As someone who worked for years in luxury fragrance retail, I know the power that perfumes have on people.
Scents can remind you of a certain point in your life: A gourmand scent with cinnamon could transport you back to a childhood memory of you baking with your family, or a masculine scent can remind of you of the time spent with a special man.
Perfumes also have a powerful effect - I have met people who use fragrance to create a facade (like a quiet woman who wants to strong fragrance because she is a boss) or reinforce their projected personality (like a woman who wears lots of floral, feminine outfits and matches it with sweet, fruity fragrances).
During my stint, I also garnered a lot of knowledge regarding perfumes. But what’s the use of having this expertise without sharing? Here is a primer on everything you need to know about the wondrous world of perfumes. Plus tips and tricks on how to make your perfumes last longer. Trust us, you will smell like a million bucks after this.
Know your perfume structure
Many perfumes today are made with a three-tiered pyramidal structure consisting of head, heart and base notes.
The top of the pyramid is called the head notes, and usually consists of citrus and light floral notes. Head notes are created to be impactful but they tend to dissipate within thirty minutes or so. As such, you should always test the perfume on your skin first before committing to buy one at the store. If not, you might be in for a shock when you realise that the scent develops into a completely different animal after several hours on your skin.
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Heart notes are conventionally made up of florals, spices, herbs and some woods. Heart notes add another dimension to the scent before giving way to the all-important base notes.
Base notes form the foundation of every perfume. Usually of woods, spices and vanilla, they have the largest molecular weight and lasting power on skin. Olfactory satisfaction results when you like the resulting scent made by the base notes and their interaction with your skin’s unique chemistry. created by the base notes and the interaction with your skin chemistry. It's really true that the same scent can smell completely different on different people.
Some scents fade away much faster than others. Citrus molecules are the smallest in size, florals are intermediate while wood and spice notes are the largest and therefore have the highest staying power.
Not only does your skin chemistry play a big part in how the scent develops on you, you also need to consider other factors. Light, fresh scents might not work for you if your diet consists of heavily spiced foods, or the scent might change as you go through hormonal changes during your menstrual cycle like your diet would also affect how scents work on you. A lifestyle that involves lots of outdoor activities or living in a colder climate would also call for different scents to work for you.
Oils v.s. Alcohols
Perfumes today are made with two main ingredients - the oils that make up the scent and the carrier alcohol.
The main distinction between the iterations you see today - eau de cologne (EDC), eau de toilette (EDT), eau de parfum (EDP) and parfum, contain different amounts of essential oils. EDC and EDT have the least fragrant oils while parfum has the most, making the latter the costliest and the one most likely to make its presence known at the end of a day.
Solid perfumes on the other hand, contain even less essential oils than EDC and EDT. But because it is mixed with such a high fat content, the scent molecules take a longer time to evaporate and stick onto skin for much longer.
The lack of alcohol makes the sillage (the wake or trail that a fragrance leaves behind you) of a solid perfume more subtle than a regular perfume, making it a good choice for people who prefer a less intrusive fragrance.
Moisturise for better staying power
Well-hydrated and moisturised skin will trap fragrances better making them last longer. An analogy is the pouring of water on dry, cracked desert sands versus on moist soil - the ground is unable to absorb the water in the former and runs off, while the latter drinks up the liquid.
If you aren’t a fan of using scented body lotions, or perhaps your favourite scent doesn’t come with an accompanying perfumed body product, go with an unscented moisturiser. Just head to a drugstore like Guardian and look for brands like DermaVeen or Cetaphil.
Places to apply fragrance
Now that your skin is properly moisturised, the next step would be to finally spritz it on. You would often hear people advising you to spray perfume on pulse points and for good reason: Your pulse points are where the blood vessels are the closest to the skin, and would consequently be where the most body heat would emanate from. The heat would vapourise the scent molecules and release the fragrance into the air around you.
Pulse points include the wrists, inner forearm and neck. But you can also consider spraying perfume on the back of your ears and hair and the back of your knees . Personally, I like to be a bit extra and spray the area in front and behind of me and walk into the perfumed mist as a finishing touch and for greater sillage.
Note of caution: After spraying your perfume, you might be tempted to rub your wrists or the applied areas, but do not do that. Rubbing creates friction and heat that could break down the perfume prematurely, shortening its lifespan on your skin. Spray and leave it to dry naturally.
With these tips in mind, you will be slaying your perfume game from now on. Look out for the next article where we explain what fragrance layering is all about.