How to Choose the Right Perfume or Cologne for You

Scents can be alluring, mysterious, seductive, and personalized. Your signature scent can give a gentle – or bold – impression of who you are before you even say a word. But how do you begin to find a scent that works for you?

You don’t need to know the ins and outs of every ingredient in a beautiful fragrance or even the difference between top notes and base notes (although knowing a few terms can lead you to a scent you’ll love). All you need is a nose and an idea of how you want the perfume or cologne to make you feel. A scent expert can give you the inside scoop on how to find the right scent for you.

Scent Families and Perfume Personalities
When you start looking for a new perfume, you may feel surrounded by an unfamiliar language. The perfume industry has grouped scents to more clearly organize and describe aromas. Here is your quick translator for common perfume jargon

Fragrance family. A group of scents with common characteristics. The leading perfume families are floral, woody, fresh, oriental, and, more recently, gourmand.
Note: A single scent “ingredient” such as rose or vanilla.
Harmony. A combination of scents that leaves an impression that is difficult to capture (for example, a maritime scent may combine several scents into a unique marine scent).
Top/mid/base notes. Perfumes change as you wear them, and specific notes will evaporate and fade more quickly than others. A bright but short-lasting citrus scent may be a top note, while a warm woody note, such as sandalwood, may appear more as a base note after a few hours.

How to use a fragrance collection
A scent collection can be a great way to start looking for a perfume or cologne that you will like. If you like bold and spicy scents, oriental perfumes can be a great place to start. A fresh collection can provide an enticing option if you want a light scent that reminds you of water. A perfume eaten enough in the gourmand family might highlight honey, coffee, or almond notes.

But while a scent collection is a great starting point, you don’t want to limit yourself.
There is a wide range of scents, even within a particular fragrance family (for example, in the floral family, you have spicy flowers, pink flowers, green or spring flowers), so rather than focusing on the fragrance family, I think it helps to look at the personality of the scent,” says Joyce Barnes, chief operating officer of TOCCA.

Barnes suggests asking yourself, for example, whether a scent smells happy, flirtatious, or temperamental. The mood and depth of a fragrance can color what you’re looking for in different scent families.

How to choose a suitable perfume
Scent and memory are closely linked. Just because a scent reminds you of your high school crush or your beloved grandmother doesn’t mean you have to smell the same. Choosing a fragrance that works for you depends on balancing the science and emotion behind the fragrance.

How skin affects fragrance
Your skin chemistry can affect how perfume smells on you. The same scent that suits your best friend may smell a little off on you, and vice versa. Your natural pH balance, the oils on your skin, or how much you sweat can all make a difference in how a perfume reacts. A more concentrated eau de toilette will also carry a more pungent scent than a lighter eau de toilette or body spray.

“It’s best to try a fragrance on your skin and see how it evolves over a few hours,” says Barnes. Discovery kits that offer mini vials of select scents can help you explore ideas.
To test a scent, spray it on your skin and run a few sniff tests over the next few hours.

“If it plays well, it will have more depth and dimension,” says Jeanette Price, perfumer and owner of Peachy Keen Perfumes.” If it ‘transforms’ on your skin, it feels like a different scent, usually a little sour, stale, or flat.”

One of Barnes’ pro tips is, “Never rub your wrists together after applying perfume to the area. People think this helps blend the scent better, but it does the opposite and breaks down the scent, giving you less of a scent effect.”

Making a perfume memory
A famous literary example of a scent memory is Proust eating a Madeleine cookie dipped in tea, evoking a powerful childhood memory. You may or may not want to smell like your childhood after-school snack, but you may choose a scent inspired by a favorite trip or a memory of you feeling empowered or free.

To get the most emotional impact from your scent, consider what memories you want to bottle and return to with each spritz.

Ideas for seasonal fragrances
The rule of thumb is to use lighter, fresher scents in the warmer months and more decadent fragrances with warm or spicy notes when the weather gets colder. Sweat will intensify your perfume or cologne, so heavier scents can become overpowering (one spray may be enough). Barnes suggests looking for a different form of fragrance, such as a dry oil, which can have a more subtle effect than an eau de toilette.

Price suggests flipping the seasons to find scent inspiration.” This may seem counterintuitive, but I mean thinking about what may not be something you smell or often taste during that season.”
For example, during the winter holidays, you may be surrounded by vanilla so that an unexpected scent can stand out in a good way.” In the summer, you may smell more sunscreen, drink more lemonade or eat more fruits in season; see how you feel about coconut, citrus, and peaches in the wintertime …… You might just be missing them,” Price tells us.
Enjoying perfume
Whether you’re looking for a single scent that you can wear for decades or building a perfume collection, explore and have fun Ordering a small sample bottle to find out what the fragrance smells like. Layer woody and floral scents together to make your custom fragrance. Break the mold and create your own (but seriously, stop rubbing your wrists). A world of perfume is waiting for you to discover where you belong.


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