Most women love fragrances. We like to smell good and we enjoy when people are attracted to our scents. Many of us have multiple bottles of perfume neatly arranged on our bureaus or vanity tables. Sometimes we wear different scents for different occasions. For example, I have a fragrance for daily use, one for church, and one for ultra special occasions. The latter is usually my most expensive perfume. We may receive perfume as gifts for birthdays, Mother’s Day, and from our significant others on Valentine’s Day. But do you know how to pick the right scent for yourself? With so many choices, how does one even begin? Is there a method? And how are scents formulated?
If you’ve been reading my posts, you already know that I’m a researcher. If I want to know something, I’m going to find out and then share it with you. So let me share my findings about fragrances.
Each fragrance has a top note, middle note, and a bottom note (also called a base note). The top note is what you smell immediately upon application. Do not make a decision based on the top note because it dissipates quickly. The middle note is sometimes called the heart note because it forms the “heart” of the perfume. The middle note appears around 2-30 minutes after a fragrance is applied. The bottom note brings a rich, deep scent about 30 minutes after application and tends to linger, well up to over 24 hours. Together, the middle and bottom notes are the main parts of the perfume.
I think after some wear, we become immune to our fragrance. There are times I’ll spray or dab on a fragrance at 7:00 AM before work. I’ll go to a meeting after work at 7:00 PM (12 hours later) and someone will tell me I smell good and inquire about the fragrance. I’m always floored because by that time, I can no longer smell it! But that’s clearly evidence of the base note in the perfume lingering. And it seals the argument of why we should never choose a perfume based on the top note alone.
Here’s a simple way to test a fragrance:
1. This first step is easy. Smell it. Take a sniff to get a general idea of the smell. Do you like it? Don’t buy it yet. Proceed to step 2.
2. Dab it on your wrists, wait a few minutes, and take a whiff. What do you think now? But it’s still not time to make a purchase. You want to wait until the middle note takes over and smell it again.
3. Smell it again after 30 or more minutes. Do you like it now? Did you know that our skin and chemical makeup can alter the way a fragrance smells? Do you think your chemical makeup enhances or diminishes the fragrance? Now you can make a purchase. If you still like it, it likely meshes with your chemical makeup.
Are you aware that fragrances don’t smell the same on everyone? It can smell one way on a friend and smell completely different on you. If the scent smells good on someone else, you should still test it on you! This is why we also can’t rush to the store to buy a celebrity’s signature scent. From Elizabeth Taylor , J. Lo., Mariah Carey and Beyoncé to Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, Rihanna, and Lady Gaga…you may love them as performers, but you should test their scents before buying them.
Here’s another tip: be wary of the fragrance lady in the department store who gives you the sample on paper or sprays your wrist when you enter. Even if you like it, DO NOT BUY RIGHT AWAY! Remember, you would only be smelling the top note which doesn’t last. Wait for the middle note to take over. Walk around the store…finish your shopping…wait at least 30 minutes and sniff. Do you still like the smell? If so, go for it! If not, then it simply isn’t for you.
Some department stores have samples vials you can take with you. Ask for them before making a purchase. Then you can follow the steps above to be certain that the scent is something you truly like.
In the event that you don’t have or can’t get samples, you’ll have to research. Read descriptions and reviews of perfumes. Perfumes are generally categorized as follows: floral, fresh, oriental, and woodsy. If you know you usually don’t like woodsy scents, then research and don’t purchase scents with that description. Let’s take a look at the descriptors for each of these categories:
Floral – think very feminine and flowery scents like jasmine or fruity floral scents, like strawberry or pomegranate
Fresh – think clean, crisp, the smell of air after a rainfall, citrus-like, green, etc.
Oriental – think musk, nutmeg, and vanilla
Woodsy – think outdoorsy like sandalwood or cedar
Take a look at the perfume below, Avon’s Far Away, and notice how the notes and the types of scents describe the perfume in the example below: