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Sandalwood: Ingredient Guide, Info, Smell & More!

Sandalwood is often described as a combination of deep woody scents, but there’s a lot more than what its name gives away.

Sandalwood’s smell is distinctly rich, creamy, earthy, warm, and exotic at once.

The fragrant oil has been used in Buddhist and Hindu religious ceremonies for thousands of years.

Buddhists, especially, believe that the sandalwood smell helps with focus during meditation.

Because of its coveted aroma, you can find many sandalwood-based products.

It has been a mainstay in labels of perfumes, soaps, and cosmetics.

What is Sandalwood?

Sandalwood originated from a slow-growing tree of the genus Santalum Album, a native evergreen tree of Southern India.

The Indian sandalwood tree is considered the best smelling and highest quality sandalwood, but others may come from Indonesia, Pakistan, Australia, Hawaii, and Bangladesh.

Hence, unsurprisingly, sandalwood has been called many names: East Indian sandalwood oil, white saunders oil, and santal oil.

The sandalwood tree grows anywhere from 8 to 12 meters in height.

It has smooth, fragrant bark with a gray-brown color, numerous short stalks, and small flowers.

Now, sandalwood oil is derived from trees at least 15 years old, but the full maturity of this evergreen tree requires 60 to 80 years, thus making sandalwood one of the most expensive woods out there.

In fact, it’s only second to African Blackwood when it comes to the most expensive woods in the world.

Because of such high demand, sandalwood trees are never cut down; they’re typically uprooted to maximize profit.

This is also why this evergreen tree is one of the threatened species today.

What Does Sandalwood Smell Like?

You probably won’t be surprised that sandalwood has a deep precious-wood aroma.

It’s easily recognizable that sandalwood aroma is often put in a category of its own. Sandalwood is adored for its long-lasting combination of woodsy and sweet scents.

It doesn’t smell like a synthetic fragrance at all.

Sandalwood oil has an incredible unique aroma, with distinct warm, rich, creamy, smooth, and exotic notes blended at once.

But despite its complexity and a signature fragrance, sandalwood works excellently as a base scent for perfumes.

Sandalwood oil blends well with another earthy and woody fragrance to create an uplifting aroma with excellent depth.

It works especially great with sweet vanilla, vetiver, patchouli, rosewood, Italian cypress, and cedar.

Its well-known long-lasting fragrance is also why sandalwood is a popular element in many beauty products and perfumes.

What Scent Family is Sandalwood?

There are four primary fragrance families: fresh, floral, oriental, and woody.

Sandalwood belongs to the woodsy aroma category.

Woody fragrances like the sandalwood scent have a specific, opulent woody aroma derived from either tree, bushes, roots, barks, or resin.

Wood ingredients add warmth, elegance, and richness to a fragrance, especially in perfume-making.

Fragrances that dominate the woody family include sandalwood, pine, cedarwood, vetiver, and patchouli.

The woody olfactory family can be further categorized into sub-families by adding herb, fruity, white florals, or a spicy scent.

For example, sandalwood mixed with other oriental notes like amber and vanilla can be under the ‘woodsy oriental’ sub-family.

What are the Benefits of Sandalwood?

Used for centuries in Ayurvedic, Chinese, and Indian folk medicines, sandalwood oils have many traditional uses and health benefits.


The captivating sandalwood aroma is a powerful aid to calm the mind during meditation.

It has a therapeutic effect that can help relieve anxiety and stress and provide better overall mental health.

The mild sedative effects of sandalwood essential oils also help promote healthier sleep.

Natural Stimulant

Despite its calming effects, sandalwood essential oil is often used in Ayurvedic medicine as a mild stimulant.

When applied to the skin or inhaled, sandalwood oil can trigger a slight increase in blood oxygen saturation, skin temperature, pulse rate, and breathing rate.

Its essential oil is considered a natural remedy to improve your cognitive function, focus, and mental clarity.

These physiological effects of sandalwood are primarily because of its compound Alpha-Santalol.

Natural Astringent

Sandalwood essential oil is a potent ingredient in many beauty products for its antiseptic properties.

It helps smoothen the skin and treat dandruff.

A sandalwood aftershave can also prevent beard itch.

Its natural, mild astringent properties provide the skin with maximum hydration, acting as a conditioner to make your skin healthy.


The best sandalwood oil has secondary benefits of fighting free radicals and fine lines.

It can help reverse aging and give you an even-toned complexion.

Real sandalwood also has anti-inflammatory properties, the same benefits as the tea tree oil, and can reduce any stinging sensation.

Is Sandalwood Masculine or Feminine Scent?

Sandalwood has a definite strong smell, so many would consider it a masculine scent.

It’s also commonly found in a range of colognes and products for men.

However, sandalwood smells blended with other floral notes like orange blossom can have sweet notes found commonly in women’s perfumes.

Because of its unisex nature, you can buy sandalwood perfume for women or a sandalwood cologne for men in most perfume stores.

Best Perfumes with Sandalwood Notes

1. Guerlain Samsara

Jean-Paul Guerlain’s Samsara features one of the purest sandalwood fragrances blended with jasmine notes.

It has an intense opening aroma that mellows down into a powdery, soft woodsy perfection.

2. Gucci Bamboo

This eau de parfum for her from Gucci boasts a warm foundation with sandalwood base notes and an Italian bergamot top note.

The mix of ylang ylang and lily completes this perfume’s confident yet feminine attitude.

3. Boss Bottled Night by Hugo Boss

The Boss Bottled Night has a specific woodsy aromatic fragrance for men with its sandalwood base note.

You can smell sandalwood with sensual musk and Louro Amarelo wood nuances.

The Bottom Line

Sandalwood is among the most precious and priciest oils that can give you a signature, long-lasting aroma and also provide incredible benefits for your skin and health.

But, what does sandalwood smell like?

It smells like subtle wood and earth, a singular combination that blends well with other fragrances.

Due to extremely high demand, sandalwood comes at a price.

However, considering its aromatic and therapeutic benefits, sandalwood makes it worth the costly price tag.

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