How to Pick a Perfume
Step into any perfumery and, chances are, you immediately get enveloped in a cloud of fragrance.
It can be intoxicating and overwhelming looking at all the vials of perfume, even more so picking just one.
But if your life depended on picking just one, how would you do it?
In this article, we’ll share with you some tips on how to pick a perfume.
Know Your Fragrance Notes
When you take a whiff of any aroma, whether it’s a flower, food, or perfume, your nose detects molecules that have been released into the air. These molecules interact with your nose and stimulate your olfactory receptors, which then get sent to your brain through nerve signals and create the sensation of smell.
Depending on the timing and order of the particular scent, you can interpret and classify the fragrance in different ways. Based on these descriptors, you can categorise these fragrances into three categories:
- Top notes: Sometimes known as “head notes”, these smells hit you immediately when you first apply the perfume and usually only last for 15 minutes. These notes are usually light and citrusy.
- Heart notes: After the top notes have dissipated, the heart notes prominently emit a fruity and floral aroma. They usually form the main body of the fragrance (70% of the scent) and can last for up to 2 hours.
- Base notes: These are the last notes you’ll smell when wearing a perfume and can linger long after the heart notes have faded. These notes are rich and heavy and can last for up to 6 hours.
Choose Your Fragrance Type
In the world of perfume, there are four main fragrance types: floral, fresh, oriental, and woody.
- Floral: A floral perfume is built around the scent of one or more flowers. rose, jasmine, and lotus are some of the most popular floral notes.
- Fresh: A fresh perfume is light and clean-smelling, with citrus or green notes.
- Oriental: An oriental perfume is rich and exotic, with spicy, sweet, or balsamic notes.
- Woody: A woody perfume has earthy, musky, or amber-like scents. Sandalwood, cedar, and vetiver are some of the most common woody notes.
The four aromas can be further classified under various categories in the fragrance wheel designed by Michael Edwards.
Just like a colour diagram, the fragrance wheel is a circular depiction of the inferred relationships of various scent profiles based on their perceived similarities and differences.
For example, under the floral family, you have subcategories like floral, soft floral, and floral oriental. Under the oriental family, you have soft oriental, oriental, and woody oriental. The woody family has woods, mossy woods, dry woods and aromatics; and, finally, the fresh family has citrus, fruity, green, and water scents.
Select Your Concentration Level
Once you know what type of perfume you like, the next step is to choose the right concentration level. The concentration of a fragrance refers to the strength of the perfume oil in the scent. The higher the concentration, the longer the fragrance will last on your skin.
Here are the 4 concentration levels, from weakest to strongest:
- Eau de Cologne: 2-4% perfume oil that lasts for 2 hours
- Eau de Toilette: 4-10% perfume oil that lasts for 2-3 hours
- Eau de Parfum: 8-14% perfume oil that lasts for 4-5 hours
- Perfume or Parfum: 20-30% perfume oil that for 6-8 hours
Typically, perfumes that use traditional extraction methods have longer-lasting scents because they contain a higher concentration of fragrance oils.
So What Scent is Right for Me?
Many customers select a fragrance based on its top note. However, it’s the heart note that lasts the longest and creates the characteristic aroma.
As such, it’s important to emphasise your affinity for a certain scent family’s heart note when testing out a perfume. While this won’t be the most time-efficient method, it will allow you to get a better idea of how the perfume will smell after it’s been on your skin for a while.
That said, some fragrance families are better suited than others in a variety of different situations and people. Some of these factors can boil down to age, personality, season, and occasion, but everyone has their own special reason for donning the scent they do.
Here’s a general overview of the different aromas, who should wear them, and when to use them.
- Woody Scents: Woody scents emit a masculine musk and are perfect for use in the fall and winter. They’re usually marketed towards men and work well for evening wear, business meetings, and romantic dates.
- Floral Scents: Floral scents are perfect for spring and summer. They’re light, airy, and romantic. Floral scents have a feminine, playful energy that’s perfect for daytime wear and casual dates with friends.
- Fresh Scents: Fresh scents remind us of a delightful meadow or a walk in the rain. This scent is great for people who have a pep in their step and are full of energy. They’re natural, light, and perfect for everyday wear.
- Oriental Scents: Oriental scents are perfect for winter. They’re bold, luxurious, and sensual. These scents are perfect for a night out or a special occasion when you’re out in heels.
That said, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to perfume. If you find a scent you love, these guidelines can be thrown out the window.
However, before you write off the sophisticated realm of perfumery, give high-quality perfumes a whiff and see how you like them. You may be surprised by the sheer variety of it all.