Louise Sheehan, Clarins Fragrance Group National Trainer, shared her top tips for making a fragrance work for you, and gave her expert knowledge on how scents really work.
Let me set the scene… you are perusing through a beautiful fragrance hall, something catches your eye, you stop and pick up the bottle that drew your attention.
Usually, we either smell the nozzle or take hold of a blotter nearby and spray this fragrance onto it, right? If we like it we will usually dose ourselves all over and ask questions later… We promptly make up our minds based on what we smell in that very moment.
No one can convince you to like a smell you don’t or vice versa. So, when you find a fragrance you truly LOVE, like all relationships of love, there are rules of engagement to be followed. Patience is what my mum always told me to have and when it comes to perfume timing it is everything.
The initial spray of fragrance is merely embarking on your fragrance journey – but like all first impressions, it can stop you in your tracks if you don’t like it. However, you should remember the first impression a fragrance is fleeting, usually lasting only several minutes.
This is the first of the three levels of scent, called Notes, within all fragrance. You are smelling the Top Notes when you first spray the bottle. Fresh notes of citrus heritage are the most popular for the perfumer to use like bergamot, orange, mandarin, lemon, lime and basil.
So, when you are invited to “give it a few minutes “or “take a walk around and come back in an hour” by the consultant in the perfumery department – it’s not because they want you to leave, it is all about what comes next after the initial first spray.
The Middle Note, or as I always loved it being referred to as, the “heart of the fragrance” lingers with us a lot longer. Usually these notes are more expensive then our top notes, they give us more of an idea of how the fragrance wants to be perceived. If you like florals the heart notes of gardenias, red roses, peonies or jasmine would be heaven to you. Heart notes can last up to an hour on the skin.
The Base Note or lasting impression of the fragrance is usually what we really love and how we remember a fragrance. This is what you smell on your scarf or his shirt the next day.
These notes are the most expensive for the perfumer to use, as they last the longest amount of time on our skin. All notes can be mixed up, a perfumer can mix woody notes with florals, range from patchouli and vanilla to oud and vetiver in their fragrances.
I loved when my mother baked sponge cake – so for me, vanilla will always be my most beloved smell. Everyone has a smell that can transport them back in time to their childhood or family home. For me, even Christmas morning had a distinct smell that I can remember of hot chocolate and cinnamon. Smells are memories. So, fragrances really are powerful.
Doesn’t it make sense for a beautiful way to capture the memory of your wedding day in its entirety is to give it a unique scent? Scent the room you get ready in with candles, scent the church with diffusers or even more candles? Adorn yourself with a new scent you have taken time to choose? Every time you wear this fragrance you are brought back in time to the happy day.
My top tip of how to keep a scent on your skin are very simple… layering. It is by no coincidence that fragrances have their own complimentary lines (shower gels, shampoos, body creams or lotions). Well-hydrated skin will hold onto a fragrance best, and I mean hours longer. I have heard so many tips along my travels but the easiest way is to start is in your morning shower with the fragranced shower wash, then apply the body cream or lotion.
Body creams are always more hydrating than a lotion but take longer to be absorbed than lotion, so it is down to texture preference and how long you have before you need to get dressed. When ready, you simply spray your perfume and you are done.
I did say “spray” and not spray onto wrist and smush your two wrists together thus actually burning through the fragrance molecules and destroying the fragrance journey. NO STOP THAT.
It is a myth that rubbing our wrist together after we spray or doing any rubbing at all of perfumes helps them stay on our skin any longer. The opposite is actually true.
By doing this you race through the top and heart notes of the fragrance and even distort the true scent of the fragrance. Don’t get me wrong, I understand how hard this habit is to break. It will take willpower to resist the smush, most of us have done it so many times and are therefore programmed to do it, but it’s like applying your lipstick before your foundation, it just doesn’t make sense.
I remember helping a bride choose two different fragrances for her wedding day. This wasn’t unusual – a lot of brides choose one fragrance for the day and then want a different fragrance to wear for the night, usually a sexier scent. You can even choose to gift the bridesmaid party with a fragrance that compliments your chosen scent for the day.
However, this bride had different thoughts. She explained to me, she would ask one bridesmaid to spray from her from top to toe but only on the front on her dress. Next, she commanded her second dutiful bridesmaid to spray her from again top of head to the hem of her wedding dress from behind.
Why?? Wait for it…. This bride wanted to greet her guests when she walked down the aisle to her soon to be husband with the perfume that she wears every day, her signature scent. But once married, she wanted her guests to smell the now married version of herself with a completely new perfume as she walked back down the aisle arm-in-arm with husband. Talk about breaking rules eh?
I appreciated the vision she had, she asked did I think she was crazy? I called her idea genius and told her I had heard all genius are supposed to be little bit mad. I will add this bride wore black, this is probably the only reason I didn’t feel the urge to object, if this bride had chosen any other colour the risk of the perfume actually staining the dress would have been sky high.
My last tip comes from my favourite perfume creator Mr. Manfred Thierry Mugler who created the fragrance cloud for his iconic and ultra-feminine Angel Perfume.
First you spray in a full circle movement your fragrance and then you walk through it, adorning yourself with your fragrance. With 26 years’ experience creating fragrance masterpieces, I trust his advice.