sounds and people that, at the end of the day, I just want to clear it all, and sometimes a shower can’t do it.
I smell like: A laboratory. I’m always testing what we have, and right now we’re working on three new fragrances, so I have three different swipes on each arm to compare. My girls are always telling me that at night, I smell like serums. I don’t make facial products, but I love to test and try other people’s. I use so many different ones, and I change it up a lot. When they lay next to me, falling asleep, they’re like, “Mom, what did you put on your face tonight? What is that?” And I’m like, “I’m sorry. I know, some of them are better than others.” Lately, I probably smell like Vintner’s Daughter serum, and I’ve always loved Everyday Oil. It’s so great to use all over — my hands, my face when I’m feeling extra-dry. I even use it on my kids.