There’s something inherently chic about a woman with a signature scent.
A woman with a signature scent knows herself. She knows what she likes and knows what she doesn’t. Trends? She doesn’t have time for them.
More than that, scent is closely linked to memory. If your perfume is consistent, over time, friends, acquaintances and passers-by will begin to associate you with the fragrance notes that enter the room as you do.
As for me? I’ve road-tested many a fragrance in my time, but I’m yet to stumble across ‘the one’. I’ve bought perfumes that initially sparked joy; some that I’ve kept on high rotation for a number of years. But none of these scents have lingered around long enough to earn signature status.
Surely, I’m not the only one without a signature scent. So, in the interest of public service, we asked fragrance expert and director of Agence de Parfum, Nick Smart, for his two cents on how to find your signature scent.
“Selecting a fragrance is often a daunting experience,” says Smart. “The plethora of choice, compounded by the myriad of different smells often confuses people.” This often causes consumers to panic and make the wrong purchase. (Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.)
To reduce the risk of a panic purchase (and the resulting disappointment), Smart has formulated a five-point plan for selecting a new scent.
Step 1: Take stock of the perfumes you already own
“Be prepared with a list of fragrances that that you currently wear and those you have enjoyed wearing in the past,” says Smart. “This will make it easier to navigate the myriad of choices once you are in store.”
Step 2: Find your why
Ask yourself: why are you shopping for a new perfume? “It is also important to determine why you want to buy a new fragrance,” Smart advises. “Are you looking for a fragrance to wear during the day or for the evening – or possibly a new fragrance for the season?” Typically, lighter fragrances are worn during the warmer months, whereas heavier fragrances are associated with winter.
Step 3: Enter the store as a blank canvas
“On the day, ensure you aren’t wearing any fragrance and be prepared to try a minimum of three fragrances,” says Smart. If you want to be really technical, you can mark down where each fragrance was sprayed on your skin.
When you try a fragrance, be sure to spray it on your skin – not your clothing. Perfumes can smell different on everyone; the way a fragrance smells is determined by our skin, body chemistry and diet. For example, “Drier skin tends to not hold fragrance very well, as the volatile oils in fragrance have to work harder to bond with almost non-existent body oils.” On the other hand, “Oily skins face the challenge of turning fragrances acidic, due to oxidation of excess sebum and oils on the skins surface.”
Sweat can also impact how a fragrance performs. “Citrus based scents mix well with sweat and are even amplified when mixed with perspiration,” says Smart, “A good example of this is Timbuktu by L’ Artisan Parfumeur.” On the other hand, not all perfumes interact well with perspiration. “[Some ingredients] smell unpleasant when mixed with sweat – including blackcurrant leaf, musk and wood. These types of fragrances are better reserved for the cooler months.”
Step 4: Wait for each fragrance to dry down
“Allow at least 10 minutes for each of the fragrances to dry down before going back to the fragrance expert to purchase. The scent will change during this period and will allow you to smell the heart and base notes, rather than the top notes that you smell when you first spray the fragrance.”
Step 5: Before you make a purchase, revisit step 2
This is not the time to get caught up in the moment. After you’ve trialled a minimum of three fragrances, try to remember what brought you to the store in the first place. “People can often become overwhelmed and distracted by the multitude of choices and make the wrong decision,” Smart says.
While Smart insists it is possible to find your new signature scent in one shop, if you’re not 100 per cent sure, most fragrance counters offer the option of a product sample. “This is a great inexpensive way to take home a few of your favourite fragrances from the day and trial them before making a final decision.”
Categories of fragrance
According to Smart, most perfumers use the Michael Edwards Fragrance Wheel to categorise fragrances. The four major categories being floral, oriental, woody and fresh.
For an of-the-moment choice, try a unisex scent – these fragrances have been formulated with both men and women in mind. Or, if you feel so inclined, opt for a men’s fragrance. When it comes to perfume and gender, the only rule is that there are no rules.
Key notes: Fresh cut flowers, rose, jasmine, orange blossom.
GP loves: Eau de Givenchy Rosée, on counter August 6.
Key notes: Cinnamon, vanilla, musk, myrrh, anise.
GP loves: Maison Margiela Jazz Club.
Key notes: Patchouli, vetiver, sandalwood, amber, leather.
GP loves: Byredo Velvet Haze.
Key notes: Sage, bergamot, grapefruit, lavender, oceanic notes.
GP loves: Clean Reserve Warm Cotton.
Tell us, do you have a signature scent? And if so, how did you know it was ‘the one’?