Canvas & Concrete fragrance primer ~ product review

Canvas & Concrete fragrance primer

Canvas & Concrete: Is it a new Comme des Garçons fragrance? The recipe for a DIY bomb shelter? No, Canvas & Concrete is a fragrance primer designed so that “scent will not mix with your ph or body funk” and “the scent is true to what you smelled in store or in a magazine and what the designer intended.” All over the product’s box and website is splashed “lasts all night.”

I’d like to believe I’m reasonably funk-free, and I prefer my fragrances to smell like they came from a bottle and not a magazine’s scent strip. Plus, at night when Canvas & Concrete purports to be doing its major work, I’m normally sleeping. But I do wear perfume during the day, and I was eager to give Canvas & Concrete a try. I love reapplying fragrance — a different fragrance, usually — after the office and when I’m home, but some of my favorite scents vanish well before lunch. Could Canvas & Concrete work for them?

Canvas & Concrete sprays on clear with a faint scent of alcohol and, strangely, glue. Within five seconds it’s scentless, and two thorough sprays leave a vague shine to my forearm. The Canvas & Concrete box says it’s “all-natural” and lists its ingredients as SD alcohol, Aloe Vera leaf juice, butylene glycol, acrylates/acrylamide copolymer, tocophenyl acetate (vitamin E acetate), Cucurris Salivus (cucumber) fruit extract, Chamomila Recutita flower leaf (Chamomile) extract and water.

My first fragrance primer experiment was with a 1970s Christian Dior Miss Dior Eau de Toilette. This version goes on like a symphonic orchestra of moss, fecal leather, sparkling green, and white flowers, but when it fades it’s as if someone turned the orchestral broadcast off with a click of the dial. One minute, it’s full and luscious, and the next minute — kaput.

I applied two sprays of Canvas & Concrete on one forearm, waited ten or so seconds for it to dry, then sprayed two of Miss Dior over it and another two sprays on my other, unprimed forearm. Yes, the Miss Dior on the primed forearm did persist another three hours or so longer than the untreated arm, but what really interested me is how the primer slowed down the fragrance’s development. Normally, this particular Miss Dior wastes no time going to castoreum land (I swear the funk is Miss Dior and not me, despite what Canvas & Concrete implies), but with the primer Miss Dior stayed in balance as it wore. The perfume’s castoreum was definitely there, but it hung back and dissipated slowly.

Since all-natural fragrances are notoriously short-lived, next I tried Aftelier Cuir de Gardenia. Before breakfast, I dabbed liquid Cuir de Gardenia liberally over one slick spray of Canvas & Concrete on my wrist. Miraculously, the primed Cuir de Gardenia lasted until dinner. But you know what? So did the perfume on the untreated wrist, although it was a little more faint. This is one natural fragrance with stamina.

Thursday morning I had acupuncture, so I didn’t want to go too wild with perfume. I thought a simple dab of extrait would do, but somehow I ended up with a bottle of Rochas Femme parfum in my hand. (It was about a thousand times more glamorous than the eucalyptus massage oil that wafted through the treatment space, but my acupuncturist is a good sport.) Here again, by lunch time the Femme on the untreated wrist had melted into a whisper of oily sandalwood, but on the treated wrist its heart of cumin and peach still lingered.

Finally, I put Canvas & Concrete to the big test: DelRae Mythique. I’m mad about Mythique, but it has just about no sillage and lasts at best a few hours on my skin. I sprayed the primer on one forearm, then doused both forearms with Mythique. Canvas & Concrete didn’t do anything about Mythique’s meager sillage, but it did slow the fragrance down, and I could actually still smell its suede and iris (quietly) a full eight hours later, about four hours after the perfume on the other arm had disappeared.

So, is it worth it? Canvas & Concrete is $19.50 for a 100 ml bottle. Not bad at all. Still, I have gallons of fragrance. I don’t mind reapplying scent, I don’t go in for a lot of beauty products, and I enjoy choosing a fragrance that blends with my chemistry. Yet I'm intrigued by how Canvas & Concrete rebalanced my vintage Miss Dior, and I could see using it with perfumes that plunge headlong into their base notes (hello Bal à Versailles). Plus, if you have a signature scent, you might value having something that slows the perfume's development and stretches it a few hours longer. If you live in fear of using up a particular discontinued fragrance, you might like to try Canvas & Concrete, too. 

To order Canvas & Concrete fragrance primer, see the Canvas & Concrete website

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  1. austenfan says:

    I swear Mythique lasts all day on me, and has good sillage. It’s not the bombshell that some of the earlier Delrae’s are, but it’s not faint at all.
    The product sounds interesting. Did you try it with any colognes?

    • Angela says:

      You’re so lucky to hold Mythique well!

      I did try it with a vintage Vol de Nuit EdC–not a traditional Eau de Cologne–and it extended its wear a few hours without changing how the perfume developed, really. It wasn’t anything astonishing, so I didn’t write about it.

  2. Merlin says:

    Wow, this sounds amazing. I think my skin just burns through perfume very fast, so I seldom get to experience the top notes for more than a few seconds. In fact, most perfumes are quite linear on me – I think thats because the notes that are first to go – go fast.

    • Angela says:

      I was really surprised at how Miss Dior didn’t just last longer, but the fragrance smelled different–better balanced. I don’t know that C&C did much on me to extend the top notes, but it did seem to dampen and extend the basenotes while hanging on to the heart–the “substance”–of the fragrance.

  3. Erin says:

    I admit I’m a tad confused. Is this just an almost scentless moisturizing spray, basically? Or wouldn’t a moisturizing spray do pretty much the same thing?

    • Angela says:

      That’s a good question. I’ve had good luck with some moisturizers making scent last longer, but I know shea butter seems to eat it right up. In fact, I’m not 100% sure how it works. The spray can’t stop body heat from dissipating the scent. Maybe it stops the scent from mixing with skin oils and breaking down that way? Chemists, help!

      • Merlin says:

        Yeah, I used petroleum jelly for a while – but it felt yuck, and then I used a balm of some kind of bees wax but it also seemed to just absorb the perfume. I haven’t yet tried jojoba oil or grape seed oil…

        This does sound good though. And if one has a ‘peculiar’ skin chemistry then the price seems worth it.

        • Angela says:

          I wish I understood more what “peculiar” skin is. Is it ph? The moisture skin holds? It’s all so mysterious to me.

          • Merlin says:

            Can’t help at all, but I remember reading somewhere that noses like to test their perfumes on very particular people. There was a term for such people but I can’t remember it now. The point was that these people reflected the perfume back in the way the nose meant it and designed it. I assume this category of people have a kind of mid-way norm for moisture, heat, ph, etc.

            Then again I also know that some people hold that perfume hardly varies at all on different skin (the Turin view!) It seems obvious to me that some perfumes will differ in some degree. Perhaps not always and not always significantly.

          • Merlin says:

            Apologies for all the half memories and hunches in there!

          • Angela says:

            Gosh, if I had to apologize for all my half-memories and hunches, I wouldn’t have time for lunch! I like the idea of sort of a “model” skin, though.

          • Merlin says:

            : ) Well I certainly don’t believe in missing lunch – and thats one of my very few firm dogmas!

          • Angela says:

            And two lunches is even better than one!

          • kindcrow says:

            “Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.”
            — The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

      • Angela says:

        But lunchtime is one of the only real times of the day!

        • kindcrow says:

          Real, but oh so fleeting … :-)

          • Angela says:

            I agree. Thank goodness for dinner and breakfast.

  4. Rictor07 says:

    This cant be good for your skin if it so utterly blocks the perfume from mixing with your natural oils.

    • Angela says:

      After a week of use, my skin seems fine. So far…

  5. rickbr says:

    Dear Angela, thank you for being a guinea-pig with this product, i was very curious about it!
    Can i ask you another test, if possible? Do you have any classic cologne fragrance, like Eau Imperiale and Hermes Eau d’Orange Verte? I Was wondering if the primer would be able to enchane their very short-lived duration on skin

    • Angela says:

      I do have some Eau Imperiale. My skin is covered with Ylang 49 right now, but I’ll do the Eau Imperiale test and report back tomorrow night!

      • Angela says:

        Okay, I tried it yesterday with Eau Imperiale, and on me it didn’t make too much of a difference–both the C&C treated and untreated arms were nearly scent-free by lunch.

        • rickbr says:

          Too bad, i had hopes that it would make Eau Imperiale last more :(
          Thanks for the testing!

          • Angela says:

            You’re welcome!

  6. flannery says:

    I bought a bottle of the Canvas & Concrete several months ago and I find that it seems to work better with some fragrances than others. I’ve done lots of one arm with versus one without tests with a wide variety of fragrances and while I haven’t been able to come up with any kind of commonality among the ones it works best with, I can definitely verify that it does help with longevity with some.

    I haven’t perceived the slowing of development you mention, but that may be my own skills of observation or lack thereof :)

    • Angela says:

      I know just what you mean–I couldn’t say, for instance, that C&C makes perfume last 30% longer or any kind of blanket statement like that, because it didn’t play out that way for every fragrance I tested it with.

  7. sweetgrass says:

    I’m not a chemist, but I did a bit of googling about to see what the different ingredients do. The effects made me think of a perfume fixative material called Glucam P-20, which is derived from glucose, so I was curious if C&C’s ingredients had similar effects. GP-20 is described as a humectant, meaning it draws moisture to inhibit evaporation. It sounds like the butylene glycol and acrylate copolymer together do basically the same thing.

    • Angela says:

      Now, that’s interesting, and it makes sense to a non-scientist (me). I wonder what all the business is about skin ph? That seems to be another factor separate from moisture.

  8. juicejones says:

    I sprayed some Miss Dior yesterday. Oy! Not as I had remembered it. I used to love it. The new batch turned all old lady beauty parlor hair on me.
    I would like to give this a shot , but it takes ‘me’ out of the equation. Don’t like that part so much.

    • Angela says:

      I have a couple of Miss Diors around, and they all smell different, I swear.

      I know just what you mean about liking how fragrance can mingle with you and make something even better. Only a handful of perfumes really seem to melt into my skin and transform into a sort of “aura,” but they’re my favorites.

      • juicejones says:

        I think that compliment is what keeps me in the game. I enjoy the surprise, either outcome. I have very dry skin so when Fleur de Louis stays lush or Bandit does deep, I am euphoric.

        • Angela says:

          I definitely understand that.

  9. peter says:

    I wonder how it would work with my Giorgio Beverly Hills! :)

    • Angela says:

      Now you’re scaring me!

  10. Elia says:

    I heard of this from a fellow perfumista. Sounds interesting enough, although i have no problems with either skin chemistry or longevity issues so it’s not really a priority try for me.

    • Angela says:

      I bet C&C is best for someone with a signature fragrance and not much longevity with it. For perfumistas with plenty of options around, it might be less of a concern.

  11. CobraRose says:

    Isn’t “acrylate copolymer” a hairspray ingredient? I guess the idea is to form a film on the skin.

    • Angela says:

      I don’t know, but I’m not wild about the idea of having hairspray on my skin (or hair for that matter)!

  12. annemarie says:

    Like juicejones (above), I’m a bit skeptical. Not being made of paper, I don’t expect the fragrance I apply to behave as it would in a magazine. If I feel a fragrance is not behaving as it should on my skin, I usually just let it go because as you say, there are plenty of other fragrances out there. I have never assumed that perfumers develop a fragrance for an ‘ideal’ skin, but that they test them on a variety of people and try to adjust the formula so that different skins will still bring out aspects of the overall intent for a reasonable range of people, although probably not everyone.

    Still, the idea of prolonging some of those fleeting fragrances – some of the Hermessences perhaps, or Chanel’s Eau de Cologne, or the current Apres l’Ondée – is attractive.

    • Angela says:

      I know just what you mean. There’s something almost magical about the way perfume can behave on skin, and that’s part of the fun. Plus, I love the idea of extravagantly reapplying from time to time.

  13. djron91 says:

    While testing this, I found that it works great with EdCs and lighter EdTs – like say Creed Acier Aluminum. With heavier scents and strong EdPs, it would prematurely amp certain elements of the basenotes and change the development (and sometimes even the sweetness.) My conclusion was that it works great if want a light scent to last through the work day or want to conserve a precious Edt.

    It has been years since high school / college chemistry but I think C&C is basically the opposite of a surfactant which acts as a barrier to slow the speed of skin absorption.

    According to their website, there is a male version coming as well.

    • Angela says:

      You know, I’d heard there was a male version coming, but I searched their website and couldn’t find news of it! I wonder if they changed their minds?

  14. Zazie says:

    …and a bit unsettling!

    The way a fragrance morphs with my skin is a huge part of the pleasure I get from wearing perfume. I like perfumes that change over time and that seem a sublime extension of myself, from an olfactory point of view, as they meld with my own skin…
    My favorite perfumes (most of them from Guerlain) surprised me this way – smelling bland/unpleasant (to my nose) on others and on blotters but morphing into a heavenly friendly fragrance after a few minutes interaction with my skin. They feel right like that favorite pair of jeans or the go-to cashemere junper that looked unassuming on the stand…
    So… I think a fragrance primer is not for me.
    Assessing the complicated chemistry between myself and the fragrance is the most intriguing and enjoyable part of my “little” hobby, so I wouldn’t tamper with it. :)
    Plus, none of my favorite perfumes suffers from evaporatio precox, TG!!! ;) ;)

    • Angela says:

      With C&C, the perfume still develops, but more slowly–and in the case of Miss Dior (yikes, I accidentally typed Miss “Dire” the first time) in a differently balanced way. But I do know exactly what you mean about the fun of not knowing just how your fragrance will respond to you and choosing those that make magic on your skin.

  15. sayitisntso says:

    Regarding the ingredient list: acrylates/acrylamide copolymer are film-forming ingredients and here I believe that’s what is supposed to be doing the work. Instead of being instantly absorbed by the skin, the film formers act as a barrier for the fragrance to sit on top of….theoretically preventing it from dissipating as quickly as it normally would. In other cosmetics, this class of ingredients lends to a smooth and even “finish” to creams and lotions.

    • Angela says:

      Thank you! I’d always thought it was body heat that dissipated a fragrance, but I guess not. Maybe something in skin breaks it down?

      • sayitisntso says:

        Exposure to air, the heat of your skin along with your skin’s moisture content are all factors that can affect how your fragrance wears on you. Those with an oilier skin type will find that their fragrances last a wee bit longer, because those scent molecules have sebum to cling to. I guess primers like this are meant to be an equalizer of sorts…instead of your skin immediately absorbing it away, it sits on the film for a bit.

        • Merlin says:

          Makes sense! And not all that mysterious, really:)

        • Angela says:

          My skin can be so dry that anything that “equalizes” me for a while could definitely help.

  16. nozknoz says:

    I like the idea of this. Some of my vintage chypres change so rapidly, and I have some fav scents such as Chanel 28 la Pausa that don’t last very long. Also, I really love the top notes of some Duchaufours and would enjoy spending more time with them. And the price is right! I dislike ordering from single product websites, but if luckyscent or Amazon ever offer this, I will buy it.

    • Angela says:

      It’s interesting to try, especially on the old ones. I wonder what it would do with your vintage chypres?

  17. AnnieA says:

    If I still had my bottle of (older) Dioressimo I’d be buying this in a snap.

    • Angela says:

      Oh yes. Diorissimo can vanish pronto. I should try it with mine.

  18. lilybug says:

    The ingredients remind me of sunburn gels.

    • Angela says:

      Especially with the aloe vera.

  19. lilybug says:

    I just had a thought: does this make it easier to wash the perfume off? Would it be good for testing perfumes to avoid scrubbing of scrubbers?

    • Angela says:

      …or would it make it harder to wash off scrubbers? That would be my fear.

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