How To Choose A Fragrance

Your ultimate guide to choosing, wearing and storing perfume

Fragrance Primer

Photo by Zhang Jingna


DO try the scent on your skin, not just a strip of paper. “Blotters allow you to have a brief feeling at first, but as perfume is an intimate experience, you should test it on your skin,” says Thierry Wasser, Guerlain’s in-house perfumer. Also, differences in skin pH can make a fragrance smell differently on one person versus another. “Everybody has his or her own chemistry, so it reacts differently on everyone.”

DON’T test more than three to four fragrances at a time. You may suffer from scent fatigue if you try more than that at once, says perfumer Louise Turner, whose latest creation is Love Chloé Eau Intense Eau de Parfum. “Your nose will become easily saturated and less able to distinguish between them,” she says. To test, hold the bottle slightly away from your arm (to avoid drip-down), and spritz one fragrance each on your inner wrists and outer forearms.

DO let the fragrance evolve on your skin for a few hours or even up to a day. Consider, “not only how it smells, but also its performance in terms of diffusion and long-lastingness, which are as important,” says Fabrice Penot, co-founder of niche fragrance house Le Labo. “You can know this only after a few hours of living with the perfume on you.” Adds Marian Bendeth, global fragrance expert and owner of the Sixth Scents fragrance consulting firm, “Your fragrance should be strong after an hour. If it fades, it’s not for you.”

DO get a caffeine fix. Want to cleanse your scent palate? ?Turns out, smelling coffee beans at the fragrance counter between scents isn’t the best way, says Le Labo co-founder Fabrice Penot. “On the contrary, it brings an additional stimulus to your nose.” The ?solution: Smell an area of your arm that hasn’t been perfumed to bring your nose back to neutral.


When it comes to applying perfume, less is often more—you can always add later if needed. Fragrance application is very personal and depends more on the scent genre than on whether it is an eau de toilette or an eau de parfum, says Turner. A soft floral such as Dolce & Gabbana’s Light Blue Eau de Toilette, she says, can be applied more generously than a heady Oriental such as Dior Hypnotic Poison Eau de Toilette Spray, though they share the same fragrance concentration. Typically, though, the strongest concentration is parfum (also known as extrait) with 15 to 20 percent fragrance oil, followed by eau de parfum (8 to 15 percent), eau de toilette (5 to 8 percent) and eau de cologne (3 to 5 percent).
If your scent is on the headier end, you may need only one or two sprays, says Olivier Pescheux, the perfumer behind Diptyque’s 50th anniversary collection, 34 Boulevard Saint Germain. “If it’s something more light, you may need three or four.” Spritz one or two of the body’s pulse points: under the ears, at the base of the throat, inside the elbows and wrists, behind the knees, or the inside of the ankles. Pulse points radiate heat, says master perfumer Olivier Cresp: “This enables the fragrance to vibrate at its best potential.” To make your fragrance last longer, layer it with a matching shower gel or body cream, says Turner. Think you’ve overdone it? Picture a “scent circle”—an arm’s length area around your body. Nobody should be able to smell you beyond your circle; if they do, you’re probably wearing too much.

Tip: Resist The Rub
Avoid rubbing your wrists together if you want to make your scent last. “You can bruise the fragrance because the heat from the friction of rubbing deadens the blend,” says fragrance expert Marian Bendeth. “Whenever oil is exposed to heat and friction, it changes molecularly.”


Like many things in life, perfume is fragile and has a shelf life. Its worst enemies are light, heat and oxygen, which react with the molecules of the fragrance, says Pescheux. Lighter notes, such as citrus, are more sensitive than heavier ones such as amber and vanilla. And, as soon as you start to spray, “oxygen is going into the bottle because the perfume is being replaced by oxygen, and the oxidation process starts,” he says. The worst place to store fragrance: in the bathroom, since it gets hot and steamy. The best place to stash your scents is in a cool, dark place—preferably in their original boxes and in a drawer for added protection. Kept safe from sunlight and heat, your perfume should last one to two years, says Bendeth. And if the fragrance changes colour before then, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s gone bad, says Turner. “It may lose some of the top-note freshness and become richer, but you can still use it if you still like the fragrance.”

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