Friday, January 28, 2022

How to Choose and Wear Perfume: Everything You Need to Know

For some people, their sense of smell is very strong, and this has the capacity to awaken emotions. Therefore, wearing and choosing a perfume is a very personal decision.

Both women and men attest that scents can change the way you feel, and they like to use smell as another avenue of self-expression; like people, perfume has its own unique personality.

The world of perfume

Through the decades, perfume — like style and clothing — has also been subject to trends and fashions. Like with the introduction of synthetic compounds in the 1930s, perfumes moved beyond what animal and plant products could provide into new and exciting realms of aroma that never existed before.

In the 1940s to 1950s, women preferred light, floral, and very feminine scents reminding them of their ideal post-war identity. Whereas the 1960s to 70s women moved toward more sophisticated wood, incense, and musk scents — reminiscent of the orient.

A bottle of Yves Saint Laurent Opium in front of gold background.
In the 1960s to 70s women moved toward more sophisticated scents reminiscent of the orient. (Image: Claudio Caridi via Dreamstime)

The people of the 1980s loved loud, look-at-me perfumes, but this completely changed in the 1990s when fresh and clean smelling fragrances were in. You could hardly tell the difference between the male and female versions!

In the 2000s, manufacturers began to bring fruits of all kinds into the experiment — perfumes often smelled so yummy you didn’t know whether to spray or eat the bottle!

Today, the range available is nothing short of astounding, and you are sure to find one, or several, that speak to you and reflect your different moods.

For example, I commonly have three perfumes: Something light and fresh for work, another sweet and floral for socializing on the weekend, and the last is exotic and luxurious for a special night out or a romantic occasion.

Understanding perfume labels

Eau de Cologne contains 3-5 percent aromatic compounds, meaning it’s very light. You can spray this around your body liberally. The Eau de Cologne is watered down, making it affordable to buy — a good option for younger people who enjoy the process of spraying and re-spraying throughout the day.

Eau de Toilette contains 5-15 percent aromatic compounds, so is a little stronger, but is marketed as the lighter version of the stronger “parfum,” which is more potent. Spray this perfume once on either side of your neck, and on your wrists for coverage; re-apply every 4 hours, as it will wear off quite quickly.

A bottle of Miss Dior eu de toilette sitting on a counter.
Miss Dior Cherie comes in an eau de toilette version marketed toward younger women or teenagers, therefore, it’s lighter. (Image: Natasha d.H via Flickr)

Eau de Parfum contains 10-20 percent aromatic compounds, making it very strong, so only a little is needed. This fragrance will be considerably more expensive, but has a longer staying power, lasting 6-8 hours or longer.

If it is a highly-priced fragrance. You will be able to smell the quality — especially after an hour of applying. After the perfume has time to mature on your skin, mixing with your body’s own chemicals, it will change and soften. Often the deeper, sweeter notes will come through.

Parfum contains 20-40 percent aromatic compounds. This type of perfume usually comes in little bottles that you would dab with your finger to apply. Put a small dab behind your ears and on your wrists for an aroma that will last all day long, and probably into the night.

Finding a perfume that speaks to and of  you

Your tastes are constantly changing and maturing, just like your preference for perfumes changes. This is such a personal experience; what smells wonderful to me, might smell ghastly to another. And that’s the challenge of why it is so difficult to buy perfume for another person.

Visit a perfume shop or chemist, and smell lots of sample cards. When you have narrowed it down to two, ask to sample them on your skin and leave the shop — giving each fragrance a chance to settle on your skin. After a couple of hours — and a lot of sniffing, waiting, and sniffing again — you will know how the aroma performs on your skin, and how you feel about it.

A perfume sample card from Penhaligon's in London.
A perfume tester card to help you choose. (Image: Norio NAKAYAMA via flickr)

The ritual of applying perfume

For the best results, apply the fragrance after you have bathed, dried, and moisturized your skin. Keep the spray bottle at a distance of 20-30 cm from your body, allowing the mist droplets to fall on your skin.

Some say that perfume, like makeup, is an important part of their morning ritual; it helps them to positively greet the day ahead.

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Raven Montmorency
Raven Montmorency is a pen name used for a writer based in India. She has been writing with her main focus on Lifestyle and human rights issues around the world.
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