Nosing Around: Picking The Scent That’s Right For You

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Published August 4, 2011

DON’T KNOW WHICH BOTTLE TO CHOOSE? WE’RE HERE TO HELP.

As we move into fall, you might want to consider trying a new fragrance. Tropical, fruity scents work well for the summer—but just as your wardrobe and makeup change come autumn, your perfume needs a switchover too. I asked Dawn Goldworm, cofounder and scent director of olfactive branding company 12.29 and the personal nose of perfume powerhouse Coty, for her 10 tips on picking the scent that’s right for you.

Dawn  compares the endeavor to finding a lover: both take time, patience and emotion. Read on and get inspired!

1. Before entering a perfume store, do your homework.  My favorite website for finding your perfume type is osMoz.  Through questions about personality and lifestyle, the short quiz will guide you into the right fragrance category. At osMoz, you can also enter the name of your last perfume, and the site will lead you to other fragrances that are in the same family.  

2. Before entering your perfume shop of choice (I am a particular fan of Bergdorf Goodman and Harvey Nicolas), be sure that your arms are clean and unscented. Namely: Don’t wear scented body lotion or other perfume.

3. Enter the perfume shop in a pleasant mood, happy and ready to explore. As a fragrance designer, I never evaluate perfume when I am in a bad mood. Emotion and smell are so strongly linked that you will make all the wrong decisions—just like picking a lover.

4. Before you start smelling, it is good to know whether you are a “butterfly” (a consumer who constantly changes her perfume and is always on the lookout for the newest, trendiest scent) or a “tiger” (a consumer who is fiercely loyal to her signature fragrance). If you are a butterfly, ask the salesperson for the newest launches to test. If you are a tiger, ask to see more classic brands.

5. You must also decide how strong you like your perfume. If you’d like your perfume to be subtle, try an eau de toilette or body mist. If you want to leave a soft scented trail behind you, pick an eau de parfum. If you want to drown yourself in perfume (comme moi), choose a parfum, possibly coupled with an oil or crème.

6. To test the perfume, spray it on the outer mid-forearm area. Let the alcohol evaporate for a minute and then smell. Re-smell continually for the next few minutes to understand the personality of the fragrance. It’s like looking in the mirror when trying on a dress; you must view it from all angles.

7. Live with the perfume. Walk around the store; look at other products to buy; take your time. Buying perfume is like buying shoes. You must take it for a little spin around the shop before committing.

8. If you really love the perfume, ask the salesperson for a sample to take home. Wear it for a day or two. If you like what you smell, let the affair begin by returning to the store and purchasing a bottle. Remember, your perfume is your signature. It is an emotional experience for you and those close enough to smell your personality—so you need to fall in love with your fragrance of choice.

9. If commercial fragrances are not for you, try niche brands like Francis Kurkdjian, Frederic Malle, Le Labo or Serge Lutens. These special scents are the equivalent of a pair of statement shoes: They define who you are by your smell. Very chic, very sophisticated and very strong, these brands are for those looking to make a statement.  

10. The last and most important tip is not to get discouraged by the barrage of fragrances on the market. There are just as many shoe brands, skincare lines and fashion designers as there are perfumes—just be prepared. Know your personality, choose your ideal fragrance strength, and have fun shopping!  

SARAH HOWARD IS THE EDITOR OF BEAUTY BANTER.