Smell is one of the first things we notice when we meet a person. Even if only on a subconscious level scent has a huge influence on the way we respond and interact with people over time. Scents can also form strong bond and have immediate tie to memories. Like personal grooming and appearance, a person’s scent is a vital component of their personality. As a scent marketing consultant, I am fascinated with different fragrances and their effect on human behaviour and psychology. HBN approached me to write a short piece for their new blog on fragrance selection, so shortly I will give you my top tips – but first let’s take it back to basics.
At their most basic, fragrances are classified according to predominant scent characteristics – for feminine fragrances, there are four basic fragrance families:
- Floral/sweet – think bouquet of freshly cut flowers: rose, carnation, lavender, orange blossom. Floral is the most widely used scent in feminine fragrances. Very sweet and instantly recognizable
- Citrus/fruity/fresh – Orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, and other citrus fruits. Apricot, apple, peach, etc. Clean, light, and invigorating.
- Oriental/spicy – Warm vanilla, spices and incense resins. Triggers visions of the exotic Far East. All amber-y and musky. Think mysterious and sexy!
- Woody/Chypre– Scents like bergamot, oak-moss, labdanum, and patchouli. Mossy and very earthy smelling, like the smell after rain.
I generally recommend you have at least one scent from each family (don’t ask how many I have!) – generally speaking, the first 2 families are more suited to the warmer months, and the second two to colder conditions, although there are exceptions to every rule.
Understanding fragrance notes
Perfumes use layers of scents to create their unique bouquet. These are typically referred to as notes, and rather than noticing only one type of scent (ie rose or vanilla), you’ll pick up on several notes that become more apparent over time. So what you smell at the beauty counter can change by the time you get home.
Top notes: This is what you smell immediately upon applying your perfume. It’s the scent that first hits your nose, but then evaporates quickly.
Middle notes: The middle notes emerge as the top notes are dissipating and make up the majority of the scent.
Base notes: These notes are richer and are not often detected until you’ve been wearing a scent for at least 20 to 30 minutes. These notes provide depth and back up the middle notes to create the overriding theme of the scent.
TOP 4 TIPS FOR SELECTING A FRAGRANCE
Now that we’ve reviewed the basics, here are my four key tips on fragrance selection:
- It’s all about setting!
In my opinion, the setting in which you will wear the scent is the most important factor when deciding which one to select. Is it for day or night? Work or play? Serious or playful? In my opinion, each of these settings calls for a different, unique scent. If the scent is for work, you want to tone it down – especially if you are working closely with other people. Avoid overbearing scents like aniseed. A night out at the bar, however, calls for a stronger scent – something that trail behind you and lingers so that other people notice you. If you go out a lot, a day/night scent is a good option. The temperature should also be taken into account – generally speaking, the hotter the temperature the lighter your fragrance should be. Really heavy fragrances can be cloying in hot conditions. Vary your scent according to the season.
- Follow your nose
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to fragrance. In the end the best bet is to select a scent, which expresses your personality. Get to know your scent families and you will find yourself drawn to certain families or combinations based on your personality and taste. Take a look at the scents in your collection already. What are the specific notes that you can smell? Try and focus your search to include variations on these notes, but don’t be afraid to mix it up a little. Above all, sample as many scents as you can. Buyer remorse sucks when you’ve dropped $200 on a bottle that smells different at home than in the store.
- Body chemistry has everything to do with fragrance
It will likely take more than one trip to the department store to find a fragrance that’s right for you – many of us can remember a time when we bought a perfume which smelled amazing on a friend, but just didn’t sit correctly on our skin. For this reason, I highly recommend buying sample vials of perfume before committing to a full bottle. There are many sites online, which will send you samples of niche perfumes. When you are sampling lots of fragrances, be sure to smell them on your skin (not just the sample card) and allow time for the scent to develop to see how it changes on your skin. I also recommend limiting the number of fragrances you are sampling in one session to three, to avoid olfactory fatigue.
- Mix it up!
One sure-fire way to create a truly unique scent is by becoming an amateur chemist and mixing fragrances. You’ll have to play around quite a bit in the fragrance department, but try layering two different kinds of perfume, perhaps beginning with a sexy, musky scent first and following it with something sweeter. Ultimately, you’re searching for a concoction that’s better than either scent when worn alone. The best thing about layering is that you can be guaranteed that no one else will smell like you!