Choosing a Signature Scent

64 Arts
Mom's Perfume Bottles, by Nancy JonesFrancis

image via Flickr, annieo76

Now that we’ve talked about scent memories and how (or how not to) wear perfumes, let’s get down to the nitty gritty and talk about how to CHOOSE a perfume!

Your first instinct when you want to choose a new signature scent might be to head off to your favorite department store and start sniffing away, but I’d caution against that for one minute while I talk about something completely unrelated to perfumes–or is it?


I love wine. Taking a road trip and see a winery sign? Chances are pretty doggone good that we’re going to take a detour if there’s any possibility of a tasting (a free tasting is best, but we’ve paid nominal fees for tasting flights, too). And I used to love going to the monthly wine tasting at the local ABC Liquors back in the day.

But here’s the thing: after a dozen different wines pass your palate, chances are you’re not tasting much of anything new with each sip, you’re just feeling no pain. And there’s really only so much that chutney over cream cheese and wheat thins can do to cleanse your palate.


If you think it’s tough to get a bad taste out of your mouth, have you ever tried un-smelling something unpleasant?


While there are ways to refresh your sniffer after a long day at the perfume counter (lemon slices and coffee grounds come to mind–but not together!), most f0lks aren’t going to be able to tell much about perfume #10 in a row and how it’s different from #1 or #3. And if you’ve tried them on your wrist or arm you could end up smelling like roadkill instead of roses.

What’s a girl to do? Her homework!

But this is the fun kind, and I’ve got a way to make it super simple so you know where to start your search without overpowering your schnoz.

Step 1: Pick 2 perfumes you’re already familiar with, one you like and one you don’t.

Step 2: Head over to or a similar site and search for your 2 known perfumes. Look in the descriptions for the notes (the individual scents that make up the overall bouquet of the perfume or cologne) of each perfume and print them out or write them down.

Step 3: Use these notes of notes as your cheat sheet for choosing perfumes to try and those to avoid. The notes found in your least favorite perfume will be notes you want to avoid or be wary of when looking for a new signature scent.

Step 4: Search for the notes that sound most appealing from your favorite perfume and look at the other options that come up.

For instance: a favorite perfume of mine is Clinque’s Happy which has, among others, ruby red grapefruit top notes. Now, if I do a search for ruby red grapefruit I get a couple dozen possibilities to check out. But, if I look at the notes for each (or just some that appeal to me via their packaging–you gotta start somewhere, right?) I notice that one of these perfumes has a note I most definitely do NOT like: patchouli. Therefore, I know there’s no point in trying out B Exquisite. Daisy, though, might be a good choice except I’d have to see (smell) how potent the gardenia notes are–those can easily overpower.

At any rate, with a little searching under your belt, you’re now ready to head to the perfume counter or your local Sephora for a few well-curated choices.  You can start with spritzes on test strips and then choose 2 to try on yourself (one per wrist) to see how they interact with your own body chemistry.

This might not be the quickest search, all things considered, but with the price of a good perfume being what it is, it’s worth spending a weekend or two trying out a couple of new perfumes at a time before investing in a bottle you may regret.


Question of the Day: How do you go about picking a new signature scent?

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