We often hear people talk about scents, about signature fragrances, about notes that bring back memories and as some might feel the sudden urge to embark in the search of a great perfume without the basic notions, rather blindfolded and with the distinct intention to base the purchase on what feels like a delightful aroma at the time: but they ought to know there’s far more to the story to be told.

Behind cute bottles and fancy names, an entire amalgam of ingredients from extracts and oils to alcohol, preservatives and water fuse together only to provide us with a wide variety of fragrances, some unique, some tempting, some breathtaking and some plain irresistible. While it’s true that the world of perfumes is wrapped in a certain kind of magic, usually there’s a clear explanation lying behind its every (non) quality.

Read on for a break-down of everything you ought to know about scents before hunting down the right ones for yourself or for others.

glossary to scents

Difference between “cologne”, “eau de toilette” and “perfume”

Rather than an additional piece of information, this is something everyone should be aware of before purchasing any sort of scents.

  • Eau de Cologne – It is based upon a 3-7% of aromatic compounds, which makes it the lightest version, perfect for the hot days of summer, tending to dissolve somewhere in between 2 to 3 hours. It is usually chosen by those seeking something utterly fresh, that can be reapplied various times a day.
  • Eau de Toilette – Based upon a 7-12% of concentrate aromatic compounds this sort of scent is still considered “weak” perfume. However it is dominated by the top notes and it lasts between 2 and 4 hours before completely fading away.
  • Eau de Perfume – With 10-20% of aromatic compounds this version is meant to last longer and come across stronger, especially when subdued to heat temperatures. With a resistance circling around 3 to 5 hours, the EDP usually allows for the middle notes to become noticeable once the top notes have cleared.
  • Perfume (Extrait de perfume) – Carrying over 20% of aromatic compounds, this is clearly the strongest, most complex and highest concentration of essences. These qualities are usually reflected in their excessive pricing and small containers. One single drop suffice to magnify the notes.

Breakdown of a fragrance in terms of notes

One might have stumbled upon the fact that as the hours pass by the flavour of the scent tends to subtly modify. That’s merely the result of the notes progressing and in their fading causing differences in the rates at which the compound evaporates. From top notes, to heart notes and base notes here is what you must know about each of the categories:

  • Top notes – Or head notes are the first to be sensed upon the dosing of perfume. Consisting in small molecules they tend to evaporate in matter of minutes. They give us our very first impression while smelling a scent, practically introducing us to its aroma. The scents building this particular class are known to be strong, fresh but also assertive. Think citrus or ginger as examples.
  • Middle notes – Or heart notes are usually the ones we sense just as soon as the top notes have faded away. They help build the body of the fragrance and tend to be noticeable for up to one hour. Usually more smooth, they find a perfect match in lavender and rose.
  • Base notes – Are the ones representing the foundation on which the fragrance is built upon. They are not noticeable for at least the first hour after applying the scent, but do tend to last the longest afterwards. Adding depth to a perfume, the base notes are usually large molecules that evaporate slowly, finding their rich essence in sandalwood or oak for example.

How to distinguish quality in a scent

This may come across as a list of subjective characteristics used to search within a scent as to determine its quality, but in the end when looking for a good, lasting one it all comes down to longevity, projection and distinction. Rather than applying the fragrance on paper, one should always try it on the wrists for two main reasons: for one this action will allow the revealing of the top notes, and thus will grant a real first impression, and secondly it will represent a clear and direct way of knowing how will the notes sense after blending with your body oils. The longevity of a perfume is also better determined once the scent is sprayed directly on the skin, and the same goes regarding the projection on other people.

When it comes to distinction things to tend to become rather personal. This characteristic is mainly based upon one’s particular preferences and tastes in matter of scents. While some adore a delicious, fresh fragrance, others only feel good wearing sweet, savory ones. The most important idea to hold onto here is that in order for a fragrance to become a signature one, it must absolutely reflect at least a tiny bit of our personality.

How to store fragrances

The proper storage of fragrances is another action that requires attention and a little bit of prior information. In order to avoid for the molecules to break apart, one must keep the bottles in their original box (if possible) and away from direct sunlight. Heat fluctuations have the same effect of fracturing the molecules. Safe to assume our precious bottles are in need of a dark, dry and cool environment, which most of times is mirrored by our bedrooms.

Tips to wearing perfume

The process of actually spaying perfume on our skin seems rather uncomplicated, in fact it really is simple, yet there are a few tips that might make a difference along the way.

The ideal parts of the body to apply cologne onto are usually those where the most heat is being produced, such as wrists, neck, chest or back of the knees. However we should always pick one single point of focus, two at the most (neck and wrists for example). The spaying of perfume needs to be done at a distance of 2-6 inches away from the skin.

Avoid using perfume in combination with other strong scents coming from a shower gel, a body oil, a body cream or anything that might interfere with the notes of the fragrance. Also, apply perfume only on dry skin and never on clothes, without rubbing it in or doing other unnecessary actions that will only result in disrupting its natural progression.

Stock photo perfume bottle from Shutterstock

If you want more tips on choosing your own signature scent, follow that link.

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