Finding a signature scent may sound easy enough, but as anyone who has embarked on the quest will tell you, it can become a real headache. Here, fragrance expert and CEO of Scenterprises Sue Phillips shares her insider tricks for finding your perfect perfume — without having to smell every bottle in the store.
Just like you’d ask someone where they got their cute shoes or who’s responsible for their great haircut, if you meet someone whose fragrance you like, ask what they’re wearing, suggests Phillips. Look it up and you can easily figure out what fragrance family it falls into (more on that next), a helpful first step when determining what types of scents you gravitate towards.
Start with a fragrance family
The easiest way to narrow down your options is to stick within a fragrance family, a larger category of similar scents; the most common ones are fresh, floral, oriental, and woodsy. Most people innately lean towards one or two, but don’t overthink it — it’s really just about what types of smells you find appealing. “Think about what makes you happy and what scents you love. Go with your emotions, ignoring what’s currently popular or trendy,” advises Phillips.
Rely on your nose
To that same point, once you’re in the store, it’s easy to be lured in by pretty packaging or a sexy-sounding description. Ignore those, says Phillips, and go based on scent alone. Which means, yes, you’re going to have to smell a few bottles…
But keep actual smelling to a minimum
More specifically, that means smelling no more than three fragrances at any given time, says Phillips. Any more and you risk becoming onosmic (aka nose blind) since your olfactory system is getting more of a workout than it’s used to, she explains. Take a break in between each one, and if you feel like things are starting to blur together, sniffing a tissue can help; its neutral scent acts like a reset button for your sense of smell.
Take any final picks for a test run
“Remember that perfumes smell different on different people,” says Phillips. They interact with your body chemistry, which is why it’s important to actually try on any fragrance you’re considering purchasing. Fragrances are also made up of notes that develop over time, so even if you initially love a top note (what you first smell), you may not feel the same way about the middle or end notes that appear as it dries down, points out Phillips. Once you’ve found a strong contender, ask for a sample so that you can wear it for at least a full day before committing.