How to find your perfect fragrance

When I was growing up in the early 80s fragrance didn’t interest me at all. That was because there was a real dearth of fragrances suited to a younger palate. My earliest recollections of perfumes in the UK were my grandma’s favorite ‘Tramp’ and ‘Charlie’ or Yardley lily of the Valley and for special occasions Chanel No 5. At that time fragrances were either of the ‘knock your socks off’ variety – too strong for a developing young woman-  or a very floral bland one dimensional powdery floral offering which seemed too old fashioned.  

Yardley Lily of the Valley

During the mid 80s to 90s things changed and the perfume industry saw big launches of many mass market designer perfumes such as Tresor, Paris, Coco Chanel and Poison. TV adverts with glamorous lifestyle  images started to air on our TV channels. In the 90s designer perfumes became a dominant feature of our beauty stores offering a wide array of perfume options. Nowadays hundreds of new perfumes are launched every year, making it confusing to know what to buy and what to pay attention to.

Christian Dior Poison advert
Christian Dior Poison advert

Nowadays I know the type of fragrances I will be comfortable with and make me feel good. This is largely thanks to the more prolific use of vanilla and gourmand notes in more recent fragrance creations, there is an element of this in most of the fragrances I now buy.

But with so many new offerings to choose from, it can be very confusing nowadays for many people to choose that special perfume which reflects their mood and personality, what are the common ingredients which make the fragrance fit well with them. How to solve this ever more complicated riddle ?

The Do’s and Dont’s of selecting a fragrance

  • Don’t be pushed into buying the latest designer must have.

    Most of the big stores are on a drive to push the latest designer launches and whilst the latest perfume may be lovely on some people, it most definately won’t be a good fit for everyone. Don’t be pushed into buying the new item which the sales people are spritzing all over the store.
  • Think about your memories and what made you happy in your childhood. Did you love vanilla deserts or apple pie? Did you love the strong cigar smell of your father? Or do you have strong memories of lemon groves on holiday in Italy, the smell of freshly cut grass or seaside smells at your nearest beach?
Pumpkin pie
  • Think about which fragrances you already like and have worn, if any. What is it that you like about them? Is it the initial hit of fragrance when you spray it? (top notes) or the fragrance when the initial hit is gone? (middle note) or the scent remaining on your skin after the fragrance has died down ?(base note).

    When you have identified which smells make you feel happy, warm, relaxed, comfortable, then you can start to research fragrances which may contain these notes. Fragrantica is a great website for researching fragrance notes.
Lady selecting perfume in a store
Smelling strips should not be the only way of selecting the fragrance
  • Don’t use the smelling strips in store as the only way of selecting the fragrance. Spray it on your body too. Different people react differently with fragrances. This is due to the food we eat and the ph balance of your skin. What smells great on one person might react badly to your skin and smell terrible.  Walk about the store after spraying on your body and let the fragrance settle before deciding to buy.
  • Don’t settle for the fragrances others have bought for you. They probably won’t suit you unless they have taken cues from what you already are known to wear and love.
  • Learn from your mistakes. Maybe the last fragrance you bought gives you a headache when you wear it for a long time. So look at the dominant middle notes of the fragrance and avoid making the same mistake in your next selection. Finding the right fragrance can be a matter of trial and error and you should not be afraid to experiment and make mistakes. Only by going through this process can you really get to that stage of finding perfumes you truly adore. Until you really find something you love, see if you can buy your new perfume in a smaller trial version size.
  • Try out niche perfumes. Usually the staff are trained to give more information about the ingredients in the perfume and the types of fragrances on sale. You will probably gain more perfume knowledge in a niche stockist than approaching a typical designer brand retail store.

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