Finding a signature fragrance can be daunting, especially with so many new bottles hitting the shelves each year. Where do you even start?
Do you know your EDT from your EDP? Could you identify a top or base note? What exactly is a gourmand smell and should you have one? Can a fragrance really help you bag a promotion?
Take a breath, it’s OK – we got the experts to answer all your burning fragrance questions to help you find your perfect scent. With our easy-to-follow guide, you’ll soon be sniffing (and shopping) like a pro…
All your perfume questions answered by experts:
Why can’t I smell my perfume after a while?
‘Your nose quickly gets acclimatised to smells,’ explains fragrance expert Lorna McKay. But just because you can’t smell it doesn’t mean no one else can, so resist the urge to spritz every 15 minutes. If you want to sniff your scent for longer, try layering it over an unscented body cream. ‘The cream’s moisturising ingredients – aka emollients – help your scent last longer,’ says Lorna.
Where’s the best place to store it?
‘Heat and light are a perfume’s worst enemy and can change the smell of it,’ says Lorna. Always keep your fragrance away from warm areas, like your bathroom cabinet, and make sure you store it out of direct sunlight, too.‘The ideal place to keep it is in its original box, in a drawer, in a cool room,’ she advises. Be careful not to refrigerate your fragrance either, as extreme cold can be just as detrimental to the scent.
Why does my friend’s scent smell completely different on me?
The pH balance of your skin affects the way a scent smells – and this differs for every person. It’s also affected by any foods you’ve just eaten, the medication you might be taking, and a host of other factors. So you should always test a perfume on your skin first, don’t just buy it because you like how it smells on other people.
Why do scents bring back certain memories?
It’s down to some good old-fashioned science. Smells travel up through the nose via sensory receptors to the ‘olfactory bulb’ in your brain. This sits on the emotional side of your brain where it can access memories, so that’s why particular smells – not just perfumes –can transport you back in time and spark a sense of nostalgia.
People talk about top, middle, and base notes – what does it mean?
When making a scent, perfumers think in terms of layers. The top notes are what you initially smell in the first 10 to 15 minutes. They are generally the citrus notes and are also the ones that evaporate the fastest. The middle or ‘heart’ notes of a fragrance then take over and these are the ingredients that you smell over the next two to three hours, like nutmeg and ylang ylang. The base notes last the longest. These tend to be woods, musk, and vanilla.
Oh, and in case you didn’t know, in the perfume world, the term “gourmand” refers to scents with synthetic edible notes, such as cinnamon and vanilla.
What should I do if I have sensitive skin?
It can be tricky especially if you have conditions like eczema. Look for scents that are based on natural oils and free from synthetic ingredients. Also try perfumed hair mists as they don’t come into contact with your skin – they also tend to be cheaper.
Read more: 12 beauty hacks you have to try
What’s the difference between an EDP and an EDT?
An EDP (eau de parfum) will have a much higher concentration of the fragrance oils, making the scent stronger. This means they’re usually more expensive than an EDT (eau de toilette), but you only need a very small amount of eau de parfum pressed on your pulse points, so you get your money’s worth.
Can a perfume really help me bag a promotion, attract a partner, or feel less stressed?
Just like the outfit we carefully select each morning, the fragrance we spritz on announces who we are to the world. So think of your signature scent as the last invisible accessory that you put on before leaving the house.
To get a date: You only need to look at a perfume advert to see that scent and seduction go hand in hand. Musk notes are said to mirror pheromones, which make us smell all the more attractive to the opposite sex.
Read more: 7 ways you can increase your sexual allure
To bag a promotion: You’ve got your power suit on and your hair is perfectly coiffed. Now you need a fragrance to match. Look for rich musk, patchouli and jasmine notes to give you the confidence to ace that interview.
To reduce anxiety and stress: Pleasant smells are proven to lower your heart rate and reduce anxiety, and citrus scents in particular lower the stress hormone cortisol. It’s the reason a lot of shower gels go down the zesty route – there’s no greater pick-me-up in the morning.
To feel (and look!) younger: Imagine being able to spray on perfume and regain your youth. Well, you kind of can! According to research carried out in the US, when men sniffed a grapefruit scent on a woman, they took six years off her age. It’s like spray-on Botox.
How to shop for scents like a pro
Do tell the sales assistant which perfumes you like to wear so that they can suggest others in that fragrance family.
Don’t feel pressured to buy straight away – a fragrance develops over time, so test a few, then have a look around the shops to let them develop before you decide.
Do smell the inside of your elbow if you feel like you’re starting to muddle them all together – it’ll clear your nose.
Don’t spray them all on your skin. Test on blotters and only try your top three on your skin, in different areas.