The ultimate perfume FAQ: From seasonal scents to finding your fragrance family

Fragrances are one of the most personal beauty buys one can make. Not only do we all have our own unique tastes in scent, but most of us also have sentimental attachments to particular perfumes.

Whether they remind us of a special time in our lives, a special person or even the opposite, it is no secret that perfumes have the power to instantly rush us down memory lane. But of course, that isn’t the only reason we love them.

Nail the right scent for you and a fragrance has the ability to make you feel fresh, confident and sexy, to say the least. But how exactly do you find your perfect perfume match? Especially when there are endless options out there to choose from, more and more of which can only be ordered online, giving no opportunity to sniff before you buy.

Well, according to Zita Bradley, Perfume Expert at The Perfume Shop, it’s a case of keeping it in the family – literally.

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‘While there are a vast number of scents available on the market and no two exactly the same, each belongs to one of four fragrance families – floral, oriental, woody and fresh,’ she explains.

‘Working out the one you like the best will help you identify the scents you will love and categorise them. It’s the key to your fragrance likes and dislikes.’

Floral 

YOU LIKE: rose, ylang ylang, jasmine

TRY:

Oriental

YOU LIKE: musk, spice, orchid

TRY:

Woody

YOU LIKE: pine, sandalwood, vetiver

TRY:

Fresh

YOU LIKE: citrus, linen, sea salt

TRY:

Want to know more? Here, both Zita and fellow fragrance expert Claire Green, Head of Ted Baker Beauty at KMI Brands, answer our most asked fragrance questions to advice and set the record straight on common perfume myths.

Are there any secrets to finding the right scent for you?

To choose from the multiple scents available you could start by identifying what notes you particularly like, for example rose or oud,’ says Claire. ‘This can then help you define the fragrance family that appeals to you the most.

‘It’s also worth having an open mind when choosing scent as our taste and preferences change over time so having a wardrobe of scent can give options throughout the year and to suit your mood and occasion. Trying a fragrance that you might not think is for you could be the one that ends up a lifelong favourite – so it’s worth experimenting!’

Why does the same fragrance smell different on different people?

‘There are a number of factors that impact why a perfume smells different on different people. Your diet and hormones can affect the scent and its longevity as can how warm blooded you are as the scent will evaporate more quickly on warm skin. When we are giving consultations in store we always recommend a shopper lets the scent settle on their skin before making a decision to purchase,’ says Zita.

Claire agrees, saying: ‘Everyone’s skin bionome or skin chemistry is different, which is why a fragrance will react differently on different people, meaning the same fragrance can smell very different from one person to another.’

How long should you use a perfume for?

‘From the time that the perfume is produced, a typical bottle has an average shelf life of three to five years,’ says Zita. ‘The shelf life of the scent may be longer if the bottle is unopened and stored properly. The shelf life can also fluctuate according to the quality of the product and the ingredients used in the formula. Perfumes with a higher concentration of alcohol or water may disappear more quickly through evaporation, especially if the bottle is left in direct sunlight.’

‘Always refer to your packaging as it will be indicated on the back of pack,’ Claire adds.

How do you make your scents last longer?

‘A quick and easy trick for making fragrances last longer is to apply body lotion after sun exposure, or showering and spritzing your fragrance onto moisturised skin, which will lock in the scent. You can also spray your favourite scent before you leave to house and by the time you’ve arrived at your destination, the alcohol content in the perfume will have lifted and evaporated and all you’ll be left with is the fragrance oil and particles of your chosen scent,’ says Zita.

‘Layering is also a popular way to make scents last longer,’ Claire continues. ‘Whether using a hair mist, shower gel, or body lotion with the same scent, layering the same fragrance with different products is a sure-fire way to make scent last longer. Wearing fragrance under clothes or in places that are relatively untouched will also help fragrances last longer. Certain notes will also have more longevity on the skin.’

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Where is the best place to store your perfume?

‘You should keep your fragrance in its box,’ Claire insists. ‘Heat and direct sunlight is harmful to fragrance as are large fluctuations in temperature. If you want to keep a beautiful bottle on display avoid it being in direct sunlight or near a source of heat.

Zita agrees, saying: ‘The way you store your bottles can have a significant impact to the scent during summer. Leaving your fragrance in a bright, humid place will cause notes to break down and gradually it will start to affect the smell. Store your favourite scents in a dry, cool place (even in the fridge) for a cool and fresh application.’

Is it true that leaving your fragrance out in sunlight or by a window ruins the scent? If so, why?

‘The heat not only intensifies the fragrance in the bottle, but also once it’s been sprayed on your skin it can alter the actual scent,’ says Ziita. ‘Warmer weather and higher body temperatures slightly increase the rate at which the scent develops and diffuses.

Claire adds: ‘Direct sunlight, excessive heat or humidity will break down the chemical bonds that make up a fragrance, warping or dulling the scent.’

Is it true that the scent of bath oils last longer than fragrances?

‘Oil-based scents are more concentrated than liquids and stick to your skin for a longer period of time,’ says Zita. ‘However, it’s been said that oil-based formulas only have the sticking capability if your body temperature is heated – otherwise, the skin doesn’t absorb the oil properly.’

What is the difference between an Eau de Parfum and an Eau de Toilette?

‘The difference between an Eau de Toilette (EDT) and an Eau de Parfum (EDP) is the ratio of aromatic oil to alcohol and/or water in the fragrance,’ says Zita. This means the more fragrant oil present, the more intense the scent and the longer it lasts on the skin. An EDT fragrance contains less than 10% essential oil, is a more lighter and uncomplicated scent and lasts up to 4 hours, whereas an EDP contains 15-20% essential oils, provides a richer and deeper scent and last around 5-6 hours.’

‘More fragrance oil gives a stronger scent that can last longer, though this is also dependent on the composition of the fragrance and the skin upon which it is applied,’ says Claire.

Is it true that I shouldn’t wear fragrance on my skin in the sunshine?

‘It definitely isn’t true that you shouldn’t wear perfume on your skin in the summer, however to get the most out of your perfume we would advise spritzing different parts of the body,’ says Zita. ‘Perfume has chemicals in the fragrance which can react to UVA and UVB rays so instead of spraying your fragrance where your skin gets the most exposure, you can spritz on your elbows, behind your knees and even on your belly button.’

Claire says: ‘Body heat is what helps a fragrance to develop from top into middle and base notes, so it may not last as long as it would in winter, but there is no reason not to wear fragrance while on holiday!’

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What is the most popular note in fragrances at the moment?

‘While perfume choices depend on the person, their mood and often the occasion we do see a small shift in sales as shoppers opt for much lighter fragrances with ingredients at this time of year,’ says Zita. ‘We see customers opt for more floral notes as spring which soon turns to citrus and zesty notes which make us feel revitalised and fresh in the summer.’

‘Bright, uplifting and sparkling citrus notes are a big trend in fragrance this year, especially with the rise in popularity of more niche and unisex fragrances,’ explains Claire. ‘The new Ted Baker Est. ’88 fragrance is a good example of how zesty citrus top notes work so well when combined with floral accords resulting in a beautiful, very feminine fragrance which is also very modern and contemporary.’

Do seasonal scents exist?

‘People tend to choose more fresh and lighter scents during the summer with notes including citrus, bergamot and musk being common in summery fragrances,’ says Zita. ‘In the winter, woody perfumes are common with notes of ginger, cinnamon and sandalwood popular amongst those colder months.’

Meanwhile Claire says: ‘This is an entirely personal preference, some prefer a light and fruity fragrance for summer and a spicy warm fragrance in winter, but there is no right answer. You should wear whatever fragrance will put a smile on your face.’

What is the most common fragrance men buy for women?

The most popular fragrances bought from men as a gift to women are Chanel Coco Mademoiselle EDP 100ml, Carolina Herrera Good Girl EDP 50ml and Paco Rabanne Lady Million EDP 50ml.’

What is the most common fragrance women buy for women?

The most popular fragrances bought from women as a gift to other women are Roberto Cavalli EDP 75ml, Chanel Coco Mademoiselle EDP 100ml and Calvin Klein Moment EDP 100ml.