How to Find Your Signature Scent

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About a year ago I decided that I was going to give up on the idea of ever wearing perfume. So many times I had tried and failed. I would buy it (or convince a man to buy it for me) and then never wear it. When I did wear it, I found it overwhelming. I was finally willing to admit that I don’t wear perfume because I don’t like perfume. And I was okay with it.

Seconds later I thought, “Maybe you’ve never found the right one.” Huh? I never considered that. And the more I thought about it the more I realized I had never put much thought into choosing a perfume. I never learned how to go about it. I wore Tea Rose*, Giorgio and Eternity in high school, Chloe in college and most recently, Miracle. None of them were right. I have to admit in the past I picked perfumes because of the brand/popularity or the bottle design. (I’m not even going to admit wanting Jean Naté and Charlie when I was little.)

I started to entertain the idea of finding a “signature scent”, something I would be known for, that people would associate with me. I love how a smell can evoke an emotion or a vivid memory. I decided that I would make finding this perfect me-fragrance one of my resolutions for 2015.

I started by trying the perfumes at some of the places I usually buy clothes or make up.

At Clinique I tried Happy, as well as Happy Heart and Happy in Bloom sure one of them would be perfect. I did not like them.

I tried Banana Republic. I remember my friend Joan wore W. I loved the look of their new line. I tried all of them (on perfume cards). My 6-year-old daughter insisted that Rosewood was the best so I brought the card spritzed with it home and kept smelling it throughout the day. Interesting, but not right.

I sampled the fragrances at J. Crew31 and 57. Not me.

Sometimes you need to know what you don’t like. A friend of mine wears a very strong, distinct perfume, Light Blue by Dolce and Gabbana. I didn’t know how to describe it but I knew for sure it was not my taste. It’s funny because it was closer to what I ultimately chose than any of my first choices.

In an effort to be able to describe what I was looking for, I started doing some research. There’s so much to learn about perfume — top notes, middle notes, base notes — concentration… I found this list of categories really helpful:

8 Major Perfume Categories 

Citrus: Infused with essence of citrus fruits. Lively and energetic. Good for daytime. Examples: Clinique Happy, Burberry Weekend for Women, Cartier Eau de Cartier for Women, Jo Malone Grapefruit, Calvin Klein CK One, The Gap Close

Floral: Sweet and romantic. Single note, or combination of various flowers. Examples: Chanel No 5, Karl Lagerfeld Chloe, Lancome Tresor and Anna Sui

Fruity: Fresh and spicy. Smells of apple, peach, berry, mango, often blended with florals. Apply sparingly. Examples: Liz Claiborne by Liz Claiborne, Avon Fire Me Up, Harajuku Lovers Lil’ Angel, Ralph Lauren Ralph Wild, Marc Jacobs Splash: Apple 2010, Victoria’s Secret Very Sexy Now 2010

Green: Smells of fresh leaves and newly-mown grass, natural and energetic. Unisex. Good for daytime. Examples: Calvin Klein Eternity, Chanel No. 19, Ralph Lauren Safari, Escada Sport Country Weekend, Sung Alfred Sung, Escada Magnetism, Adidas Adrenaline Woman

Oceanic: A blend of synthetic compounds to evoke natural aromas such as mountain air, ocean spray or clean linen. Crisp and fresh. Examples: EChristian Dior Dune, Elizabeth Arden Sunflowers, Davidoff Cool Water Woman, Giorgio Beverly Hills Ocean Dream

Oriental: Exotic and distinctly feminine, earthy, animalistic base scent such as musk or ambergris, often combined with warm notes such as amber. Bold yet mysterious.  Examples: Elizabeth Taylor Black Pearls, Yves Saint Laurent Opuim, Guerlain Shalimar, Givenchy Organza, Yves Saint Laurent Opium, Versace Crystal Noir

Spicy: Notes of cloves, ginger, cinnamon, cardamon and pepper. Examples: Chanel Coco, Jo Malone Vetyver, BCBG Girls, Givenchy Ysatis, Estee Lauder Cinnabar

Woody (Chypre): Base notes of bark and moss. Unisex but not masculine. Examples: Estee Lauder Knowing, Chanel No. 19, Britney Spears Believe, Ralph Lauren Romance, Gucci Envy Me

Here’s what I ultimately learned about finding your signature scent:

  1. You have to smell them! Obviously. But I don’t think I got this until recently.
  2. You have to smell A LOT of perfumes—preferably one at a time.
  3. Try on magazine “scentstrips”. I came across one recently that I had tried on years ago and fell in love with. It turned out to be the one I chose.
  4. When you’re at a store, spray perfumes onto perfume cards and smell them, then spray the one you like best on your wrist. Then leave the store. Smell your wrist throughout the day.
  5. Ask people to smell you (preferably people you know well.)
  6. Try to narrow down what type of scents you like. Before I started this process I would have told you I’m a “Citrus” kind of gal. I’m not!
  7. When you think you found the one, get a tester. I bought a 0.03 oz. vial from Amazon for $5.
  8. When you run out of the tester and you really miss it, you know you’ve found the one!
  9. Perfume vs. Eau de Perfume? Perfume has more oil/less alcohol and even though I was afraid it would be too strong, I chose it because I felt like it smelled better and lasted longer.
  10. In the end, I ordered my perfume from Amazon. I almost bought it at my local department store, but it seemed like such a big bottle and a big price tag, so I waited. Good to know: sometimes stores will let you return perfume if you change your mind.
  11. To apply: you can spray the perfume into the air and walk through it, dab it on wrists and/or neck or my new favorite: spray on the inside of your shirt.
  12. And, finally, I discovered that you don’t need to pick just one. I read a blog post from someone who said they liked Narciso Rodriguez For Her in Fall and Bobbi Brown Beach in Summer.

And here it is. The winner, My Signature Scent:

My scent
narciso rodriguez for her

“A modern classic, for her seduces with purity, grace and subtlety. Musk, the heart of the scent, is refined by a synthesis of floral notes and hints of soft amber. Sensual and addictive, for her is femininity at its most powerful.”

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have a Signature Scent? More than one favorite?

* Most of the links are to the web site www.fragrancex.com just for consistency and so you can see the product photo and read the helpful little description. I don’t have any affiliation with them.

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3 Responses to How to Find Your Signature Scent

  1. Joanna Goddard says:

    love this post, SUCH great tips. i never thought to get a tester size, but that’s so smart. thank you!

  2. Emma Berry says:

    Dolce & Gabanna “Light Blue” was my signature scent for years. Then Gucci “Rush” but I decided it was too sultry for daytime. Then Calvin Kleine “Euphoria.” Now I am trying “Flower Bomb” and I don’t even know who makes it.

    My issue with perfume has always been that I think I have some gene or hormone that makes it dissipate from my skin the instant I put it on. Perfume is a bit too expensive to evaporate so quickly. That being said, I still try every day. Maybe I’ve just been using the wrong scent?!

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