1. Introduction to Fixatives

Fixatives play a crucial role in the world of perfumery and fragrance, contributing to the longevity, depth and overall composition of a fragrance. Simply put, fixatives are substances used to stabilize and preserve the aroma of perfumes and fragrances, ensuring that the scent lingers on the skin for an extended period of time. These substances are typically added in small amounts, but their impact on the overall fragrance is significant. Fixatives are often derived from natural sources, such as plant extracts, animal secretions or synthetic compounds carefully designed to mimic their natural counterparts.

2. Improving longevity and sillage

One of the primary functions of fixatives in perfumes and fragrances is to enhance their longevity and sillage. When a fragrance is applied to the skin, its volatile top notes evaporate relatively quickly, leaving behind the heart and base notes. Fixatives help slow the evaporation of these deeper notes, allowing the fragrance to linger on the skin for longer. They bind to the fragrance molecules and release them gradually, providing a more controlled and prolonged olfactory experience. By incorporating fixatives into the formulation, perfumers can create fragrances that linger delightfully throughout the day and leave a lasting impression.

3. Adding depth and complexity

Fixatives also play a critical role in adding depth and complexity to perfumes and fragrances. They act as a bridge between different fragrance components, helping to blend and harmonize the different notes. Fixatives have distinctive olfactory profiles that can add a unique character to the overall fragrance composition. For example, animal-derived fixatives such as musk or ambergris add a warm and sensual quality to fragrances. Similarly, woody or resinous fixatives, such as vetiver or incense, add depth and richness to the fragrance. By incorporating these fixatives strategically, perfumers can create multi-dimensional fragrances that evolve over time, revealing different facets and nuances.

4. Natural and Synthetic Fixatives

Fixatives can be derived from both natural and synthetic sources, each offering its own advantages. Natural fixatives, derived from botanical or animal sources, have been used in perfumery for centuries. They include ingredients such as benzoin, labdanum, civet and ambrette seeds. Natural fixatives often have a complex aroma profile and are valued for their depth and authenticity. However, due to ethical and environmental concerns, the use of certain animal-derived fixatives has declined in recent years, leading to the development of synthetic alternatives.

Synthetic fixatives, on the other hand, are created in a laboratory and designed to mimic the olfactory characteristics of natural fixatives. They offer several advantages, including consistency, stability and sustainability. Synthetic fixatives are often used to replace animal-derived fixatives, ensuring that fragrances remain cruelty-free and environmentally friendly. Common synthetic fixatives include Musk Ketone, Ambroxan and Iso E Super. Perfumers often combine both natural and synthetic fixatives to achieve the desired fragrance profile, striking a balance between tradition and innovation.

5. Examples of Fixatives in Perfumery

There is a wide range of fixatives used in perfumery, each contributing its own unique flavor and properties. Here are a few examples:

  • Musk: Musk fixatives, whether natural or synthetic, add sensuality, warmth and depth to fragrances. Often used as a base note, they can create a long-lasting and seductive scent.

  • Ambergris: Derived from the waxy secretion of sperm whales or synthesized in the laboratory, ambergris has a distinctive marine and earthy aroma. It adds complexity.


What is fixative used for?

Fixative is used to preserve and protect various types of materials, such as artwork, photographs, and biological specimens. It is applied as a spray or liquid to prevent the deterioration and damage of these materials over time.

How does fixative work?

Fixative works by creating a protective layer over the surface of the material it is applied to. It contains chemicals that help to seal the material and prevent it from smudging, fading, or becoming damaged by moisture, light, or handling.

What are the different types of fixatives?

There are various types of fixatives available, depending on the specific use and material. Some common types include aerosol fixatives for artwork, archival fixatives for preserving documents and photographs, and histological fixatives for preserving biological tissue samples.

Can fixative be used on all types of materials?

No, fixative is not suitable for all types of materials. It is primarily used on porous surfaces like paper, charcoal, pencil, pastel, or chalk drawings, as well as certain types of photographs. It may not be suitable for use on non-porous surfaces or materials that are sensitive to the chemicals in the fixative.

Are there any precautions to take when using fixative?

Yes, there are some precautions to consider when using fixative. It is important to use fixative in a well-ventilated area or outdoors to avoid inhaling the fumes. Additionally, it is recommended to follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer and to test the fixative on a small, inconspicuous area before applying it to the entire material.