Want to Increase Your Longevity? Practice Sensual Wellness

After decades of creating brands for entrepreneurial startups and major corporations, we finally decided it was time to create our own. We named it Everlusting, to reflect the excitement and positivity we were feeling as we chartered the next phase of our lives.

Our big aha? We had a hunch that igniting our senses would enrich our lives and increase longevity.

As long-time beauty industry veterans, we always considered ourselves “sensory beings.” And after years of inhaling a wide variety of aromas while developing products and perfumes at Estée Lauder and a slew of other beauty and fragrance companies, we both developed a pretty good “nose”—the term used to describe a person with the knowledge of a large variety of fragrance ingredients and their smells.

Our sense of touch was educated through years of slathering countless creams, gels, lotions and potions of various textures on our face, hands, body and hair.

The ever-brilliant Leonard Lauder taught us to hear the subtle—but distinctive click of a compact snapping shut. “It should sound elegant—like a Mercedes Benz door closing.” And he told us time and again (to make sure we heard him) that “Every brand needs its own fraise des bois.”

A fraise des bois is the otherworldly strawberry found deep in the woods throughout the Northern Hemisphere. It tastes like no strawberry you’ve ever eaten. Intensely flavored. Rich and powerful. Everything about it is magnified. It reminds you why the Greeks saw the strawberry as a symbol of Venus, the goddess of love.

We learned that strawberries don’t need to taste like some day-old mass-market berry found in every supermarket aisle. They can be transcendent. You just have to pick the right ones. Yup, Leonard Lauder shaped our sensory awareness.

And of course, the beauty industry dazzled us with a wealth of visual stimuli. From the sumptuousness of skin to an ever-expanding kaleidoscope of makeup colors and textures.

But, as we dug deeper into Everlusting, we were blown away by all we didn’t know about the power of our senses. And when we learned more, we realized there was something much bigger that needed to happen.

A Revolution

Turns out, our senses are vital to us well beyond our pleasure and aesthetics. They are the next frontier in personal care driven by a growing understanding that our senses are critical for our mental and physical health and well-being—and longevity! Sadly, this critical component of longevity has been missed from the wider conversation.

For instance: we learned that as we age all of our sensory functions—not just sight and hearing, but smell, taste and touch (often called our Cinderella Senses because they have been so ignored) become less sharp and gradually decline, impacting our diet, safety and physical, mental and emotional quality of life.

“Whoa, that may be true for the elderly but not me,” you say. Before you dismiss this as something far off in the future, know this:

Nearly 1 in 4 Americans (or 23%) older than age 40 report some alteration in their sense of smell. Approximately 1 in 15 Americans (or 6.5%) older than age 40 experience what’s called “phantom” odor perception—smelling unpleasant, bad or burning odors when there are none. And 1 in 20 Americans (or 5%) experiences persistent dysgeusia (dis-GYOO-zee-a), a disorder characterized by persistent distorted taste. Dysgeusia is more commonly reported in women (who make up 64% of reported cases).

Nearly 1 in 4 Americans (or 23%) older than age 40 report some alteration in their sense of smell.

Many of these losses sneak up upon us gradually. We miss the nuances—as the Washington Post recently reported, “Because the ability to detect, identify and discriminate among odors (for instance) declines gradually, most older adults—up to 75 percent of those with some degree of smell loss—don’t realize they’re affected.” Until wham—it’s too late.

These conditions distance us from the pleasures of life—great food and drink, friends and family experiences, partaking in cultural activities. That is not on our agenda and shouldn’t be on yours either!

To meet the moment and describe our awakening, we coined the term “Sensual Wellness.”

What Is Sensual Wellness? And Why Do We Need It?

Before you get all hot and steamy, we’re not talking about Sexual Wellness—a definite trend that has taken shape and is also sorely needed. Sensual Wellness is all about intensifying our senses. A vital branch of self-care, health and wellness rarely acknowledged or fully appreciated. And a major must-have as we age.

Our sensory awareness of smell and taste in particular has often been overlooked and undervalued. For instance, until 2020, smell loss ranked just below a hangnail in importance. According to a 2011 study, 53% of those ages 16 to 22 and 48% of those ages 23 to 30 said they would rather give up their sense of smell than their smart phone!

Then, along came COVID-19. And the sensory landscape changed dramatically. More and more people experienced anosmia (the clinical term describing total loss of smell) or parasomnia (having a warped sense of smell so coffee no longer smells like coffee it smells like sewage).

According to US News and World Report, 86% of patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms—or more than 6 million people—reported problems with their sense of smell. Researchers were besieged with requests. “Find me a cure.” Unfortunately, to date, there are none. And while many who lose their sense of smell due to COVID regain it over time, others will not.

Anosmia is not just a consequence of COVID. Until middle age, our normal sense of smell regenerates itself about every 28 days. Every month you get a nose full of new olfactory neurons. But as we get older, the number of olfactory neurons in the nose die off and are not replaced.

Imagine waking up and not being able to smell the coffee! Or being unable to stop and smell the roses. Imagine the inability to smell trouble—a gas leak, a burning stove, smoke or a bottle of sour milk. Or for that matter, not knowing when something smells fishy. The New York Times reported: “Studies have linked anosmia to social isolation and anhedonia, an inability to feel pleasure, as well as a strange sense of detachment and isolation.”

That would never work for us—and it shouldn’t work for you.

Even more shocking, but true, a poor sense of smell has been shown to be the first warning sign of progressive neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. So, if you think something smells fishy—or not at all—it’s time to see the doctor.

The Potential to Rebuild Sensory Capacity

But before we get all doom and gloom about, we’ve also sniffed out some good news. While long-term data is still sorely lacking, experts agree we can start to enhance our sensory capacity and perhaps even rebuild it. Also, it seems likely that increasing olfactory stimulation can improve memory, as Michael Leon noted in this Generations Now article.

We met with experts from Monell Chemical Senses Center, the world’s only independent, nonprofit scientific institute dedicated to interdisciplinary basic research on the senses of smell and taste. We interviewed cutting edge start-ups that are exploring the sensory world. We learned about some major advances and new techniques that are being used experimentally to keep and even kick-start our declining sensory systems.

https://www.fifthsense.org.uk/‘Our mission is to help people avert sensory loss and indulge in sensory living by helping them become super-sensers.’

Right now, researchers and academic experts in the U.S. and UK, such as The Fifth Sense (the charity dedicated to smell and taste disorders) are exploring ways to strengthen the connections between our olfactory system hardware in our nose and our brain—which is the software that processes them.

The idea that our sense of smell can be improved via training might seem strange at first, but the more you think about it, the more sense it makes. After all, going to the gym and lifting weights can improve muscle mass and tone, and practicing the guitar regularly will (hopefully!) improve proficiency.

So, can spending time sniffing 4 categories of odors fruity (such as lemon), flowery (such as rose), spicy (such as clove) or resinous (such as eucalyptus) twice a day for 30 seconds each improve your ability to detect aromas? According to research, you bet! It’s called Smell Training.

And right now, scientists such as Dr. Steven Munger and Professor Carl Philpott are validating this simple at-home activity.

“Smell training is a tool we can use in rehabilitation. While it doesn’t work for everyone, there is good evidence for using it in different causation groups. Some smell testing becomes cultural (cultural specificity)—in other words a familiarity with what that odor is based on experience with it,” Dr. Steven Munger told the audience during the Fifth Sense Conference in 2021.

Other research is looking at the decisive role that Vitamin A (Retinoic Acid) might have in the regeneration of olfactory receptor neurons.

So Welcome to Everlusting!

Our mission is to help people avert sensory loss and indulge in sensory living by helping them become super-sensers, or someone with a heightened sensitivity to any—or all—of our senses. Not just for our generation, but those who are coming of our age. Because the sooner attended to, the sharper they can stay as they age.

Get ready to feel the sparkle of bubbles on your tongue when sipping Champagne. Find your own fraise des bois. Start preparing more colorful meals including a vibrant mosaic of greens, reds and purples. Think of it as Carpe Sensus—seizing your senses. Igniting, stimulating, detonating, awaking, activating, provoking, stirring and inciting your senses to improve the quality of your life for the rest of your life.

Robin Albin and Daria Myers are long-time friends and colleagues, and well-known leaders in the fields of beauty, wellness, lifestyle and sustainability. They met and bonded as part of the Skunk Works team that created the Origins Brand for The Estée Lauder Companies. After inventing and reinventing more than 50 brands (including the Origins brand for the Estée Lauder Companies) for major corporations and entrepreneurial ventures; they have founded their own brand, Everlusting. “Shedonists” at heart, they bring their authentic and deeply human knowledge of the 50-plus target audience and a lust for living. Both are very passionate about their current position in life, they come at it from very different vantage points.

Photo credit: Shutterstock/LarisaL

Oct. 7 is Ageism Awareness Day, find out how to engage with ASA here: https://asaging.org/ageism-awareness.