Fragrance

By Kim Taylor

Whether to don soft floral or woodsy citrus is not the only question when wearing perfume. Are there places on the body where perfume is more effective? How long do various types of perfume last in the bottle and on your skin? What are notes? How many notes are there? Here’s a definitive guide for how and when to don your most essential refinement, your fragrance. Your fragrance communicates as much about you as your skin, voice, and smile, so ensure that it’s speaking well of you.

The first step to find your signature scent is to test them. When testing a new perfume, give the notes ten minutes to unfurl for a complete olfactory picture to emerge. Your nose won’t be able pick up a perfume’s complexities if you test more than three fragrances at once; limit your testing to three at a time.

There are three levels of perfume “notes,” the top, middle, and base. The top note is the initial impression and will wear off within five minutes. This explains why you sometimes try a perfume, love it, and then discover that it’s really not to your liking after all. The middle and base notes first emerge ten and then fifteen minutes later.

Perfumes are strongest on pulse points where the blood flows the strongest, and the skin is the warmest on your body. For a full effect, dab on wrists, back of the ear, nape of the neck, chest, inside the elbow, and behind the knee. Spraying around your ankles allows the fragrance to “billow up” over time.

Perfume lasts longer on oily and moisturized skin, and on skin that has been “primed” with a matching fragrant oil or cream. Layering fragrances will ensure that the effect lasts longer. Layering could entail using the fragrance’s bath cream, followed with the line’s powder, then the perfume – or layering could entail wearing different but compatible fragrances together on different parts of your body.

Perfume is a concoction of natural or synthetic fragrant oil extracts diluted in water and high grade alcohol. Eau de colognes are the least concentrated with 3% perfume oil and will last about an hour. Toilettes contain 3-8% perfume oil and last approximately two hours. Eau de parfum is about 15% perfume oil and should last three to four hours, and perfume or parfum classics are a full 20% perfume oil and last five to six hours.

Since spray bottles are sealed, they last longer than splash bottles. Fragrance should be kept in a cool, dry place and kept away from sunlight. For optimal freshness, keep your fragrance in its box. Fragrances should last three years past the manufacturer’s date.

Bear in mind how strong you would like your fragrance to be, based upon the time of year and the places you’ll be visiting. Light colognes and toilettes in citrus are ideal for summer wear. Parfum classics in heavy florals are best for formal outings. If you’re going to work in a heavy floral and sharing an elevator or cubicle, or sitting in on a meeting in a small conference room, you risk being inappropriately fragrant.

About 75% of perfumes contain rose and jasmine extracts, as these are the two staples in a perfumer’s palette. Perfumes are roughly divided into fresh greens, woody ambry, floral fruity, and oriental spicy. Thousands of ingredients and chemicals are used in one bottle of perfume. It’s been said that two people can’t possibly maintain a relationship if they don’t like each others smell, so the perfume industry, in its own way, promotes love and happiness. Happy Valentine’s Day.

And remember why you’re wearing fragrance. As Helen Keller said, “Love is a beautiful flower which I may not touch, but whose fragrance makes the garden a place of delight just the same.”

Originally published February 2005
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