Perfumes have the potential to wreak havoc on the nose or to scintillate the senses and bring the strongest man to his knees, longing to catch the merest whiff of it again. It’s a statement piece that goes with every outfit and can define you even before you enter a room, so choose wisely. Here are the basics to help you find your signature scent.
In the days before ready access to clean water and when “good hygiene” was not a household catch-phrase, perfume was a way to endure the harsh realities of a less-than-fragrant time. Those days are gone for much of the developed world and perfumes now serve a much more pleasant purpose. From attracting the opposite sex to aromatherapy to energize or unwind, fragrances add an amazing extra dimension to our existence.
Since scents can link memories almost instantly, defining yourself with the right signature scent can quickly evoke very positive associations with you. On the other hand, if you select one that is not received well, and especially if you are inclined to virtually bathe in that fragrance, you are linking yourself to it in a very negative way. This is a valid case of where “less” is “more.”
There is also something that biochemists and manufacturers of perfumes refer to as a “signature scent.” Unlike the title of this article, they are referring to our natural signature scent that is based on the particular chemical makeup of the body, which is what will dictate how fragrances will smell on us. Our unique natural signature scents are determined by our lifestyle habits and choices, diet, supplements we may take, our skin type, genetics, and many other factors.
To find the signature fragrance that smells amazing on you and that describes your personality in a scent, you have to test it on your skin first. To help narrow down your choices, here is some basic perfume terminology that will help guide your search for the perfect perfume:
The Three Elements of Fragrance
The scent of a perfume is determined by three elements: the fragrance family, its notes, and its concentration. Knowing about these three elements can help you decide on which perfume would best suit you and your personality.
This element is what creates variation among fragrances. There are four common bases used in formulating perfumes:
- Fresh: Created from the citrus oils of fruits, like oranges, bergamots, and lemons, they are always light and fresh-smelling.
- Woody: These lend an air of mystery and are dominated by scents of cedar, patchouli, pine, and sandalwood.
- Oriental: Sensual, often heavy, blends inspired by scents of ancient Arabia, that are captured through opulent flowers, sweet vanilla, and musks.
- Floral: The most common among perfumes, they are made from, as the name suggests, the essence of flowers and are often strong, clinging, and sweet.
These provide the impressions of the fragrance. It is the lingering air left by the perfume as it evaporates from the skin. All scents have three notes, called the top, the heart, and the base.
- Top Note: The instant impression created by the fragrance, which lasts about 15 minutes. It is supposed to attract people to the scent, but it quickly dissipates. It’s a bit like a catchy subject line of a marketing email that entices you to open it.
- Middle / Heart Note: Called the body of the perfume, this is the perfume’s essence. Like the introduction lines of a marketing email, this is intended to generate more interest in marketing message. It lasts about 30 minutes after the top note evaporates.
- Base Note: The trailing scent that lingers after the top note and the heart note have evaporated, this main message of the perfume is the one that closes the proverbial sale. Some can last longer than 24 hours.
The last element to be considered is the concentration of the perfume. Concentration indicates how pure the perfume is, or the amount of perfume oil added into the fragrance. The purest perfume is known to be extremely volatile and can cause irritations when applied right onto the skin. To prevent this and to allow users to enjoy fully the fragrance, perfume oils are mixed into ethanol, with water sometimes added in.
Perfume extracts are the most concentrated among fragrances. They are meant to be used sparingly and only on the body’s pulse points. Coming after perfume extracts in terms of concentration is the eau de parfum, which contains between 20 and 30 percent fragrance oil, and after that, the eau de toilette, which has a minimum of 10 percent fragrance oil, but typically contains 15 to 18 percent. The least concentrated of fragrances are the eau de cologne and body sprays; these latter two are often sprayed all over the body.
Defining and Finding Your Signature Fragrance
If you’re considering buying a fragrance that you liked on someone else, make sure you try it on your own skin first. When shopping, spraying on a scent card is a good first pass, but it doesn’t replace trying on your skin. Remember that our natural signature scent is uniquely our own, so you will need to let the chemicals combine to truly tell how the scent will work on you.
Give it some time – literally. Allow the Top and Middle Notes to wear off, so wait at least 30 minutes before you make your final judgement about a fragrance.
Think about your personality and what kind of image you’re trying to portray to others. Your “signature fragrance” may consist of multiple fragrances, each for a specific occasion, but also expresses your personality in each situation.
After you buy your fragrance, be sure to store it properly so that it will remain the scent you purchased. The chemical makeup of a perfume is delicate so store your fragrances in normal temperatures and away from direct sunlight.
Since your signature fragrance can link you to memories, only keep the ones you have positive associations with yourself. If you’ve gone through a bad breakup and you find your perfume triggers unpleasant memories, then it may be time to search for a fresh new fragrance.
Here are a handful of top-selling, budget-friendly fragrances to consider: