How to Choose the Right Perfume
Choosing the right perfume can be tricky with so much choice out there. Read on to learn how to compare scents and choose the best perfume for you.
Perfumes are very particular to the individual. Some people may be entirely in love with sweet gourmand scents that evoke a sense of playfulness, while others may prefer more classical, mature scents.
If you have a preference when it comes to perfume, it can still be challenging to narrow down the best scent for you in a (literal) sea of eau de parfum. If you are curious about perfume scents and comparisons, we have put together this insightful guide on how to find your signature scent.
Understanding fragrance families
When deciding on your signature scent, it’s important to note that a majority of perfumes will fall into what are known as fragrance families. There are four major families – fresh, woody, oriental and floral – which can be further subdivided into smaller groups (an example of this are “florientals”). Knowing which you prefer can help narrow down your signature scent.
When testing any perfumes, pay attention to which appeal to you at first sniff. Over time, you will begin to recognise a trend, and be better prepared to orient your search.
The best perfume for you should ideally be a combination of favourite scents as well as other factors such as sillage (the strength of the perfume) and longevity.
Perfumes that encompass notes of citrus, greenery and water fall into this group, and are often referred to as “botanical”, “herbal” or “aquatic” scents. Green notes capture the sense of nature and the outdoors with hints of herbs and grass, while aquatic notes conjure up images of rain and the sea. Citrus notes are among the oldest in existence and consist of lemons, oranges, bergamot, grapefruit and similar.
Woody perfumes may be seen to be more masculine, however many aromatic woods are present in both men’s and women’s perfumes. These include sandalwood, cedar, and patchouli. These perfumes tend to be a little more exotic, and pair wonderfully with other fragrance families, such as a warming woody-spicy blend.
Oriental notes tend to be sweeter or spicier in character, and are attached to more “exotic” fragrances. This includes notes such as cardamom, clove and amber, but may also include sweeter notes such as chocolate and vanilla. Balancing woody and floral notes, oriental perfumes are in a unique realm of their own.
Just as there are thousands of flowers in the world, so too are there a field of notes to enjoy when it comes to floral perfume composition. They range from floral aldehydic to floral fruity gourmands, which rely on caramel, sugar and other sweet notes to create a unique fragrance.
The La Vie Est Belle collection is an example of a floral fruity gourmand, expressing joyful femininity with notes of black currant and pear, iris, jasmine, praline, vanilla and tonka bean. Another floral blend – that of floral chypre, named after the perfume Chypre created by Francois Coty in 1917 – is Idôle, where pear and bergamot blend with Turkish rose and white musk and vanilla.
The importance of top, heart and base notes
With the four major fragrance families discussed, it’s also worth touching upon the difference between the top, heart and base notes that meld together to form a perfume.
Top notes (also known as headnotes) are the notes that you first notice when you spray a perfume. They are usually lighter scents and tend to evaporate within the first 5 to 15 minutes after you have applied a perfume. They are the top layer of a fragrance, and serve as a spark to draw in the wearer. Hypnôse for example, opens with notes of passion flower, a tropical scent reminiscent of grapes.
Heart notes (or middle notes) bloom within 20 to 60 minutes of applying a perfume. They serve to compliment the top notes while also introducing new scents to further expand upon the overall fragrance. Heart notes contribute a great deal to a fragrance, so these are what you may want to pay the most attention to. Once more using Hypnôse as our example, we discover heart notes of jasmine and gardenia – white florals with green, earthy tones.
Base notes work hand-in-hand with heart notes, as on their own they may be too strong to appreciate. Usually detected half an hour after applying a perfume, together with heart notes they form the core of a perfume. They support lighter notes that have a longer-lasting scent and linger on your skin the longest. When it comes to Hypnôse’s base notes, you can look forward to the warmth of vanilla and vetiver.
Tips for testing
Once you have established which fragrance notes you prefer, the next important step is the physical testing of a perfume.
We recommend that you try no more than three perfumes at a time. Any more, and your senses are likely to become overwhelmed, leaving you unable to distinguish between fragrances.
It’s also worth noting that testing a perfume on a test strip of paper is different to testing the perfume on your skin, as the scent molecules that make up a perfume react differently depending on the surrounding environment. For example, your skin’s absorption rate can determine the rate at which a perfume moves through its top, heart and base notes – this means that a perfume can actually smell quite different on you compared to a friend who applied the same perfume at the exact same moment.
Choosing a scent for the season
If you are new to the world of perfumes, it may come as a surprise to you that some perfumes and fragrant notes are best suited to certain seasons. In warmer seasons, lighter fragrances move more easily through the air, and complimenting notes such as aquatics and citruses work better in heat. Meanwhile, in the colder months, you may want to opt for heavier, spicier scents due to their higher concentrations.
Now that you understand how to choose your signature scent, read our skincare guide on the importance of face serums.