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How to Find Your Perfect Perfume

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Perfume Collection
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It’s almost spring, which means it’s the perfect time to try out a new fragrance! There’s so many different, amazing perfumes out there that it can be pretty challenging to find one that suits you. Never fear – we have tons of tips to make your search easier!

Before You Begin: 3 Tips to Help Your Search

1. Decide whether you want a “signature scent” or different scents for different occasions.

Some people like the idea of having a “signature scent”; others prefer different perfumes for different moods or occasions, and you need to decide which camp you’re in.

Having a signature scent can be fun; I wore a particular perfume every day for about a year, and my friends came to associate the smell with me. It can get boring though, as there are so many great scents out there and not every perfume is suited to every occasion – some of my favorite “nighttime scents” are ones I’d feel ridiculous wearing during the day because they’re so heavy and attention-grabbing.

If you decide to buy different scents for different occasions, keep this in mind: Heavier scents are more appropriate for the outdoors or nighttime, while lighter scents are better suited for places like work or school. If you want a signature scent, look for something that will transition well between different scenarios.

2. Remember that scent is the most important thing.

It can be tempting to purchase whatever perfume comes in the prettiest bottle, or a scent that smells amazing on a friend, or the newest scent with a cool ad campaign. But since scents are so personal (and expensive!), it’s important not to waste your money on gimmicks: find a perfume you really love, that smells amazing on you, and don’t let anything else sway you!

3. Always, always test out perfumes in person, on yourself, before you purchase.

Remember: what smells great on your best friend may not smell the same on you, since everyone’s skin chemistry is different and the perfume may not react the same way for both of you. I used to borrow my mom’s signature scent when I was younger, and it would smell entirely different (and not as good!) on me. That’s why it’s essential that you test out a perfume for yourself before you buy.

If you aren’t located near any stores that sell a wide variety of perfumes, many websites, such as Luckyscent.com, Scentmonkey.com, ThePoshPeasant.com and ThePerfumedCourt.com, sell sample vials (including harder-to-find scents) so you can try before you buy. Some perfume houses will even send you samples (either for free or for a small fee) if you contact them directly! Just don’t test out too many at one time, or else you won’t be able to differentiate between the different scents!

Perfume 101

Below, I’m going to lay out the basics of perfume to help you understand what exactly you’re looking for.

Basic Perfume Categories

To keep it simple, perfumes come in four general categories:

  • Fresh
  • Floral
  • Oriental
  • Woody

These four are further divided up into subcategories such as floral oriental, soft floral and dry woods. For more on these four types of scents, keep reading – I’ll show you some fragrances that fit in each of the four categories below!

If you have no idea which categories you prefer (and there isn’t really a way to determine this other than to smell perfumes from different families yourself), you may want to take a fragrance finder quiz, such as Marie Claire’s Fragrance Finder. Obviously this isn’t an exact science, but if you’re totally lost it can be a good place to begin!

Sephora also offers a fragrance finder, which allows you to browse some of the different fragrance families or find perfumes similar to a scent that you already know you enjoy. If you live close to a retail store such as Saks or Nordstrom, it’s a good idea to visit their perfume counters and get recommendations from the sales associates.

Types of Perfume Notes

Perfumes traditionally have three types of notes: top, middle, and base notes (and if they don’t, they’re known as “linear fragrances.”) This is why you shouldn’t judge a perfume immediately after you apply it.

  • Top notes are what you smell when you initially spray the fragrance; they won’t last very long (how long depends on the strength of the perfume).
  • Middle notes come next and also have a relatively short lifespan.
  • Base notes linger the longest, but won’t become evident on your skin until later.

Therefore, be sure you like the base notes of the perfume before you purchase anything, or else you’ll be stuck with something that you won’t like after an hour or so! Wait for the perfume to fully settle before you make a final decision – in fact, it’s probably a good idea to just apply one perfume you’re thinking about purchasing; by the end of the day, you should be able to tell whether or not it’s the one for you!

Types of Perfume Concentrations

Two of the most common concentrations of perfume are Eau de Parfum and Eau de Toilette.

An Eau de Parfum has more extract than an Eau de Toilette, so an EDP is stronger and will need fewer sprays than an EDT. Eau de Parfums are generally more expensive than Eau de Toilettes (and parfum is even more expensive), since they have higher concentrations of perfume and will last longer as they need reapplied less frequently.

Also, perfume naturally lasts longer on people with oily skin, so if your skin is very dry, you may want to look into an Eau de Parfum, or think about purchasing a matching lotion or body wash if your scent also comes in these mediums.

The Four Perfume Categories – Example Fragrances

Now that you know all about the different types of perfume categories, here are a few recommendations for fragrances that fit into each of the four main perfume categories: Fresh Scents, Floral Scents, Oriental Scents, and Woody Scents.

Fresh Scents

Fresh Perfume
DKNY Be DeliciousAcqua Di Parma Colonia AssolutaDiptyque OyédoJo Malone Nectarine Blossom & Honey, and Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey.

Fresh scents are light and energizing, commonly include citrus notes, and are well suited for someone who doesn’t want a strong “perfume-y” smell. According to Sephora, “Fresh fans are vivacious, energetic, fun loving, playful, and live each day to the fullest.”

Floral Scents

Floral Perfume
Prada Infusion d’IrisCreed Love in Black, Frederic Malle Iris PoudrePhilosophy Pure GraceAnnick Goutal Grand Amour, and Yves Saint Laurent Parisienne

Sephora says those who typically enjoy floral scents are “elegant, feminine, and passionate romantics.” Common floral notes are jasmine, rose, gardenia, and iris. Depending on the notes used, floral scents can smell either very youthful and girly, or can be better suited to a more mature woman.

Oriental Scents

Oriental Perfumes
Bond No. 9 Chinatown, Thierry Mugler AngelViktor & Rolf Flowerbomb, Chanel Coco Mademoiselle, and Yves Saint Laurent Opium

Those who favor oriental scents, according to Sephora, are “passionate, confident, and sophisticated.” Oriental perfumes are often warm, heavy, and spicy, and can make them great nighttime scents. Typical notes found in oriental scents are vanilla, amber, cloves, and musk.

Woody Scents

Woody Perfumes
Bond No. 9 Nuits de NohoJo Malone Wild Fig & Cassis, Tom Ford Black Orchid, 10 Corso ComoDiptyque Philosykos, and L’Artisan Parfumeur L’eau de Navigateur

Patchouli, sandalwood, cedarwood, and amber are all common notes found in woody scents, which Sephora says are best suited to women who are “sensual, free-spirited, and nurturing.” Some woody scents tend to smell more unisex or masculine.

Putting it All Together – What to Buy & Where

Now that you know the basics, you’re ready to begin your perfume search! Once you determine which general category you’re interested in, you can start searching for different perfumes within their subcategories.

Niche Fragrance or Mainstream?

You should also determine whether or not you’re interested in exploring niche fragrances. Niche brands can be great, as they’re more unique than the common best-sellers. However, niche scents are often an acquired taste and can get more expensive than something you can find at Macy’s – they’re also harder to find: if you don’t live in an urban area, you may have to search online.

Some popular niche fragrance houses include: Annick Goutal, Bond No. 9, Diptyque, Acqua Di Parma, Jo Malone, L’Artisan Parfumeur, Creed, and Frederic Malle. Many of these companies offer scents that are advertised as being “unisex” instead of “feminine,” but don’t let this scare you! It doesn’t mean that they’ll make you smell like your boyfriend, and they’re often perfectly suitable for even the girliest of women.

If you’re more interested in something tried and true with mass appeal, Marie Claire offers a list of some of the best-selling perfumes. Most of these are very easy to find and should be available at most perfume retailers, so it’s worth trying some of them out even if it’s just to get a better sense of what you like and what best suits your skin chemistry.

How to Apply Perfume

Finally, if you’ve gotten this far, you’re ready to test out some perfumes on yourself. Here are some tips to help you get the best results when testing.

To apply a perfume to test, spray your pulse points, such as the wrist, throat, behind the ears, the inside of the elbows, or behind the knees. Be sure not to overdo it! Just because the smell may not be obvious to you a while after you initially apply does NOT mean that other people won’t be able to smell it, and you don’t want your perfume to be overwhelming and unpleasant.

Remember to wait a while after applying, ideally a few hours, before you purchase the fragrance! As we discussed before, the base notes of a fragrance are what you’ll really smell after an hour or so, therefore you need to wait to make sure the base notes work for you. If they do, go back to the store and purchase that scent!

What do you think?

What is your personal favorite perfume? Are you a signature scent kind of girl, or do you like having a wide variety for different moods and occasions? Anything you’re dying to test out for yourself? A scent that just didn’t work for you at all? Do you wear perfume every day, or do you save it for special occasions? Let us know!

Posted on on February 11, 2011 / Filed Under: Beauty & Hair / Tags: , , , , , , ,

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31 Responses to “How to Find Your Perfect Perfume”

  1. 1
    February 11th, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    I love fresh scents! I find that anything else is just too strong for me, I end up getting headaches! So I stick to fresh and citrusy scents. My signature scent is Chanel Chance Eau Fraiche. I have been wearing this daily for a few years now and I ALWAYS get compliments. Another scent that I really like is Chanel Chance Eau Tendre. Its still a fresh scent but with a little floral mixed in. It is not strong at all, its nice and light like Eau Fraiche. I will be purchasing it soon and will probably do a rotation between the two Chances.

  2. 2
    February 11th, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Jo Malone Nectarine Blossom and Honey is my scent – I’ve worn it for years. I’m so glad to see it mentioned because I LOVE it. I was given a bottle as an 18th birthday present; I haven’t smelled anything comparable in the years since. I find woody and oriental scents irritate my nose, and give me a headache. I’m not a big fan of florals, on myself or on other people, because I find that the middle and base notes often smell too sickly-sweet or grandmotherly. Two of the reasons I love my Jo Malone perfume is because the notes are fresh enough to avoid smelling like an older person’s scent and it works well whether I wear it during the day or at night.

  3. 3
    February 11th, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    I have a couple “signature scents,” I guess. Beautiful sheer, by estee lauder, and Malaya or something from hollister. I tend to use one consistently, but I switch between them once in awhile to change it up. Works for me!

  4. 4
    February 11th, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    This was REALLY REALLY helpful! Thank You! i never understood the different notes. I am definently a ‘fresh scent’ kind of person.

  5. 5
    February 11th, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    I really love Britney Spears’ perfumes, especially Midnight Fantasy. Been wearing it for two years or so, I’ll never go tired of it!
    Hilary Duff’s With Love is, on me, better suited for evenings though.

  6. 6
    February 11th, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    I don’t agree with some the categories that some of the perfumes are placed in but that doesn’t really matter. I would STRONGLY suggest, however:

    1) Whenever you go in to smell some scents, don’t already have scented sprays or lotions on your body. It’s important to have clean skin, because when you find one you like, you will need to try it on and you don’t want it to mix with other scents. I often spray two on each of my wrists and two on my upper/elbow area. Then I walk around for a few hours and see how the scent has changed or whether I can even smell it anymore!

    2) DO NOT let pushy salespeople force you on a scent you’re not crazy about! They make higher comissions on certain products. Most of the time they don’t care what you like, just making their sales goal.

    3) Come back to smell your favorite two scents the next day. Ever had a smell(cleaning products, candles, lotion) get stuck in your nose and keep smelling it all day? It’s best to make sure your smeller is fresh before buying a $80 bottle of perfume. Also, a lot of businesses will allow you to return a used perfume for a few days if you change your mind.

    4) And if they all start to smell the same, ask for some coffee beans to “reset” your nose. Or take some testers home and come back another day!

  7. 7
    February 11th, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    So true about the basenote. I love fragrances with woodsy base notes like sandalwood, patchouli or amber, but I find them much too overpowering as middle or top notes. I prefer to keep those a little more fresh or floral. This is a great post, the right perfume can do WONDERS to your mood and self esteem.

  8. 8
    February 11th, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    One scent I’ve been super obsessed with for daytime recently is Coach Poppy. I’m currently wearing Victoria’s Secret Bombshell the most at night… I love it. Not too much of anything at once.

  9. 9
    February 11th, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    wow, this is really helpful! thanks!

  10. 10
    February 11th, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    I love wearing perfume — I wear it every day! My mom and sister are really sensitive to too much fragrance, though, so I’ve learned to keep it light when I apply. It just seems so classy to me to wear perfume and always smell lovely.

    My current favorite perfume is Dolce & Gabbana’s Rose the One. I love sweet-smelling perfumes, and also fresh ones, and this one is perfect: sweet, tart, and floral. I feel so pretty when I put it on, so it’s great for any time.
    Until recently (and for years) my favorite was Hanae Mori. It’s just such a sweet, rich, unique scent. My first boyfriend told me he loved the way I always smelled really sweet, thanks to this perfume!
    And one of my favorite dress-up perfumes is Calvin Klein’s Euphoria. My grandma also loves it, but it doesn’t smell like an old lady scent! It has pomegranate and vanilla notes, so it has enough sweetness and freshness to keep it from being too musky or seductive.

    What a great post! I definitely second not wearing anything scented when trying perfume — and taking time. It’s a big investment (and buying the real thing is definitely worth it) so you want to make sure you buy exactly what you want!

  11. 11
    February 11th, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    This post was great! The advice you gave about picking a scent was super helpful, especially the advice to give it a few hours after you try the scent before you decide whether you like it or not. I wear Chanel Coco Mademoiselle pretty much every day. I started wondering what category of scent it falls into when you first mentioned the four main categories, and it was awesome to see it listed as an example of an oriental scent! (Incidentally, the other scent I occasionally wear is Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb, which I got as a hand-me-down from my mom who got it as a gift and didn’t like it. I guess I really gravitate towards oriental scents!)

    And I TOTALLY AGREE with the point that just because a scent smells great on someone else doesn’t mean it will smell great on you. My mom loved my Chanel perfume after I got it, and so she got some for herself, only to find that she didn’t like the scent nearly as much on her.

  12. 12
    February 11th, 2011 at 11:12 pm

    I’ve been wearing Chanel Chance since I was 16 (I’m almost 24 now!). I’m a signature scent kind of girl.

  13. 13
    February 11th, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    My favorite perfume of all time is J’adore by Dior. If it isn’t so expensive I’d wear it everyday. The scent just suits me so well it’s like it was made especially for me. :) Another favorite is Bvlgari Pour Homme, Black, and Blv. I’m a huge fan of Bvlgari perfume. I realize that the ones I mention are for guys, but they also suit my skin chemistry amazingly well so it’s safe to say that even girls can find their perfect scent in the guys’ perfume section!

    I’m currently wearing Kenzo Flower for my signature scent (I switch around once I finish a bottle – but the J’adore will never be replaced). The funny thing is, in my country ‘fake’ perfumes actually exist. I’m actually wearing the ‘fake’ version of Kenzo Flower, but that version suits me even better than the original Kenzo flower. Maybe it isn’t a fake one after all, just has a similar scent with a much lower price.

  14. 14
    February 12th, 2011 at 1:41 am

    I am a true Burberry Brit girl! I have been wearing it for 6 years or so. I like to mix it up with some of the Victoria’s Secret fragrances like Noir, Noir Tease, and DKNY Pure.

    I think it was mentioned, but you have to try the perfume on your skin. The scent will change once it mixes with your body’s own scent. I love Chanel Chance on a tester strip, but on me it isn’t great. Testers get you started, but wearing for a few hrs is great advice!

    This was a really detailed and well written article. Props!

  15. 15
    February 12th, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    Omigosh! I was looking at buying Diptyque Philosykos as I love going on holiday to Greece, but I don’t know if it’s gonna be too masculine? If anyone’s tried it, please say whether it’s manly or if it’s not nice :) I also love Chanel No 5 but it’s super expensive

  16. 16
    February 12th, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    Melissa, Philosykos is one of my absolute favorite scents! I think it’s a pretty true unisex – it starts out more masculine /green on me, but the dry down is a little coconut-y and more feminine. It’s not girly/sweet and a man could easily wear it, but I think it’s just as easily worn by a woman. I get compliments on it whenever I wear it, so I guess it doesn’t smell too masculine on me anyway! Most of my favorite scents are woody/orientals though, so I don’t usually wear super girly/sweet/floral perfumes to begin with.

    The first time I tried it out I didn’t like it at all (which has been the case with most of the Diptyques I like), so I’d definitely suggest sampling it rather than blind purchasing it. Diptyque is usually good about sending out samples if you’re not located near a store that stocks their products (like Saks); their website is http://diptyqueparis.com and there’s a contact form you can use or you can email their customer service directly.

  17. 17
    February 12th, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    love the post! really good points mentioned :)

  18. 18
    February 12th, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    i have 4 scents that i use on a regular basis and theyre all from Bath and body works they are cheap and smell amazing so why spend big bucks on perfume?

  19. 19
    February 12th, 2011 at 7:56 pm

    So helpful! Thanks for the post! Would it be terrible if I asked you to break down the types of cologne, too? My boyfriend and I were trying to find a cologne for him that would match his personality the other day, and I was clueless!

  20. 20
    February 13th, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    I a have a signature scent but I also like to switch it up ever once in a while hen I get bored so I wouldn’t say I’m in one of the categories. My absolute favorite perfume is L by Lolita Lempicka. Its has so many dimensions and is a mix of citrus and musky vanillas. Its was perfect for me because I love fresh orange scents but I wanted a warm sexy vanilla perfume. I also have mini bottles of eternity by calvin Klein, ck in2u her, juicy couture’s classic and pacifica’s hawaiian ruby guava. Bath and body works sprays are great too, I love orange sapphire and midnight pomgranate. I wouldn definetly recommend minature perfumes if you don’t want to shell of on a perfume you know you aren’t going to fully commit to.

  21. 21
    February 13th, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    marc jacobs daisy is my scent….it’s fresh and reminds me of spring.

  22. 22
    February 14th, 2011 at 10:57 am

    My signature scent is Vera Wang Princess. It smells fresh and doesn’t overpower. Growing up my godmother always wore (still does to this day) Opium. My mother wears Paloma Picasso. I realized that whenever I came across those scents, beautiful memories flooded my mind. Now, people tell me all the time whenever they smell Vera Wang they think of me…and isn’t that a nice thought? ;)

  23. 23
    February 15th, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    Great tips! I’m obsessed with perfume and did one of my first posts ever on Fragrance 101, kinda like this one. I actually own wayy too much perfume though and don’t even end up wearing it every day. I don’t have a signature scent but don’t really have a scent for a few different occasions either-I switch it up so much. TIp: If you like wearing may different scents, save all of your samples. I do that and have over 100!

  24. 24
    February 17th, 2011 at 4:57 am

    Thank you so much for this article! After reading, my boyfriend and I went out and found my new favorite scent – Bijan Black.
    It’s the perfect mix. I can’t really place my self in one category but this scent allowed me to have the best of all four.
    To make things even better it factored into my mood during the day – fresh and awake in the mornings but warm and seductive by the time the sun went down.

    The top notes are very fresh, a nice mix of pomegranate and bergamot.
    After that wears off you’re left with a wonderful mix of florals; gardenia, jasmine, and rose.
    Finally the perfume wears down to a cross between an oriental and woody scent with notes of tonka, sandlewood, and musk.

    This scent is definitely powerful enough for night and great for day with a lighter application.
    The transition through all the scents left me feeling like I had four different perfumes in one.
    The best part is it doesn’t come with a horrible price tag making it more practical for daily use than other scents.
    My purchase was during a sell at a store in DC, 50 percent off all perfume so I only spent about 30 dollars on my bottle.

    Beware though .. Just smelling a tester strip is a bit misleading with this scent. Definitely wear it for at least 6 hours or so. You have to experience the changes for yourself before you will truly know whether it’s for you or not.

  25. 25
    April 17th, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    My favorite (and signature scent) is Very Irrasistable by Givenchy. It’s perfect for me, young, flowery and fruity! I love it!

  26. 26
    November 20th, 2012 at 9:04 am

    HEY GIRL I JUST DISCOVERED A AMAZING PERFUME PLEASE EMAIL ME BACK I WILL LOVE TO BRING MY DISCOVERY OUT DONT FORGET EMAIL ME BACK

  27. 27
    December 12th, 2012 at 5:01 am

    I am very greatful to you for sharing this information with us. Well, sometimes it can be safe. But first make sure that the website looks safe and there are some feedback from other people.

  28. 28
    March 12th, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    I am definitely a signature scent girl <3 I would feel naked without a few spays of Daisy by Marc Jacobs…love the cute little bottle too.

  29. 29
    April 12th, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    Please help me fin mystere de rochas

  30. 30
    July 17th, 2013 at 3:22 am

    i have many perfume , and thanks for the tip

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