Why do we wear (and love) fragrance so much?
Because it helps us feel good about ourselves and others. Recent psychological tests
show that people who use fragrance regularly have a more positive attitude towards
socialising and may be more socially skilled than those who seldom or never wear
it. It was generally found that people who believe that others think they smell
good have more confidence. More fun, too?
Why do I hate some fragrances and love others?
Because we all are programmed to like certain smells and dislike others. Our response
to odour and fragrance, say scientists, is partly learned and partly genetic. We
are born with definite likes and dislikes, as well as sensitivity to certain smells.
Very early on, experience starts modifying and adding to them and we build up a
complex “smell bank” of memories and associations. All this stored information determines
whether or not we like a fragrance.
Do I actually form opinions about people based on the fragrance they’re wearing?
Yes, although you may not be conscious of it at the time. According to Anne M. Schell
of Occidental College in Los Angeles: “It’s quite possible that we respond emotionally
to odours without realising why we’re responding or even what our feelings are.”
You may well decide that someone is aggressive and pushy when it is their perfume
or aftershave that’s getting on your nerves.
Why does fragrance bring back memories and feelings of the past?
Because smell triggers the associative memory of clusters of events and feelings.
We use this “memory” part of the brain to help us identify a particular scent because
we can’t describe an odour. The closest we can come is to describe it in relative
terms: “It smelled like ...”. A whiff of fragrance sends our brain searching in
our “memory bank” of smells for old associations and connections that might help
define the aroma. This is why, when smelling a rose today, you may suddenly have
an image of your grandmother’s garden or a feeling of the fragrance your mother
Will my taste in perfume change as I get older?
Probably. As you grow older and the way you feel about yourself changes, the kind
of fragrance you choose will change too. In your teens, you’ll probably wear light,
gentle scents. In your late teens and early twenties, you’ll often choose a fragrance
because you identify with its image. As your sense of confidence develops, you tend
to choose a fragrance that expresses your individual style, your personal taste.
When shouldn’t I wear perfume?
In the sun. Fragrance tends to react with ultraviolet light, irritating the skin
and often causing skin discolouration. There are, however, some specially formulated
alcohol-free, safe to wear in summer.
What should I do if I develop an allergy to a perfume?
If a scent makes you cough, wheeze or gives you a headache or a feeling of nausea,
take a deep breath of fresh air. Breathe deeply for a few minutes, blowing through
your nose to clear the nasal passages.
If your skin is red and itchy, splash the area with cold water for a few minutes
and pat dry. Some areas such as the neck are more sensitive than others, so if the
reaction is only mild, you could try the fragrance on a less sensitive part of the
Safer pulse points are: below the ears and knees, at the bend of the elbow, on the
bosom and around wrists. If the fragrance still irritates your skin, but you love
it so much that you want to keep wearing it, here’s the answer: spray a cotton ball,
let dry and tuck it into your bra.
How do the fragrance families help me choose the right perfume?
Because our sense of smell is so emotional, we assume that fragrances are confusing,
a jumble of different perfumes with no rhyme or reason.
It’s not true. When you classify the fragrances you have worn, you’ll probably find
that they fall mostly into just two or three families. Once you know the families
you especially like, the Fragrance Manual will show you which other fragrances fall
into the same family.
How should a woman choose a fragrance for a man?
Men’s fragrances are grouped into exactly the same families as women’s. Therefore,
try a few men’s fragrances from the same families as your favourite scents. Of course,
the man for whom you are choosing needs to be comfortable with the fragrance you
select, but if he loves your fragrance, you’re on the right track.
How do I select a fragrance as a gift for a woman?
One sure way is find out which fragrances she especially likes, the names of her
favourite perfumes. Once you know those magic names, an informed consultant will
be able to help you select another fragrance from the same family or families of
fragrance that she especially likes.
If you don’t know the names of her favourite fragrances, ask a consultant for advice.
Describe the lady for whom you’re buying the gift - not her hair colour (will it
be the same next week?) nor her age (we all know women who’re old at 20, others
who are vibrant at 70), but her style of dress, her personality, her activities.
Ask the consultant to suggest three fragrances, just three, never more. Test their
scents on testing papers. Take your time. Which fragrance ‘talks’ to you? Try not
to be logical. Relax. Let your instinct take over. Nine times out of ten, you’ll
find that your nose will select the perfect match.
How do I find a new perfume that I’ll really enjoy?
It can be difficult. “Finding the right fragrance is almost as hard as finding the
right man,” complained Allure magazine.
You may feel that there can be no logic in your choice of perfumes because your
sense of smell is so emotional, but the fragrances you most enjoy will probably
belong to just one or two of the fourteen different fragrance families.
Like most good things, it takes a little effort to find a new perfume that is just
Start by understanding the difference between the fragrance families. Play with
the Fragrance Wheel.
To see other fragrances in the same family, visit one of the department store fragrance
finders that Michael has created. Check, for example, Nordstrom.com
What is the correct way to try a fragrance?
Apply a few drops or the lightest spray to your wrist or the back of your hand.
Don’t just sniff a flacon because perfume comes to life only on your skin. Wait
a few moments. Give the fragrance time to bloom on your skin, to let the notes ‘talk’
When testing a fragrance which concentration should I use?
Lighter fragrance concentrations such as eaux de toilette or colognes, because they
dry and develop quickly.
What’s the best way to try on several fragrances?
Apply the first fragrance to one wrist and wait a few minutes. Apply the second
to the other wrist and a third fragrance to the inside of the elbow. Remember, three
is the maximum number of fragrances you should try on at once. Any more and your
nose is likely to become confused.
How accurate is the fragrance on a ScentStrip® sample?
Today, it is completely accurate because you are experiencing the real perfume,
encapsulated into tiny bubbles that break as you stroke your wrist across the strip.
How should I test a fragrance if I don’t want to try it on my skin?
Test on blotting paper or a tissue. It’s not as good as testing on your skin but
it is the next best thing.
Can’t I tell if I like a fragrance by sniffing the opened bottle?
No. When you sniff an open bottle, your nose inhales the sharp bite of alcohol and
the volatile top notes. A fragrance needs your skin to come alive. It blooms as
it reacts with the warmth of your body to create a fragrance that is unique to you.
Where should I apply my perfume?
Where the skin is especially warm and where there is good blood circulation. This
is because heat helps diffuse and magnify the aroma of fragrance. The “pulse points”
on the body (see below) are the perfect activators for perfume. Because fragrance
rises, it should be applied to several pulse points - not just, for instance, at
the base of the throat.
Where are my pulse points?
Inside the wrists. Inside the elbows. At the temple. Below the ear lobes, not behind.
At the base of the throat. Behind the knees. And anywhere else you feel a heartbeat.
Should I spray or dab on perfume?
Both ways are fine but sometimes you can waste precious drops of perfume when you
dab it on. This problem is minimised with a spray that delivers a fine, even application
of fragrance. An atomiser also minimises waste but its spray is not as consistent
as a natural spray.
What’s the best way to spray on perfume?
Spray about 20cm away from your skin. An even spray over a wider area will help
your fragrance last longer than a generous amount in a small area. Should you rub
one wrist against the other to dry the fragrance? No, because you’ll bruise the
notes, dull their development.
Where else can I spray perfume, apart from my skin?
Try the lightest spray through damp hair before you blow dry, or mist your hairbrush
and comb with fragrance before use. Perhaps a touch of perfume on your handkerchief.
A spray of essence on padded hangers. Add a few drops of perfume to the water in
a steam iron to lace clothes with fragrance, or rinse lingerie in scented water.
If fragrance can make you feel so good, why not use its power?
Can I wear two fragrances at once?
Preferably not because each perfume is a balanced, complete creation. If you wear
one fragrance on top of another, you may create a scentsation but, more likely,
you’ll produce an odour.
How long will an opened bottle of perfume last?
Depending on the fragrance, from six to 18 months, if stored correctly. Once a bottle
of fragrance has been opened it should be used because all fragrance deteriorates
with time: light, citrus-based perfumes in as little as six months; floral scents
in about a year and a half.
How should I store my perfume?
Keep your fragrances in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and heat sources
(such as radiators). Extreme heat or cold will upset the delicate balance of the
oils and change their scent. Once a bottle of perfume is opened, use it. A spray
lets in less air and evaporates slower than a bottle with a cap but even the finest
essence fades with time. If you prefer one fragrance in winter and another in the
summer, you’ll extend their life between seasons if you store the bottle in the
vegetable crisper of the refrigerator.
What packaging helps keep perfume the longest?
Spray forms rather than regular bottles, because an atomiser admits less air than
a bottle with a screw-on cap, limits contamination and slows down the evaporation
of the perfume.
How can I tell if a perfume has gone off?
When its colour has changed, when it seems thicker or when the initial notes seem
sour, almost ‘off’.
Why has my perfume suddenly gone cloudy?
Probably because a drop of water got into it. If you keep your perfume in the bathroom,
you’ll probably notice droplets of water condense on the inside of the bottle. Any
impurity, not just water, will make fragrance go cloudy.
How can I clean out perfume from an atomiser to refill it with a new one?
Pour some rubbing alcohol into the empty atomiser and swish it around. Let stand
for a few minutes, and then rinse out with clean water. If the atomiser is still
laced with the old scent, repeat and leave the alcohol in the bottle overnight.
Remember, rinse with water and dry thoroughly before pouring in the new fragrance.
If I can’t remove the stopper on my perfume bottle, what should I do?
Try tapping the stopper gently against a wooden surface, not against a mirror or
glass. A few small taps on all sides should be enough to loosen it.
Any more tips on travelling with fragrance?
If you’re taking a fragrance with you on a trip, never decant it into a smaller
plastic flask, because the plastic may react with the fragrance. Pack a small spray
Another suggestion, pack any fragrance into your carry-on rather than in your suitcase
because air pressure changes in the baggage compartment may cause sprays to leak.
If I feel there’s something wrong with the fragrance I just bought, what can I do?
Take it straight back the store where you bought it, and explain why you are not
happy with the fragrance. Was the bottle half full when you opened it? Perfumes
can and do leak. Had the fragrance spoiled? Storage conditions are not always ideal.
Reputable perfume houses or retailers will gladly replace any faulty product but
you must take back the bottle and the packaging as soon as possible.
Sometimes people return a fragrance saying that ‘the perfume has changed’ or ‘it
doesn’t smell the way it usually does’. While this is quite possible if the fragrance
has been stored incorrectly or is too old, more often it is the customer whose skin
has changed. Antibiotics, hormones, medicines, diets, foods all affect our skin
chemistry and change the note of favourite fragrances. So be prepared to be fair!
How does our sense of smell work?
Odour molecules pass through the nasal passages to two tiny patches located behind
the bridge of the nose. These patches are made up of millions of special olfactory
or smelling sensors. The odour molecules dissolve in moisture and bind to tiny nerve
hairs on the cells. Recent research has found that every cell is equipped with as
many as a thousand different receptors, each designed to respond to a small group
of different odours. These send messages about the odour to the limbic system, the
part of the brain that governs moods and certain emotional responses.
While the limbic system is largely devoted to smell, it also influences our hormonal,
metabolic and stress responses and is the emotional centre for sexual desire, rage,
fear and joy. That’s why fragrance is such an emotional experience.
How many different smells can I distinguish?
Depending on your individual sense of smell, between 5,000 and 10,000.
Do women have a keener sense of smell than men?
“Yes”, says Richard L. Doty, Director of the Smell and Taste Centre at the University
of Pennsylvania, USA. But, he adds, the male/female differences may well be cultural
- or hormonal. Women in our society tend to use their sense of smell more often
than men. They are encouraged to take an interest in cooking, flowers and fragrance.
A woman’s sense of smell also fluctuates more than a man’s, which makes her more
aware of fragrances and odours. These fluctuations seem to be influenced by the
release of certain hormones during the menstrual cycle. Oestrogen increases smell
acuity in the first half of the month, and again in the early months of pregnancy,
while progesterone decreases the ability to smell in the last half.
Why can’t I smell the fragrance I’m wearing after a while?
Several of the senses tire after constant stimulation. The sense of smell classically
cuts off within minutes. Because you can’t move away from your own perfume, you
become used to it. You may think it has disappeared, but others can still smell
At what age do we begin to appreciate scent?
From the moment we are born. At two days old, babies already turn to the recognisable
scent of their mothers and show arousal or aversion to other smells.
At what age will my sense of smell be most acute?
Probably between the ages of 20 and 40.
Could I lose my sense of smell as I get older?
Yes. Many men and women over 50 begin to lose their ability fully to appreciate
smell sensations. That’s why older people tend to like stronger fragrances and,
sometimes, use too much perfume. Research suggests that women tend to lose their
sense of smell more slowly than men of the same age. Neglect appears to be the main
reason; we are apt to take our noses for granted and, quite literally, forget to
smell. Remember: use it or lose it!
What else might affect my sense of smell?
Sinus disease, respiratory infections and head injuries are all common causes of
persistent loss of smell. Prolonged exposure to toxic substances such as air pollutants,
industrial chemicals, tobacco smoke and certain drugs can diminish and even damage
the olfactory cells.
How can I improve my sense of smell?
Nose training! Exercising your nose improves your sense of smell, just as exercising
your body makes you fitter. To exercise your sense of smell, wear different fragrances
of varying intensities. Change your fragrance wardrobe from day to night, from winter
To sharpen your sense of smell, imagine the colour of each fragrance, each smell.
In a recent study, Dr Avery Gilbert, the man behind National Geographic’s world-wide
Smell study, found that people tend to associate distinctive scents with different
colours. In his study, people imagined patchouli to be a brown scent, while the
spicy note of cinnamon was thought of as a red smell.
Take time, too, to smell the fragrance of flowers, the green notes of leaves and
the air on a rainy morning. The more you use your nose, the more sensitive your
sense of smell will become.
How can I tell if my fragrance is overpowering?
Ask a friend. Since we can’t smell the fragrance we’re wearing after a while, we
have to rely on the opinions of friends and family. If you regularly receive compliments,
that’s probably the surest sign that you’re wearing the right fragrance. On the
other hand, if people ask which fragrance you’re wearing but make no other comment,
How many different fragrances can I try without confusing my sense of smell?
Three. Although you will find your sense of smell tires more quickly from similar
fragrances than fragrances of very different character, you risk confusing your
sense if you test more than three different scents at one time.
What should I do if my sense of smell becomes muddled?
If your nose is tired and says “enough”, let it rest. Take a deep breath and blow
all the air through your nose to clear it.
Why did a perfume I tested in a store smell so different when I tried it on later
A fragrance depends strongly on the environment in which it is experienced. The
perfume department often has a heady mixture of fragrances in the air, a melange
that will influence the scent of any fragrance you sniff. Air-conditioning, too,
creates temperature and humidity levels very different to those found at home. Most
importantly, we rarely stand at the counter waiting for all phases of a fragrance
to develop; we tend to discover these when we have left the store.
Can fragrance change my mood?
Yes. One of the most remarkable properties of fragrance is the way it instantly
affects our emotions. Studies have shown that fragrances can stimulate or calm us,
encourage a good mood or bad, shape positive or negative memories and induce sweet
dreams. Aromatherapy - the art of healing with fragrant essential oils - is based
on the idea that aroma has the power to affect mood.
Fragrance has long been recognised as a powerful and subtle tool for rebalancing
the mind and the body. “Every perfume is a medicine” says the old Chinese proverb.
Ann Gottlieb, a fragrance consultant who has worked on the development of Calvin
Klein’s fragrances, said in a recent interview that “Much of what’s used in products
that make aroma therapeutic claims is based on tradition and folklore rather than
science but, more and more, research is pointing to our ability to alter moods.
Soon, fragrance is not just going to make you smell good, it will have a very real
In a recent study, peppermint and lily of the valley were found to increase alertness
at work. One Tokyo company pipes peppermint into the office to improve productivity.
Another company sends different fragrances through the air conditioning system to
enhance staff productivity. A whiff of citrus helps get the day off to a good start.
An unobtrusive floral fragrance aids concentration in mid-morning and afternoon.
A touch of cedar seems to relieve tiredness during the lunch break and in the late
Have the psychological effects of perfume been scientifically proven?
Scientists are increasingly confirming what aroma therapists and perfumers have
always believed: that fragrance affects psychology. By measuring brain wave activity
and heart rate, researchers have proved that certain scents such as lavender and
chamomile are calming, while others like neroli and bergamot are stimulating. In
one test, computer keyboard operators typed 14 per cent more strokes per hour with
a hint of citrus or cedar in the air, and made 21 per cent fewer errors. Current
studies designed to pinpoint the specific mood effects of fragrances are focusing
on a method of psychological evaluation called “mood profiling” which helps identify
which fragrances make us feel best.
Do certain personality types like different types of scent?
Yes. We buy fragrances not only because we like their smell but also because they
reflect our personality. According to studies carried out by the psychologist and
sociologist Dr Joachim Mensing of the Research Institute for Applied Aesthetics
in Freiburg, Germany, “extroverts” look for stimulation from the environment and
tend to find fresh, green fragrances activating. “Introverts”, who prefer less stimulation,
find Orientals harmonious, while emotionally ambivalent people - dreamers - prefer
floral, powdery scents. But, a word of caution: this work was researched in Germany,
on a fairly small sample of people.
Is perfume an aphrodisiac?
Scent can certainly make you feel sexier but there is no scientific evidence to
suggest that fragrance is actually an aphrodisiac. Smell is obviously linked to
our sexuality and some experts believe that hormones released from glands in the
groin and armpit act as powerful sexual attractants in the way that pheromones released
by animals do. The sense of confidence the right perfume can give, plus the attractive
chemical cocktail it helps create, can certainly be a great turn-on.
Why is scent so sexy?
“The nose may really be a sexual organ - it may be more closely related to sexual
response than vision,” suggests American researcher, Michael Shipley. Clearly, the
sheer confidence and heightened sensuality produced by the right fragrance makes
us more receptive to sexual feelings and more attractive to others. “When a woman
is in the arms of a man she loves, in the dark of the night, the perfume she is
wearing plays a very important role,” says Jean-Paul Guerlain.
Why does a perfume smell wonderful on a friend, yet do nothing for me?
Because each of us has our own “scent print” that will influence the development
of a perfume. This odour-identity is the sum total of our genes, our skin chemistry,
diet, medication intake, stress level and, probably the most important factor of
all, the temperature of our skin.
It’s not as simple as saying that fragrances react differently on different people
because of their ‘body chemistry’. The warmth of our skin is critical. Some people
have more pores per centimetre than others, or more layers of fat in their skin.
These and other factors affect the warmth of skin, which in turn influences the
scent of a fragrance.
We are all created equal until we use fragrance.
I’ve been wearing the same fragrance for years, so why does it seem so different
Probably because your personal chemistry and body temperature have changed slightly.
Perhaps you are on a low-fat diet or taking some new medication. Have you changed
your brand of contraceptive pill? Are you pregnant? Are you exercising more frequently?
Has your skin become drier? Are you using more moisturiser?
Fragrance formulae rarely change but diet or medication changes produce new chemicals
that come through the pores and can change the fragrance balance on your skin.
Try using a body cream or bath oil that matches your fragrance as an oil perfume
to see if it overcomes the problem. If not, change fragrances for a while.
How does my skin type affect fragrance?
The oils in skin dissolve and retain scent molecules. Therefore, the oilier your
skin, the more intense a fragrance will be and the longer it will last.
If I have dry skin, do I need to apply my fragrance more generously?
Yes. Dry skin doesn’t have as much capacity to retain the scent molecules for as
long as oily skin, so you’ll need to apply fragrance more often throughout the day.
When a person perspires does this affect the impact of fragrance?
Yes. As the body heats up, the fragrance molecules bounce off the skin more quickly.
The result: your perfume smells stronger but it also wears off rapidly. The chemicals
in your perspiration also affect the balance and scent of the fragrance.
Is it true that fragrance reacts differently on blondes, brunettes and redheads?
Probably. True blondes often have a dry skin that lacks the oils needed to hold
scent. As a result, fragrances evaporate more rapidly from their skin.
Brunettes, on the other hand, usually have skin that holds fragrance well because
it is much richer in natural oils.
True redheads generally have skin that’s fair and delicate, characterised by fine
pores and a slightly higher body temperature. Their skin releases the true notes
of most fragrances but its warmth tends to make fragrances fade quite quickly.
Will smoking affect the way a fragrance wears on my skin?
Yes. Nicotine is a psychoactive substance that changes your body chemistry and affects
the way you smell. If you smoke, not only will fragrances tend not to last as long
on your skin but you’ll also find that your sense of smell is duller.
Can dieting affect the amount of fragrance I need to apply?
Yes. If you’re on a low-fat diet, the oil levels in your skin tend to be lower so
you may find that your fragrance does not seem to last as long.
Will eating spicy foods affect the way my perfume smells on me?
Again, the answer is yes. The scent of your fragrance doesn’t change, but the scent
of your skin does. Most of us forget that our skin is an excretory organ. Spicy
foods spice up the oils secreted through the pores of your skin. So, spicy skin,
Is it true that antibiotics may change my fragrance?
Yes. Firstly, because many antibiotics change the smell of your skin. Secondly,
because their action decimates the bacteria on your skin, which, in turn blend with
your skin oils to produce a fragrance that is distinctive to you.
How can I tell if factors such as diet or smoking are affecting the way a fragrance
smells on my skin?
Test a fragrance on your wrists and also on blotting paper.
Wait ten minutes for the scent to develop and compare the pure sample with your
own fragrance ‘odour print’ to see if there are any marked differences.
Are certain men’s fragrances also best for certain seasons?
Yes. As with women’s fragrance, heavier notes are best in the colder months; lighter
fragrances are more suited to summer weather. If you like to wear the more potent,
heavier fragrances year round, consider using the lighter aftershave version as
a body cologne in warmer weather.
Is there a golden rule when it comes to men and men’s fragrance?
‘Less is more’. Fragrance is always more potent than one imagines. A man often uses
a fragrance more liberally than a woman would because his sense of smell tends not
to be as acute. Also, men become used to splashing on an aftershave and forget that
a cologne or an eau de toilette has a more concentrated, far more potent fragrance.
What’s the difference between aftershave and cologne?
Colognes or eaux de toilette are meant for your body, aftershaves for your face.
Eaux de toilette (or Colognes) are blended with more fragrance - anywhere from 5
to 15 per cent essential oils - while aftershaves have a lighter scent, usually
around 2 to 4 per cent, less alcohol (30 to 65 per cent) and incorporate soothing
emollients and calming antiseptics.
I use an electric razor? Should I still use an aftershave?
Yes. Shaving is shaving. An electric razor is just as likely to irritate skin, so
it makes sense to use an aftershave to soothe sensitive patches, to heal surface
nicks. For drier skins, use an aftershave balm or moisturiser.
Should I use a cologne or an eau de toilette on my face?
Neither. Never. Ever. They can be murder to a man’s skin. The act of shaving, the
daily pruning of some 16,000 whiskers, scrapes away layers of dead skin cells to
expose new skin that is unprotected and very sensitive. A cologne or eau de toilette
will create `shaving shock’ if splashed onto freshly shaved skin. Its high alcohol
content will burn and dry the new, raw skin. Use an aftershave or a balm on your
face and reserve the cologne or eau de toilette for your body.
Can I revive the fragrance of an aftershave or cologne?
Yes. Splash just a little water on your face, or on the spots where you originally
applied the fragrance. The water will mix with your skin oils and revive the fragrance
for a while.
Will the same aftershave smell differently on different men?
Yes, because each man’s body chemistry and skin type is a little different. The
logic is this: fragrance molecules are oil-soluble, so the oilier the skin, the
slower the fragrance release and the longer the scent will last.
Men with oily skins should keep away from heavy, oriental notes. Choose light, crisp
fragrances: Citrus and Green notes or the Fresh/Crisp interpretations of Florals,
Orientals, Woody notes or Aromatic Fougère fragrances.
Men with a dry skin will probably need a more potent, richer fragrance to hold the
notes. Choose any Rich interpretations from the Fragrance Manual or select from
the Soft Oriental, Oriental or Woody Oriental families.
Generally, men with blond hair and blue eyes will tend to have dry skin. The darker
the skin, the browner the eyes, the more likely a man’s skin will be oily, the longer
it will hold a fragrance.
What does ‘perfume’ mean?
The word comes from the Latin, meaning “a sweet-smelling fluid containing the essence
of flowers and other substances”. But perfume has its origins in ancient Roman ritual.
In the temples of Rome, crushed flowers, leaves, wood shavings, spices and aromatic
resins were thrown onto burning coals as offerings to the gods. Their scent was
released through smoke ( per fumum).
What is a ‘nose’?
A perfumer who creates perfumes, whose olfactory skill composes great fragrances,
sublime harmonies whose notes haunt the imagination of men and women the world over.
“To be a ‘nose’ is not anything mysterious,” said the celebrated perfumer Edmond
Roudnitska. “The thing you have to reach is not only the memory of a smell, but
the memory of a smell in combination - otherwise you are just mixing at random and
that is not creating. The creation of a perfume is cerebral, not nasal.”
Roudnitska always insisted that “time is essential to a creative perfumer. It can
take several years to come up with a great perfume. You can’t keep sniffing the
scent you are working on day after day until you reach perfection ... often you
must leave the perfume for months and then come back.”
What are ozonic or marine fragrances?
Fragrances with a fresh, marine character which conjure up images of the beach and
the great outdoors, the tang of sea air.
What does the term living flowers or headspace mean in perfumery?
It’s a relatively new technique that recreates the true-to-life fragrance of a living
flower. Researchers use ultra-sensitive equipment to analyse every fragrant molecule
of the perfume given off by a living flower. They produce a ‘fingerprint’ or a chemical
profile of its fragrance. By comparing the profile of the living perfume with the
profile of the flower’s essential oil, perfumers can then identify the parts of
the oil lost during the extraction process. With this knowledge, they are able to
put back the ‘angels’ portion’ into the essential oil and recreate the real scent
of the living flower. Antonia’s Flowers, Prescriptives’ Calyx and Giorgio’s Red
were the first fragrances to utilise this new technology. They pioneered a new generation
of florals that seemed softer yet fuller, a development that continues to influence
What is the history of eaux de colognes?
Around 1680, Giao Paola Feminis, a barber from a village in Northern Italy, double
distilled esprit-de-vin to obtain 75/80% proof alcohol, in which he dissolved lavender,
rosemary, and cold-pressed bergamot and lemon oils.
Feminis called his elixir, Acqua Mirabilis (Miraculous water). It was the first
eau de cologne but it did not acquire that name for a further 130 years.
In 1709, Johann Maria Farina, a Cologne perfumer, introduced Jean Maria Farina acqua
mirabilis. Its success encouraged other Cologne perfumers to imitate the product.
Over the next century, more than 2,000 copies appeared, almost all called Farina.
In 1792, Wilhelm Muelhens introduced Franz Maria Farina acqua mirabilis, renamed
4711 in 1845
Roger & Gallet’s Jean Marie Farina appeared in 1806.
In 1810, Napoleon decreed that medicinal formulae had to be registered. The Cologne
perfumers, reluctant to reveal their acqua mirabilis formulae, registered their
products as perfumes, eaux de Cologne.
When perfumers talk of the diffusion of a perfume, what do they mean?
Diffusion is the ability of a scent to reach out from your skin and surround you
and others with its aura. The ability of a scent to travel through the air - its
effusiveness - is the test of a great perfume.
What does “fragrance life” mean?
The time it takes a scent to evolve, from the moment it first touches your skin,
through to its last lingering traces.
What are fragrance “families”?
Fragrances, like wines, are grouped into families. Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs,
Rieslings and Chenin Blancs, for example, are different families or varieties of
white wine. Each is superb in its own right, but usually there will be one that
Likewise, Floral Orientals, Soft Orientals, true Orientals, and Woody Orientals
are all fragrances families within the major Oriental classification. They are all
Orientals but each fragrance family will have a characteristic scent, a different
Instinctively, you will prefer fragrances from some families, and dislike perfumes
To learn more about the different fragrance families, explore
The Fragrance Wheel.
What are aldehydes?
A family of aroma notes with a pervasive, radiant scent that add a soft, powdery
touch to a fragrance composition. Aldehydes are found in rose and citrus oils, but
in such trace amount that it would be impractical to extract them commercially.
Today they are made synthetically.
Think of the aroma notes as the perfumer’s notes, created in the laboratories to
add originality, a new character and tenacity, to nature’s notes.
What does Chypre mean?
This perfume family takes its name from the first significant woody-mossy fragrance,
Chypre, introduced by François Coty in 1917. Chypre is the French name for the island
of Cyprus, the legendary birthplace of Venus, goddess of love.
Why is the family called Aromatic Fougère?
Fougère is the French word for fern, but the association is imaginary. No fern ever
smelled of these aromatic spicy-woody-lavender notes. The family takes its name
from a man’s fragrance, Fougère Royale (Royal Fern), created by Houbigant in 1882.
The Fougère family is often called the universal family because the fragrances combine
the floral notes of lavender; the oriental accents of amber and coumarin, a spicy
extract of tonka beans; the chypre warmth of oakmoss and sandalwood. When in doubt
as to what to suggest for a man, suggest a Fougère. It has something for everyone.
What is the difference between ‘perfume’ and ‘fragrance’?
To most people, the words essentially mean the same, and you can safely use one
or the other. You will find that usage varies from country to country: in the United
States, fragrance is the more common description; in England, scent or fragrance.
In France? Parfum!
The fragrance industry tends to refer to the most concentrated form of a scent as
perfume or parfum in contrast, say, to the less concentrated eau de toilette or
cologne. Perfumers, on the other hand, use the word specifically to describe their
fragrant creations, their perfumes.
What is the difference between Perfume, Eau de Parfum or Parfum de Toilette, Eau
de Toilette and Cologne?
Each represents a different ‘concentration’ of actual perfume oil in a scent. Perfume,
parfum or extrait is the most concentrated, longest-lasting fragrance form with
12 to 30 per cent perfume oils. The newer Eau de Parfum or Esprit de Parfum interpretations
are almost as concentrated as the traditional extraits, but the Parfum de Toilette
or Eau de Toilette (a Cologne, in the United States) is a lighter strength, with
a level of fragrance anywhere from 4 to 18 per cent. In Europe, the word Eau de
Cologne describes a very light level of fragrance, only 1 to 3 per cent oil.
What is the difference between a “signature” scent, a “celebrity” scent and a “designer”
A signature scent is a scent by which someone is recognised. When Marilyn Monroe
confessed that she wore nothing but Chanel No. 5 in bed, that fragrance became etched
in the collective memory as her ‘signature’ scent.
Celebrity scents are generated by media personalities rather than a fragrance house:
Elizabeth Taylor’s Passion (1987) was the first successful celebrity fragrance.
Her White Diamonds (1991) remains one of the top-selling fragrances in the United
Designer perfumes, on the other hand, are created by and linked to fashion houses
or designers. Chanel No 5 is the enduring symbol of a designer perfume.
What is the difference between aftershave and cologne?
Colognes or eaux de toilette are meant for your body, aftershaves for your face.
Eaux de toilette (or Colognes) are blended with more fragrance - anywhere from 5
to 15 per cent essential oils - while aftershaves have a lighter scent, usually
around 2 to 4 per cent, less alcohol (30 to 65 per cent) and incorporate soothing
emollients and calming antiseptics.
Which were the first known fragrances?
The Egyptians developed aromatic oils and essences 5,000 years ago. Great perfume
lovers, they used almond and rose oil, frankincense and myrrh, cedar, mimosa and
lily, nutmeg, sweet balsam, cassia, benzoin and labdanum, galbanum and opopanax
in such diverse preparations as aphrodisiacs, medicines, cosmetics and incense.
In fact, the art of perfumery in Ancient Egypt was so sophisticated that when archaeologists
opened Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922 they discovered an ointment that was still fragrant!
The study of fragrance, developed in the Nile Valley, was to inspire other ancient
cultures. In Greece, athletes anointed their bodies with aromatic oils, and at banquets
Romans refreshed themselves between courses with flower-scented water. It was the
Persians who developed the use of exotic ingredients and the technique of extracting
oils from flowers through distillation. This expertise was brought to Western Europe
at the time of the Crusades.
When is a perfume considered a “classic”?
When it has transcended the fickle realms of fashion, capturing people’s imagination
for years, even generations. The first great couturier classic was Chanel No 5,
created in 1921. Here is a selective listing of other great classics, women’s and
men’s, that have influenced modern perfumery:
1880 > 1899: The birth of modern perfumery
Fougère Royale* 1882; Jicky 1889
1900 >1919: François Coty & Jacques Guerlain
L’Origan 1905; Apres l’Ondée 1906; L’Heure Bleue 1912; Chypre de Coty 1917; Mitsouko
1920 > 1939 Glamour and Depression
Chanel No5 1921; Shalimar 1925; Arpège 1927; Joy 1930; Tabu 1932
1940 > 1959 A new generation: A New Look
Bandit 1944; Femme 1944; Miss Dior 1947; Fracas 1948; L’Air du Temps 1948; Youth-Dew
1953; Diorissimo 1956; L’Interdit 1957; Cabbochard 1959
1960> 1979 Prêt-à-porter and the American challenge
Madame Rochas 1960; Calèche 1961; Estée 1968; Calandre 1969; Rive Gauche 1969; Aromatics
Elixir 1971; Chanel No19 1971; Jovan Musk 1972; Charlie 1973; Private Collection
1973; Halston 1975; First 1976; Opium 1977; Oscar 1977; Anaïs Anaïs 1978; White
1980 > 1999 Luxe turns to pure and gourmand
Giorgio Beverly Hills 1981; Must de Cartier 1981; Ombre Rose 1981; Paris 1983; Ysatis
1984; Beautiful 1985; Obsession 1985; Poison 1985; Calyx 1986; Eternity 1988; Samsara
1989; Amarige 1991; White Diamonds 1991; Angel 1992; Féminité du Bois 1992; Bvlgari
au Thé Vert 1993; L’Eau d’Issey 1992; Jean Paul Gaultier 1993; Cashmere Mist 1994;
ck One 1994; Pleasures 1995; Allure 1996; Tommy Girl 1996; Happy 1997; Gucci Rush
1999; J’Adore 1999
2000 > 2009 Legends in the making
FlowerbyKenzo 2000; Coco Mademoiselle 2001; Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue 2001;
Marc Jacobs perfume 2001; Clean 2003; Narciso Rodriguez for Her 2003; Prada 2004
Which ten fragrances does Michael Edwards regards as the most influential in perfumery?
Jicky 1889, the first modern fragrance
Chanel No5 1921, for its originality and enduring appeal
Shalimar 1925, because it remains the most perfect oriental ever created
Brut 1964 because without its immortal line, ‘If you have any doubts about yourself,
wear something else’, men may never have been induced to accept fragrance
Eau Sauvage 1966, because it transformed light eaux de cologne into real perfume
Charlie 1973, because it persuaded women to buy perfume for themselves
Opium 1977, our first blockbuster
Giorgio Beverley Hills 1981 whose success persuaded department stores to treat fragrance
Angel 1992, the gourmand success that everyone followed
ck One 1994 for rewriting the rule book
How is a new perfume created?
How is a painting painted, a symphony composed? What is certain is that perfumers
use their materials in much the same way as painters use their colours, musicians
In an interview with William Kaufman, the perfumer Pierre Dhumez expressed it this
way: “To make a perfume is to find a harmony of three or four dominant ‘bodies’
that you smell in your mind. You have an inspiration for a mixture of those three
or four bodies, not more. And they will release themselves in such a way that when
you have composed the ‘corps’ in the proportions by which you have been inspired
when you were in a tranquil, happy state of mind, you will not be able to distinguish
one odour from the other among your basic raw materials, It is a perfectly balanced
mixture which smells as a separate entity from the odour of each of the three or
four bodies you have chosen - and in so doing you will have created the ‘woman’.
After that, you have to enhance her, make her more beautiful, do her hair, select
her dress, her lipstick, her eye liner, her hat, her wrap - and that is a perfume.”
(William Kaufman, Perfume, E.P.Dutton, 1974)
“Aliage... was sporty,” wrote Estée Lauder. “I’d picked up a green leaf in Palm
Beach one day, deeply inhaled its scent with wonder, and knew I had to re-create
that smell. The active woman needed a scent all her own: when she went to a gym
in her tennis shoes, she didn’t want to conjure up a whole symphony orchestra. I
could never find a scent that would be right on the tennis court, so I had to invent
it.” (Estée Lauder, Estée, A Success Story, Random House, 1985)
A perfumer is rarely a soloist. The conductor of the orchestra, the head of a perfume
house, plays a critical role. Like a great symphony, a truly great perfume evolves
with a sensory message so emotional, it moves the hearts of women and stirs the
senses of men.
How many ingredients does a perfume usually contain?
It varies. A perfume may contain 10, 50, 100 or more different materials but it
doesn’t necessarily follow that a fragrance made with 300 is superior to one containing
10. The key is how the different ingredients blend together to ‘talk’ to you.
Perfumers today tend to prefer short formulae. The notes are purer, the quality
easier to maintain.
What are the ‘notes’ in a fragrance?
They are the different phases through which a fragrance develops when you spray
it on your skin. Each of these stages or groups of “notes” has a different degree
The head or top notes are the first impression of a fragrance. These are the light
volatile notes that burst on your skin as you first spray, the fragrance you experience
as you open a bottle. The head notes are so volatile that they usually wear away
within 10 to 15 minutes.
As they fade, the heart or middle notes bloom on your skin. These form the core
of the composition, and are the dominant theme of the fragrance.
This theme is accentuated and fixed by the base or soul notes. These are the foundation
of the fragrance, the notes that bind the other ingredients together. They create
the memory that makes the theme linger in your mind, and make the fragrance last
for some four to five hours on your skin.
How long should a good fragrance last?
It varies from person to person. Usually, a perfume or extrait, the most concentrated
form, should last for six to eight hours; an eau de toilette or American cologne,
for three or four hours, sometimes longer if it is more concentrated.
Can I dilute a perfume if it’s too strong?
Yes, by adding more alcohol. Not pure alcohol, but a mixture of nine parts alcohol
and one part distilled water.
Does altitude affect fragrance?
Yes. The higher the altitude, the more muted the impact, the shorter the fragrance
life. Take a more concentrated form of your favourite fragrance when setting off
for the mountains or travelling by plane. Use a spray parfum instead of a lighter
How does climate affect the fragrance we wear?
Summer heat increases the impact of odour. The hotter the weather, the more rapidly
the “notes” of a fragrance leave the skin. The answer: a lighter fragrance re-applied
more frequently. Winter tones down scent; in cold weather the fragrance molecules
“lift” more slowly and the top, heart and base notes develop more gradually. That’s
why you can wear a more potent fragrance in colder weather.
Are synthetic oils cheaper and more likely to irritate my skin?
No. Synthetics are not necessarily “poor man’s natural oils”. There are synthetic
aroma notes that are more expensive than any natural equivalent and “pure” natural
oils that are more likely to cause a reaction than any chemically created alternative.
Are natural fragrance oils better than artificial ones?
Emphatically not. Modern perfumery is based on the synergy of natural and man-made
ingredients. Both are of equal importance to the perfumer. Technically, a perfumer
differentiates between natural oils, extracted from blossoms, woods and leaves,
spices and resins; semi-synthetic oils separated from natural sources; and completely
synthetic oils or aroma notes, created to enhance natural essences, to make them
vibrate with notes quite unlike anything you have ever smelt before.
Think of the synthetic aroma notes as the perfumer’s notes, created in laboratories
to add originality, character and tenacity to nature’s notes.
Coco Chanel was the first designer to encourage perfumers to give a leading role
to synthetics, “I wanted to give women a perfume that was artificial, that is man-made.
I’m an artisan in dressmaking...I don’t want the smell of rose, or lily of the valley.
I want a perfume that is a composition.”
The result was Chanel No 5, the first floral aldehydic perfume, a bouquet dominated
by the soft, clean notes of synthetic aldehydes intertwined with the costliest jasmine
and may rose from Grasse.
“It is well known that there are natural essences that cost very little, other chemical
aroma notes that cost a huge amount,” said perfumer Edmond Roudnitska. “It is therefore
not a matter of economy if we use chemical products for the composition of haute
couture perfumes. If we use them, it is that we do not want to dispense with the
glorious nuances of scent that simply do not exist in nature and which only chemistry
can provide us with. Often a synthetic smell is more beautiful that a real one -
think of a flower, when you pick it, it only smells good for a day or so, then it
begins to smell awful. With synthetics, one can achieve the same odour and leave
most of the flowers in the field.”
If I apply fragrance in the morning, should I expect it to last all day long?
No. A fragrance is not designed to last all day. You’ll probably need to refresh
it every three to four hours.
Why doesn’t fragrance last on me?
Unfortunately, your body’s chemistry causes perfumes to evaporate more quickly from
your skin. Perfumers would say that your skin ‘throws off’ fragrance.
Instead of an eau de toilette lasting for some 3 to 4 hours, it disappears within
an hour, sometimes shorter. The rate of evaporation triples or even quadruples on
your skin. Why? The acidity of your skin is a possible culprit. Lick your wrist.
Does it have a sharp, tangy taste? That’s a sure sign of acid. And the more acidic
your skin, the more it will tend to throw off perfume.
Medicines, too, will change your body’s chemistry. Low fat diets, stress, spicy
foods, fast foods all affect body temperature and encourage the skin to throw off
perfume. Add dry skin and pregnancy to the list and you’ll see why so many women
complain about the staying power of their fragrance.
The solution? Put an emollient layer between your skin and your perfume. ‘Layer’
your fragrance to extend its life. Use a body lotion or body crème that matches
your fragrance to create an emollient foundation for the eau de toilette. It will
slow down the rate of evaporation and double the life of your perfume.
A second solution? Use the matching bath oils of your favourite fragrances as oil
perfumes. After your bath or shower, while your skin is dry but still warm from
the water, stroke the fragrant bath oil across your pulse points. Finish with a
light spray of fragrance.
How can I make my fragrance last longer?
The secret to long-lasting fragrance is ‘fragrance layering’. Build up layers of
scent on the skin by using different forms of the same fragrance - perfumed soap,
bath oil or gel, body lotion or cream, dusting powder and eau de toilette. Each
reinforces the impact of the other to quadruple the life of your favourite scent.
Layering, or “fragrance dressing” as it’s sometimes called, is also a clever way
to wear a fragrance that’s too overpowering for daytime use.