Swallowable Parfum: A New ‘Evolution in Cosmetic Beauty?


Dutch body architect and artist, Lucy McRae goes beyond technology by developing a cosmetic capsule which turns perspiration into perfume. But would this entice Maltese customers? Giulia Scerri asks how well this would go down with consumers.

Collaborating with synthetic biologist, Sheref Mansy, Lucy McRae created the ‘Swallowable Parfum’ –a capsule that enhances body odour, enabling the skin to release a unique scent that mirrors one’s identity.

Our skin becomes “a biologically enhanced second skin synthesised directly from the natural processes of the body, redefining the role of skin”, said McRae in the description given with the campaign video.

The fragrance molecules are perspired through the skin instead of through sweat stains, resulting in a ‘natural,’ pleasant smell. It is individual to each user. The capsule reacts to stress, exercise and sexual arousal.

When asked about the product, manager of one of Malta’s leading fragrance companies, Claire Abela said, “I must say once reading about it for the first time, since it is something so different and innovative, it catches one’s eye and makes you realise how gradually, what was once impossible, is becoming possible. As a perfume enthusiast myself, I see where Lucy McRae is coming from as it is always more personal for one to have his or her own signature scent.”

However, this capsule stimulates debate about the body as being perceived as the platform of technology. Is this a good idea?

Lucy McRae’s invention is still being tested and a release date has not yet been scheduled. As part of her designs, she created a surreal but vivid short video to depict these possibilities of scent and scientifically enhanced beauty. Can this be the beginning of a new world surrounded by technological fantasies?

“Since full details of this project have not yet been released, I would not recommend it to the consumer, if only for the fact that there is a limited amount of information about it all”, Ms Abela said. “Besides this, I believe that part of the joy of wearing my fragrance comes from the spraying effect and the beautiful sensation once the fragrance settles on your skin.”

When it comes to Maltese consumers, Ms Abela believes that it would take a while for the product to kick in. “From what I have read and seen, I believe this product would be more appropriate for the younger generation – therefore, I would go for a young and striking marketing campaign.”

Professor Pierre Mallia, Associate Professor in Family Medicine, Patients’ Rights and Bioethics at the University of Malta who is also the Ethics Advisor to the Medical Council of Malta, notes that “creating such synthetic things places a strong philosophical question on ‘being’ and ‘life’ itself.”

According to Prof. Mallia, “no immediate problems with synthetic biology can be expected unless there are side effects. But ‘playing God’ is a warning that we are not omnipotent and that we can never know all the consequences. This does not mean prohibiting progress but moving with caution and taking note of the concerns of the public.”

Guest author: Giulia Scerri