Fragrance 101: #1 – How to Choose a Scent That’s Right For You

By Beaut.ie | August 17 2010 | 48 Comments

fragrance 101 with Roja Dove

When I met Roja Dove recently I got to hurry him away to a secluded sofa to put a few questions to him about how to choose a fragrance. His answers were typically informed, inspired and I think, really helpful. I’m going to split his words of wisdom out across a couple of posts, as there’s quite a lot to digest, so today we’re taking a look at how to begin the process of choosing your ideal scent.

One thing I know lots of women are so confused about is picking a perfume that’s right for them. We’re all swayed by marketing and ad campaigns and you can read note and accord descriptions till the cows come home, think you’ll like the resultant scent – and this has often happened to me – but when you smell it, you absolutely hate it. On paper, I really thought I’d love Giorgio Armani’s Acqua di Gioia for example, but when I got to try it, I really didn’t. It just didn’t do it for me.

So this is the huge challenge in the first instance: how do you wade through the colossal amount of products out there to find your ideal scent?

“The secret is editing and a bit of work on your part,” Roja says. I agree. Step number one on your journey to a fragrance you’ll like starts with a selective process – after all, our perfume choice communicates messages other than how we merely like to smell. It can also indicate our personality and interests and if you’re of a hipster bent for example, well, you’re probably not going to go for Beyonce Heat, eh?  “Look at magazine beauty pages and blogs you admire and see what they’re recommending,” he advises.  “A good blogger or beauty editor will be editing down what she receives and only featuring what’s really good.”

A good tip. How to take it further? “Now, make a list of six-to-ten scents that have been recommended and go to the department store or perfumery armed with a pen. Find the scents you’re looking to try and spray them on a blotter,” he instructs. Perfume counters will have these little fellers on hand – you can see some blotters in the pic above, and if you can’t see any on counter, ask.

“Spray each perfume you want to try on a separate blotter, and write the name of the fragrance on it. Now leave the perfumery,” Roja says. “Turn your blotters upside down so you can’t see the names and pick two at a time. Compare them to each other and select the one you like the most.” Keep doing this – yes, it’s a bit like the World Cup of scent – until you’ve narrowed your selection down to one or two you like, and voila! You’ve just conducted your very own research – and distilled it to a selection you know you’ll like.

Ok, it may be work on your part, and you may not find a fragrance you can stick with at the end of it (in which case try again with a different scent selection) but what you will be doing is two-fold: you’ll be educating yourself about what you do and don’t like, giving you a better knowledge of what does appeal, and you’ll be saving yourself money as well.

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48 Replies to "Fragrance 101: #1 – How to Choose a Scent That’s Right For You"

  • Grá says:

    Okay I know you said that you are going to discuss the perfume thing over a few blogs….but you know sometimes even if you pick out a scent you like it just doesnt smell the same on your skin. Some sort of chemical reaction to your chemicals (moisturiser, hormones, sweat etc):( I’m addicted to Paco Rabanne Black XS at the moment, it gives me a good feeling and makes me smile! LOVE THE SCENT!

  • Kirstie says:

    Gra – well, then it’s not right for you, it doesn’t work with your body. I have some scents myself I love in the bottle but cannot wear as they just don’t smell ‘right’ when they’re on. Keep those for (expensively) scenting your house or place them in drawers with clothes, maybe?

  • kittyKat says:

    Gra I’m loving Black XS as well. Its gorgeous. A former boss of mine had a penchant for Obsession and it smelt horrible on her. It smelled like a blocked toilet on her ! Seriously. I had a bottle of Carolina Herrera 212 before and I hated it. After a while of wearing it I would get a v. dry nose and the smell would make me feel sick. It reminded me of an old Irish teacher I had. Eugh. I love Dior Pure Poison and a pal of mine hates it as it reminds her of a drunken night when she threw up. Scents can be so evocative and can take us back to different situations and experiences.

  • SJP's Missing Mole says:

    I did what I discovered the Americans do – I ordered a ton of samples off theperfumedcourt.com. There are rakes of sample sites nowadays but I’ve only used that one, and it’s really well organised – you can browse by name or by “notes” and all this crack.

    So then a week or so later a ton of samples arrived and I wore something different every day. And that’s how I found my favourite perfume of all time which I’d never even heard of before! And I still have tons of samples left, btw. Some are dear if they’re rare, but most are only about two dollars apiece.

  • Kirstie says:

    KittyCat – that Irish teacher comment … dun dun dunnnnnn, you’re not from Celbridge are you??

  • Aisling Aphrodite says:

    bahaha – I bet all Irish teachers were drowned in the stuff! But I know exactly who you mean!

  • Grá says:

    Kittycat- Are you my twin????? Dior Midnight Poison is my poison :D Too heavy for this time of the year but I bathe in it in the winter time! Love it!

  • Kirstie says:

    Aphrodite – oh I know you do.

  • kittyKat says:

    Kirstie, Aphrodite, no not from Celbridge :-) The Northside. That teacher used to be drowned in something similar to 212 and I would come out of her classes with a dry, irritated nose.
    Gra, oh yes, I love those Poison’s. So sexy.
    I had a bottle of Valentino V and am almost out but you can’t buy it in stores. Have to order it online. Anytime I wear it people comment on it.

  • PinkPanther says:

    The majority of perfumes don’t last longer than an hour on me. Thierry Mugler Angel is the exception but it’s so overpoweuring I feel dizzy all day. I really like his new Womanity one so I’m hoping it has the lasting power without making me ill!

  • Twinkletoes says:

    SJP – thanks for that website! I think I will do the same as you and order a rake of samples.

  • Aine says:

    I love Laura Mercier Neroli but it seems to have absolutely no staying power on me. Anyone know of another orange-blossom scent that would last, please

  • kittyKat says:

    Aine, try that Roger and Galet dry oil spray that was featured on here a while ago ?? I haven’t tried it myself but if my memory serves me I think a hint of orange blossom was mentioned

  • Grá says:

    Must Try that Valentino V so… Thanks Kittycat ;)

  • Kirstie says:

    bergamot (so kinda orangey), but I adore this:

    http://beaut.ie/?p=9125

  • jikl says:

    aine, maybe check out Eau de Fleurs Neroli by Chloe. they have it in debenams i think. it’s lovely, but pricey!
    http://www.nstperfume.com/2010/03/08/chloe-eau-des-fleurs-neroli-lavande-and-capucine-fragrance-review/

  • MsSittingatherdeskandpretendingtowork says:

    Oh good timing. I’m on the hunt for a new scent. My head was wrecked afer trying about 30 on Saturday. I ended up choosing just one and it was out of stock.

    I’m an outdorsy sort of person. My favourites smells are rain, grass, trees, the sea etc. Can anyone recommend a perfume like that? Er, that sounds like a big ask I know. But I’ve spent a fortune on Jo Malone and most of them end up smelling like toilet cleaner or wet dog.

  • Kirstie says:

    what about L’Occitane Verbena or Issey Miyake’s A Scent?

    http://beaut.ie/?p=16694
    http://beaut.ie/?p=27419

  • jikl says:

    MsSittingatherdeskandpretendingtowork, have you ever tried Inis? it’s Irish and very aquatic – http://www.perfume.ie/inis-the-energy-of-the-sea.html

  • Rosa Green says:

    I’m allergic to most perfumes but one I’ve found recently is Hermes Eau de Mervilles. It’s always described as a woody citrusy smell and it’s quite light. I always get complimented on it. I got it on the way back from Paris in the airport but you can get it in Brown Thomas.

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