You Smell Great

A fragrance primer that’s not to be sniffed at

Words: Dylan Muhlenberg | Illustrations: Jade Williams

In the same way that your wardrobe isn’t a uniform but a mix of basics, sportswear, streetwear, occasionwear and that hideous bridesmaid dress you just can’t bring yourself to part with due to sentimental reasons; your olfactory inventory should be just as diverse.

By all means own a signature scent, but then you should think about investing in a date night fragrance, something sporty to follow a post workout shower with and a disruptive perfume that’s so bonkers it will get you a wtf?! reaction every damn time. (Commes de Garçons leads the charge here with Odeur 53, which incorporates the smell of chemical burn, nail polish and burnt rubber).

The scent you choose to spritz your person with will not only leave an impression on whomever you meet, but will help to define your personality and character. Which is why, if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphor, it’s important that you don’t go blindly into how you choose to smell. Here are some things to consider while stockpiling scents.

What’s a scent?

If you think about it, dividing fragrance into masculine and feminine is quite silly. It’s not like there’s food that’s for ‘men only’, nor is there a movie that only women can enjoy (I loved The Notebook!). So wear whatever you want. The split in scent by sex is mostly marketing and the major difference between parfum and cologne is simply the concentrations of essence.

The most popular forms of fragrance, Eau de Cologne and Eau de toilette use the lowest concentration of oils, which means that they don’t last as long and should be reapplied throughout the day because the dominant top notes fade away fairly quickly. Fret not, these are almost always available in bigger bottles. Eau de parfum uses more essence and has much more noticeable heart notes after the top notes have faded. While the flacon is smaller, the juice goes a lot further. The most intense, and most expensive scent is perfume, boasting the highest concentration of essences and resulting in top, heart and base notes that are released over time. Because only a drop should be applied to a pulse spot, in this case dynamite really does come in small packages.

Find your scent

When you’re testing out different fragrances, don’t spray everything on your arm at the same time because you’ll battle to distinguish one from the other and end up smelling like the inside of a florist. Use a test strip instead, and after having found something that you like, spritz on your arm and take a walk. The scent will smell different on the skin to the strip, will differ from person to person, and the character will change over time, revealing different parts of the juice’s personality. If it all starts getting a bit much you should neutralise your nostrils with a sniff of coffee, which is kind of like cleansing your palette with ginger, and then start again.

Now this is about you finding your scent, so right away it should be something that you love and can imagine yourself wearing. And while the actual smell is important, nobody can deny the feel good factor you get from wearing a big name brand. Scent is aspirational and the cheapest way of buying into a top tier fashion house. So if you’ve always wanted to own Gucci, now is your chance. Just get used to saying stuff, like: “Why thank you, it’s Hermès, darling.”

Hitting the right notes

Fragrance is made up of three notes: the top note is the smallest and lightest, the first hit of fragrance that you smell (fresh, citruses, powdery scents, water and light florals); next up is the middle or heart note, the main body that will last around four hours (aromatic, oriental notes, heavier florals); the last and longest lasting are the base or bottom notes, which only reveal themselves half an hour after application and are what will linger all day (smokes, woods and leathers). Each perfume will use a mix of these to come up with a unique scent.

Apply Your Scent

The beauty industry uses spray heads so that they can shift more units. Sure it’s nice having beautifully scented carpets, but spraying a cloud of fragrance and walking through it is wasteful. Toss the spray head and then dab instead of spritz to save a significant amount of juice. Simply remove the spray head and then cover the opening with one finger and flip it over, take your scent-soaked finger and dab onto the pulse points on your wrist, neck and behind the ears. Do not rub as this reduces the strength. Dabbing directly to your neck, your chest or your clothing will be overwhelming. Remember, it’s easier to add more scent than it is to take some away, and when it comes to fragrance more is definitely not more. 

And the best time to apply? After you’ve showered, when your skin is clean and dry, simply dabbing on each wrist and then touching these wrists to the side of your neck works best. You smell amazing. Now get dressed.