Selecting a signature perfume seems daunting. There are thousands of perfumes on the market. Some are backed by celebrities, others tied to luxury brands, but all are advertised beautifully alongside aspirational promises that range from a good night out to a higher quality of life.
Fragrances affect people differently. It’s crucial to learn a scent’s composition, how your innate characteristics and memories play a role, and what really makes your signature scent so YOU.
How To Find Signature Perfume
Put a Name to Your Preference
If you’re like most people, you’ve purchased a number of different perfumes over the course of your lifetime, but they all fall under the umbrella of a more general category:
- Woody: Warm, dry, even mossy notes reminiscent of forest, trees and other natural elements.
- Aquatic: Airy and refreshing, sometimes with a hint of salinity — such as cool ocean air, or a wisp of musk, like the aftermath of a summer storm.
- Fruity: Light, juicy and often whimsical but can be dominant and luscious, too.
- Citrus: Vibrant, zesty notes ranging from tart lemon to sweet mandarin.
- Spicy: Still sometimes referred to as “oriental” thanks to a combination of bold, sweet, spicy and floral notes (such as vanilla, bergamot, orchid, jasmine, myrrh, incense, leather and amber).
- Gourmand: Food-inspired scents (often candy- or sweets-related), such as coconut, honey, caramel, chocolate, cotton candy, vanilla and toasted nuts.
- Floral: These scents are surprisingly wide-ranging — running the gamut from soft and sweet lily of the valley to sophisticated rose to heady ylang-ylang.
Understanding the Anatomy of a Perfume
The best perfumes are layered — with a top note, middle note and base note emerging, retreating and comingling during wear. Top notes are like the opening flourish of a violin during a symphonic concert. They set the tone but are generally light and welcoming — you don’t want to hit your audience (whether that’s you, a loved one or the public at large) over the head but rather nurture their interest. Top notes often include citrus, stone fruit, fresh herbs, sunny flowers and greenery.
Middle or heart notes sweep in as the top note begins to fade. This is the meat of the perfume, a well-rounded, robust aroma that may include more substantial florals, dark berries and baking spices.
Finally, we settle into the base note. This is the intriguing whiff you leave behind when sweeping through a room (called the sillage, or trail, in French). It has to be memorable and it should be the weightiest part of the fragrance overall. Base notes often take the form of rich, fleshy, even musky components such as patchouli, moss, vanilla, sandalwood, tonka bean and bay.
Some scents pull double-duty, shifting between top and middle notes or serving as the base note in some perfumes but playing second fiddle in another. The interplay and balance of a perfume’s notes are just as important as the ingredient list.
Suggested read: WAFT Personalized Perfume Review, Giorgio Armani Si Intense Review
Before buying a full-sized bottle of a fragrance, test it on one of your pulse points, such as your wrist. It should develop for at least 30 minutes, so you get the full effect of not only the perfume but its interaction with your body chemistry.
Body chemistry greatly influences how a fragrance is interpreted and expressed. Scents last longer on hydrated skin, where they have some moisture on which to cling and evaporate faster when applied to dry skin. Your pheromones can change a fragrance, as well. Everybody has an innate scent, and yours may mesh beautifully with perfume or be incompatible.
Other factors include diet, lifestyle and even exercise schedule. If you sweat more than the average person, you may prefer to offset that with a lighter, citrusy scent. If you start taking daily medication, that may change your body chemistry and take your signature scent from something you love to something you suddenly can’t stand.
Making a Decision: The Start of Your Signature Perfume Story
Marilyn Monroe was known for her unwavering dedication to Chanel No. 5 — an undeniably feminine blend of diverse florals, vanilla and musk every bit as iconic as the blonde bombshell herself. Chanel No. 5 has become an unshakable part of Monroe’s story, and that’s exactly what a signature scent should do. Think of it as an olfactory version of your life’s soundtrack; the scent you choose should make you feel your best and be versatile enough to shift with your mood as well as the occasion.
Scents are highly emotional. There’s a reason we feel nostalgic for the holidays when we smell pumpkin pie or gingerbread cookies. If your mother always wore a powdery, violet-infused perfume, you may be drawn to that same bottle. Acknowledge your sentimental side, but remember that some aromas are best left to a certain time, place or memory.
Finally, never shy away from re-evaluating your choice. Your body chemistry and preferences aren’t written in stone. It’s your prerogative to take another look at your scent collection and try something new whenever the mood strikes. Ultimately, your signature scent should support everything you love most about yourself. It should enhance you. Find a perfume that accomplishes that, and you’ve already won.
About the guest author:
Diljeet Singh is Vice President for The Perfume Box, a genuine fragrance provider. He has nine years of experience in the industry and focuses on product sales and customer satisfaction.
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My signature scent is Chanel Chance Eau Tendre and have used it ever since I started wearing perfume! I always get so many compliments and I always have to have it in my perfume collection!
Awesome! I have yet to try anything from Chanel. It feels so good when you finally get your favorite perfume, right?
Omg this was so helpful! I need to find my signature scent. In general I have trouble getting perfume to cling to my body or trouble with it irritating my skin. So I normally apply my perfume to my clothes. Any tips for that? Love your blog subscribing now! @staceyjay97
Hi Stacey, glad you liked it. I would suggest moisturizing with a fragrance-free moisturizer first then add the perfume on the pulse points of your body. Maybe that will help.