Do you remember your first perfume? Chances are it smelled like sweets or candy, was bright pink and probably contained glitter – I know mine did! It was more likely than not a Barbie perfume, because I’ll be honest with you – I was obsessed with Barbie’s growing up! I didn’t so much as play with them, as style them and create elaborate careers and backstories for each doll as they stood perfectly posed in their pretty pink house.
Anyway, I remember quite vividly my mother's perfume from when I was young: it was called Panache and came in a small glass bottle with a deep, royal blue lid. I thought it was all kinds of fancy and it was my first introduction to perfume as a concept. Every Mother’s Day, I’d buy her a new bottle and then watch as she prepared herself each morning with a swish of spray here, and a swish of spray there.
When I was a teenager, I thought that to have a signature scent was one of the most womanly things. Using perfume set apart the women from the girls, and finding your scent was one of those secret ceremonies, those secret rights, that made you an adult.
And so of course I spritzed myself with Incense by Impulse every morning and obsessively throughout the day, waiting until I was old enough to purchase my first actual, real perfume.
At age 16, I purchased a bottle of So! and I couldn’t tell you which one of the extended variety it was, only that I wore it religiously. It was my signature scent (along with most other teen girls, lbr) and it made me feel grown up, mature, and sophisticated.
Over the years I have worn many signature scents, from Jean Paul Gautier Classique X, to Armani Code for Women, to Belle Époque by Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab (which was worn throughout my short-lived Gothic stage in my early 20’s and still evokes wonderfully magically memories of midnight picnics, and black lace parasols).
Despite wearing many perfumes throughout the years, every scent I have worn over the years have had the same base notes, so although they have all had different names, different bottles, on my skin they were all of a similar timbre.
See, my skin isn’t fond of top or even middle notes – whatever perfume I wear, no matter the price range, within a half hour all you can smell are those deep, earthy base notes which are typically always sandalwood, vanilla, musk, opium and amber.
These deep, earthy and sensual base notes are my signature.
However, just because these notes suit me and my personality, it doesn’t mean it’ll suit you. Perfume is an incredibly intimate and personal thing. Every fragrance is created with differing layers and formulas that react differently to each and every person, and each fragrance will develop, and evolve as it is worn.
A classic example: An old friend of mine was once given a Calvin Klein cologne gift set, and one in particular smelt absolutely lovely in the bottle and upon immediate application. However, after a while it started to smell as though he’d just spent an hour in a Bordello.
Fragrance settles, matures, and changes in reaction to your skin.
So, how do you find your signature scent? In a department store full of sparkling bottles, tempting you to try them, how do you know what to sniff out? Although it may be tempting to choose a perfume simply by its looks alone, there’s a lot more to the process.
How to find your Signature Perfume
When seeking out a new perfume, try sniffing the bottles first. Just pop the lid off the tester, don’t spray it, but just inhale the aromatic residue of it’s last spray. This will help you identify whether or not you like the scent. Try a few different scents, from a few different fragrance houses, and at this point, avoid spraying anything and contaminating yourself with a scent!
Once you have sniffed a few different scents, choose three that you like most. Using the sample cards that are on display, spray a small amount onto each tab, ensuring to keep them separated at all times.
Over the next few hours, smell each sample from time to time. You’ll see how to the fragrance develops and how it fades over time which will give you an idea of the longevity of the scent on your own skin.
What I typically do next is head to Fragrantica to see what it is these perfumes all have in common (and read reviews, of course). You’ll be surprised to find that each fragrance probably has similar top, mid, or base notes, or they may all belong to the same group: Woody, Floral, Leather, Oriental, Fresh. Knowing these will help you identify other fragrances you may like.
After testing out a few different samples of perfume and doing your research, it’s time to test one, and one at a time only, on your skin. As previously mentioned, perfume evolves and matures on the skin, so it’s never a good idea to buy nose-blind.
Spritz a small amount on your wrist and then head about your day, sniffing away as you go. Smell how the fragrance sits on you after an hour, two hours, half the day. Do you like it at all these stages? Has it grown and blossomed, or dwindled and soured? Sometimes a perfume that smells citrusy can develop strong floral overtones on your skin, or if you’re like me, your skin may bring out the base notes.
Don’t be scared to spend several days visiting the fragrance section of the department store trying out different perfumes until you find the one you like. There’s nothing intimidating about the staff, nor embaressing about finding out exactly what you do and don’t like. Perfume isn’t cheap, so a decision should never be rushed.
Now that you have found your favourite fragrance, your signature scent, I recommend only ever buying the smallest bottle. Fragrance and perfumes oxidise which means the aromas and scents will change over time, even in the bottle. You don’t want to buy a large 100ml bottle only for the scent to sour after 6 months, so smaller bottles are the way to go.
And finally, wear your new scent proudly, joyfully, and seductively (or whatever your aroma brings out in you!). Remember to spray perfume wherever you would most wish to be kissed, and never rub your wrists as this bruises the delicate aroma.
Finding your signature scent is a process, but one that will bring endless joy at the end of it.
Tell me, do you have a signature scen? What was your very first perfume?