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How to choose a signature scent

Will Andrews, fragrance scientist at Procter and Gamble Prestige, has some handy tips on how to get it right

How to choose a signature scent
Image Credit: Supplied picture
A fragrance that you have chosen with care, being mindful of its character and power, should seem ‘right’ for you.

Despite having no apparent functional benefit, a fragrance you love wearing is like your scented ambassador. It greets other people’s unconscious minds before you have even reached the first handshake or spoken the first ‘hello’. Here are some tips on how to get it right – and you really should try to get it right.

  • Consider your selection of fragrance as carefully as you would a piece of clothing in your wardrobe. Not only must the character of the scent ‘fit’ with the style and statement of your outfit, but its overall power and character should fit your personality, too. Therefore, if you have a discreet, quieter personality type, don’t wear a fragrance that is so powerful and distinctive that it ends up wearing you.
  • Trust your subconscious and your instincts. A fragrance that you have chosen with care, being mindful of its character and power, should seem ‘right’ for you. If you smell it on your skin and really like it, but don’t know why, then it is likely to be a good fit with your skin’s natural smell – otherwise your body would ‘reject’ it relatively quickly. You simply wouldn’t like the smell of it and you wouldn’t want to wear it over a long period of time.
  • Knowing how you like the overall power and character of the fragrance is critical, as is how its smell evolves over time. The fresher, typically fruity top notes are like a friendly introduction to the fragrance, but these quickly evaporate after 20-30 minutes due to their volatility and reveal the true character of the scent, which is what you will usually smell. This is called the dry-down phase. Poorly constructed fragrances do not evolve smoothly as they have imbalances, holes or discords between ingredients.

When choosing a new fragrance, there are two ways to start:

  • Brand-led search: In the fragrance store, find a brand that matches the mood you are in. The different brands will project very different characters based on their colours, style and imagery. Once you have found a brand that you like, start smelling its fragrances and find the one you really like.
  • Fragrance-led search: If you already wear a fragrance you love, but want to try something new, you can find out what fragrance family your current scent belongs to. This is easily done by typing its name into an internet search engine. I recommend the website, which is managed by the highly respected perfume oil supplier, Firmenich. This site suggests other fragrances in the same family, which enables you to take the list to the fragrance store and experiment further. Some fragrance families include Citrus Cologne, Aromatic Fougère and Woody Oriental.

One final piece of advice on trying the different scents:

  • When testing new fragrances, don’t wear any scented products on that day. Your skin should be odour neutral. Start out by trying a maximum of five or six on paper blotting strips – make sure you know which fragrance is which. Wait for ten seconds until the ethanol solvent has evaporated to smell them. Then walk around the store and smell them 20 minutes later. This will give you an idea of what the dry-down phase smells like. After this, go back and spray your favourite two on the back of each hand. Wait a while and see how they smell over time. Once you decide, you’re ready to make your purchase.