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Expert Tips For Finding Your Signature Scent

by Kristin Bugden - August 09, 2022

Have you ever caught a whiff of a particular scent and instantly thought of a specific person? You, too, can have this immediate effect when you waltz into a room—thanks to your own signature fragrance.

Meant to communicate something about yourself without really having to say anything, a signature scent can help define you and even make you feel powerful, invigorated and uplifted. Unsure how to choose a fragrance that makes you unforgettable? We’ve got you covered! 

What are a few top suggestions when it comes to finding a signature fragrance?

First and foremost, Kimberly Waters, owner of Modern Urban Sensory Experiences in NYCtells Lively to have an open mind (or nose). “Be receptive and open to new genres of scents, especially those you may not necessarily be familiar with or brands that might not be on your radar,” she recommends, adding that it’s important to give each fragrance time to evolve, aka don’t spray and within two seconds decide you’re not into it. “I like to give each scent three to four minutes of dry down time before reacting,” she says.

If you’re shopping online, fragrance expert Marisa Auciello shares that just about every perfume e-retailer sells samples these days. “Invest in a $7 sample before splurging on a $200 bottletry sites like TwistedLily or LuckyScent.

What are the different fragrance categories?

It’s always helpful to have a general idea about what type of fragrance you’re after before you hit the counter (or start browsing online). Auciello shares the following main fragrance categories to keep in mind along with a few product recommendations in each: 

  • Floral: There is nothing as timeless as a true floral fragrance— these ones are easily recognizable from almost the first whiff and conjure up images of things like fresh flowers and spring weddings. Consider a spin on the classic with a fruity-floral such as Opus Kore by Vilhelm Parfumerie or an ambery-floral such as Elixir Essence by Roja Dove.
  • Fresh: Fresh fragrances have long reigned superior in the unisex spaceafter all, there’s nothing quite like feeling (and smelling) fresh and clean. These scents can be described as uplifting and refreshing and it’s no wonder the crisp You or Someone Like You by Etat Libre D’orange has gone viral on TikTok.
  • Gourmand: Want to smell good enough to eat? Consider a gourmand fragrance! A gourmand is a lover of good food, so it makes sense that while the category is primarily built on notes of vanilla, it has evolved to offer a wide range of creations from chocolatey to salty. A cult favorite in this category is just about every scent from Comptoir Sud Pacifiquenamely their iconic Vanille Abricot.
  • Woodsy: Woody fragrances have increased in popularity with the rise of unisex and androgynous demands. In its simplest form, you can opt for a cedarwood fragrance in the form of a molecular base with notes like Iso E Super found in Paper Expressive by Commodity. If you’re on the hunt for something a bit more moody, try an oud fragrance such as VerticalOud by Hermetica Paris.

Is it better to start testing out lighter or heavier scents first?

We were curious to know whether it’s advised to begin a signature fragrance journey by testing lighter scents over heavier scents first or vice versa. Auciello notes that whenever they’re hosting smelling sessions with clients, they do indeed tend to present the collection from light to dark. “Heavier fragrances linger a bit longer in the airway, so you’ll want to save those for last. Try not to overload your senses and take a moment in between each fragrance,” she advises. 

Does sniffing coffee beans in between testing scents really make a difference?

If you’ve spritzed various fragrances at a department store before, it’s likely you may have been offered a whiff of coffee beans between scents as a sort of “nasal palate cleanser.” While the smell of coffee can be enjoyable, does it really reset what’s called your “olfactory senses?” The short answer is no. “It’s a myth that you should smell coffee in between smelling fragrances it actually has the opposite effect of what you need, which is a breath of fresh air,” shares Auciello, adding that smelling coffee is a scent within itself which basically just adds yet another scent profile to your airway.

Feeling bombarded with various scents at the store? Her advice is to simply take a second and start again. Waters also notes that she tells clients to take a sniff of their clothing to help cleanse the olfactory palate.

Why does the price of perfume vary so much?

Perhaps you’ve been doing some browsing and are curious about the various fragrance price points, since some are certainly easier on the wallet than others. But why? Auciello explains that there’s a wide range of costs when it comes to perfume and for good reason. “The cost can be reflective of many components such as the quality of ingredients, the level of the perfumery behind the fragrance, the packaging or the level of concentration,” she says.

“I believe that similarly to a fashion wardrobe, there’s a time and place for everything, so consider having a high-low assortment within your fragrance collection,” Auciello says.

For example, if you apply a fragrance after a workout at the gym when you have to skip a shower, choose something on the lower end of your price point. Save the more expensive perfume for a date, a special event or a night out with friends.

“I wouldn’t waste your Baccarat Rouge 540 on [a post-workout spritz], but instead you might want to try something like Not a Perfume by Juliette Has a Gun.”  

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