How to Shop for Perfume

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Fragrance

There’s a unique pressure that comes with finding your statement fragrance. Maybe it’s because of the overwhelming number of scents you have to choose from, or maybe it’s the fear of smelling like an over-fragranced tween who just discovered perfume samples for the first time.

Regardless of the reason, fragrance shopping has historically been a trial-and-error task. Until now, to find out exactly how to choose your next scent, without a month of waffling.

Learn the lingo

If intimidation is the major barrier standing between you and your trip to the fragrance aisle, here’s a quick schooling in notes (e.g. top, middle, and bottom). The top note is the strongest scent you’ll smell when you first spray a perfume, and it fades within 15 minutes, giving way to the middle note. The middle note (a.k.a. heart note) is the body of the perfume, staying prominent and bold for a few hours. When the middle dissipates, you’re left with the bottom note: those rich, heavy scents that linger until the end of the day.

Leave the store

“Never smell a perfume at the counter,” says Laurent. “The smell in the shop can be overwhelming.” I mean, think about it: How can you truly smell the pure notes of a fragrance when it’s mingling with a cloud of other stale scents? Instead, “spray it and escape,” she says.

Rather than spritzing on a ton of options as you work your way down the aisle , spray each one on a different tester stick and leave the store—or better yet, go outside—before you take your first whiff. When you smell the juice surrounded by fresh air, your nose will not only get a chance to “reset,” but you’ll have a better impression of how it will wear in day-to-day life. Another bonus: Keeping tester sticks helps you keep track of your choices, instead of trying to remember which fragrance you sprayed on which body part (again, guilty.)