Signature scent

Eight tips for finding the best fragrance for you

How to find the right fragrance

Photography by Natasha V. Prop styling by Rodney Smith.

Your fragrance tells others a lot more about you than you think. Canadian fragrance expert Marian Bendeth says she can correctly identify a few key personality traits after just one sniff of a new person. That’s why it’s so important to choose your scent wisely – and wear it well. Read on for Bendeth’s tips before you hit the fragrance counter.

Make a list of your favourite scents
Bring along a list of fragrances you love and those that give you a headache. Go to a department store where a fragrance consultant will use this as a starting point to determine if you’re a fruity-floral kind of gal or if you prefer spicy oriental notes.

To sniff or not to sniff
We’ve all heard that sniffing coffee beans helps to cleanse the nasal passage. Bendeth’s take? Nix the beans. “They really don’t work – and only leave a bitter scent in the nasal palate instead of cleansing it. Instead, make sure your skin is clean of any existing fragrance – you don’t want to put one scent over another,” she says. Also, wear or bring along something made of 100 per cent cotton – such as a scarf or long-sleeved shirt – to sniff between testing. “This neutral substance will clean your nose,” says Bendeth.

Use the blotter
Here’s the ideal way to test out a new fragrance: hold the blotter in one hand and the atomizer in the other 12 inches (30 cm) away, then spritz. “Don’t put the blotter on the counter and spray downward. Other people may have sprayed in the same location and this can contaminate the scent,” she says. Also, avoid directly sniffing the atomizer – you won’t get the real scent. Once you determine if you like the scent on the blotter, spritz it once on the inside of your wrist and wear it for the day to see how you like it.

You can never have too many scents
It’s always a good idea to rotate your fragrances, especially when the weather changes. Summer scents usually contain less alcohol, which means they go on light and fresh. Bendeth also recommends switching fragrances every few days: go two days with one and two days with another. “You never get bored with a scent because you’re always re-experiencing it.”

Keep fragrance in the dark
If you’ve forgotten about that Chanel No. 5 sitting on the windowsill (or under a lamp), then it might be time to toss it. Heat will ruin the ingredients and alter their chemistry, which may cause the fragrance to smell rancid. “I know some women who keep their fragrance in the fridge, and that doesn’t work either,” says Bendeth. “Ingredients in a perfume don’t like extremes – not a lot of heat or cold. Plus, the scent of the perfume will contaminate any fats in the fridge – such as butter.” The ideal storage? Keep your fragrance in its original box in a drawer at room temperature. Stored properly, fragrance will last around two years.

Spritz with care
Sometimes I’ll spritz my favourite scent into the air, then walk through it. Little did I know that it’s the wrong way to apply fragrance. “The alcohol in the fragrance could cause breakouts and irritation, dry out the hair or produce a scalp infection,” says Bendeth. There are scents specifically formulated for your hair and clothes, such as Angel by Thierry Mugler and Narcisco Rodriguez. “A scent needs to have direct contact with your skin. Avoid spritzing it on your clothes – especially if they’ve been dry cleaned, which could cause discoloration – or on the inside of your coat or gloves. Too much body heat will cause the scent to go off.

The perfect application
Before you get dressed, spritz once on either the inside of your wrist or your upper elbows, the décolleté and under the ears. “As tempted as you are to rub your wrists together, fight it – you’ll chemically alter and bruise the blend – it’s like scratching a record,” says Bendeth.