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?

Keep It Simple and Scents-able

64 Arts

Wearing perfume is a balancing act between making a statement and making a stench.

One girls ideal scent may make another sneeze, and the scent that smells fabulous spritzed in the air or on a test strip may smell like–well, let’s just say very unpleasant when it’s actually on.

So here’s a few guidelines for smelling like roses instead of road-kill:

  • Never wear a new scent out before a test-run at home. Scents react with our skin and body chemistry and change slightly from what’s in the bottle. Put it on and give it about an hour and then see what it smells like before committing it to your personal arsenal.
  • Scale up the scent based on the sort of occasion you’re wearing it for. Wearing only a spritz or a dab for work compared to all the pulse-points for a date, that sort of thing. And even then, figure that others will be wearing their own scents so the more people you’ll be around, the less scent you would want to wear to cut down on the olfactory cacophony.
  • Using multiple products (body wash, lotion and perfume) amplifies the amount of perfume you’ve put on and can get overpowering, fast.
  • We become accustomed to our own immediate area when it comes to scent. With that in mind, just because you can’t smell the perfume as strongly as you used to, doesn’t mean others are in the same predicament. If the bottle’s fairly new and hasn’t been stored in a sunny window or other heat-prone place, trust that it smells just fine and err on the side of caution.
  • Smoking and other factors can also dampen your sense of smell, making you prone to put on too much scent and overpower those around you.
  • There’s something to be said for having a signature scent, but don’t be afraid to change it when it becomes tired or your tastes change.

Now, two stories about perfume gone wrong and why it’s so important to be sensible about scents, both from the office.

We had a client come in, one day, who preferred natural products and essential oils. This day in particular she was sporting quite a lot of patchouli and, as the scent wafted it’s way back to my office (about, oh, 15 feet from the front counter and through my open doorway), I was overcome with a fit of coughing so bad I had to go back out to the alley for a breath of fresh air.

It’s quite unfortunate to have to excuse yourself from client interactions but sometimes the best thing is to just be upfront and try to stand upwind.

And it’s not only women that face these issues!

We used to rent space to another company in the our building and one of their salesmen was notorious for piling on the cologne in the morning. You could smell him coming 2 minutes before he walked in the door and 10 minutes after he left!

I once read that Jackie Kennedy spoke in a soft voice so that others would have to lean in to hear her, creating a feel of intimacy in their interactions. Perfume should be like that, too, I think. You lean in for an embrace and leave a subtle scent behind rather than shouting your presence to everyone in the room.


Do you have any tips or personal rules for wearing perfume?

the 19th Art: Perfume

64 Arts

After quite a long stint on the jewelry arts of 18 and 20, we’re hopping back in the middle of them to pick up the (lost?) art of perfume…


And now back to our regularly scheduled programing. The next art in the pursuit of the 64 Arts is

Art 19: The Preparation of Perfumes

But let’s take this from a different angle and start with the wearing of perfume and then get around to making it. After all, you can’t make it if you don’t know what you like, right?

Perfume–scent of any kind–was practically forbidden when I was growing up. Mom is very sensitive to any sort of scented products. No scented candles, floral air fresheners–even unscented hairspray was too smelly. A Sunday School teacher sold Avon and would sometimes hand out those little sample tubes as prizes for different things–I hoarded them like treasure. For me, they were.

The one scent Mom didn’t mind was baby powder and so, in Christmas stockings, I’d sometimes get a little bottle of Love’s Baby Soft. While some scents from childhood may evoke an idea of nostalgia and longing? This one, not so much. Still, you work with what you got.

Now, you might think that now that I’m an adult I could wear whatever perfume I wanted, right?

Have I mentioned that I work with my Mom?

And the only time, since high school, that I haven’t lived or worked with her I was working as a pastry chef–another time when wearing anything scented is a big no-no.

Recently I realized, though, that wearing perfume is something I miss. Not in the I used to do it and now I don’t manner, but more of a when I remember to–for going out or on weekends–sort of thing. Putting on perfume was reserved for special occasions but I started to think isn’t everyday special? Wouldn’t it be awesome if I treated the days at home as more than just a break from the office, more than just work at a different desk, but days for me, for my projects, for my opportunity.

Wearing perfume? It’s for me.

So these days I try to remember, even if I’ve got the luxury of spending of spending a Saturday in my pajamas drawing or crafting or researching my current projects, to spritz on a perfume to remind me that these moments are special.

These days my favorites are Mary Kay’s Velocity (part of their teen-focused line, but the citrus smell is fantastic!) or something from Clinique’s Happy line.


For the comments:

  • Do you wear perfume or think of it only after the fact?
  • What scents do you like or wish you wore more of?

Scents and Sensibility

64 Arts

Have you ever walked into a room and remembered someone or someplace else because of the way your environment smells?

My grandfather’s house had a certain smell. A mix of cigarette smoke, frying oil, the fields outside and pork roast studded with garlic and green onions. Sometimes I’ll catch a whiff of that mixture elsewhere and I’m transported 300 miles back home.

The smell of damp, fresh-cut grass on a Fall evening reminds me of the four years spent in marching band, waiting on the sidelines to take the field for our halftime show. Memories flood in of old friends, the surety that we knew everything, the hindsight that proves we knew nothing.

Old perfumes remind me of the people I wore them for and the person I used to be.

Smell is one of the strongest memory triggers. Those memories can alter our moods based on the emotions our brains associated with them over time. Mood–emotion–has a lot to do with our sense of well-being, our health and our productivity (sniff a fresh-cut grapefruit or lemon–or a bit of their zest–and see if you don’t feel a little more alert).

So, if scents can take us back to our past and affect our present, what effect could they have on our future?

Aromatherapy is, technically, the use of natural plant oils to improve ones mood or physical well-being. A lot of products have aromatherapy claims attached to them, but (among the purists) direct use of essential oils in all natural products is the only way to go.

Now, how you use these oils depends a lot on the purpose of the oil and the oil itself–some are more effective when applied to the skin (but only when mixed with a carrier oil!) and others work better dispersed in the air via a diffuser,  incense or even added to your bathwater.

There are a few cardinal rules to using essential oils:

  1. Never apply them directly to the skin without diluting them–essential oils are concentrated to a point that they could do real damage to your skin on their own. Sweet almond oil is probably the most common carrier oil but grape-seed and even certain types of olive oil also get the job done.
  2. Fragrance oils are (generally) cheap imitations created in labs and don’t give the same benefits from a holistic healing point of view.
  3. Check any warnings of an oil before using. Some essential oils are irritating to the skin even when diluted so are better diffused in the air, instead. Certain essential oils can be problematic to pregnant women and should be avoided. Others are out-and-out toxic. Do your homework and check with your doctor if you know you have allergies or health issues that might be affected by any holistic or homeopathic techniques. In other words: Be Safe!

Which oils or scents to choose is a subject best left to the books and websites dedicated to aromatherapy. In the mean time, here are some common scents and what they are purported to mean or influence whether in essential oil, their natural state or even a candle–who am I to say that if the scent of roses makes you happy and relaxed that a scented candle isn’t going to do the trick?

  • Vanilla: sexual arousal (there was a study that showed more men got frisky around vanilla-scented candles than any other!)
  • Pine: purification (no wonder we smell it in so many cleaning products!), money (almost anything green is linked with cash) and energy (one of those ‘up’ scents)
  • Coffee: stimulates the mind (morning cup as aromatherapy, nice!), heals you make decisions
  • Rose: love (it’s associated with both the planet and the goddess Venus), peace and beauty
  • Orange: purification (citrus is the other biggie in cleaning scents), joy and energy
  • Chamomile: sleep, meditation and peace (how often has someone suggested chamomile tea when you’re nerves are frayed? exactly!)
  • Melon: promotes healing and health (take a deep breath before your next slice of cantaloupe or honeydew to get the full effect)
  • Lavender: love, peace and the conscious mind (it’s a thinking scent, relaxing you into new thoughts and ideas)

What do you think: how important is scent to our well-being, our productivity or our ability to shape our future? Have you ever dabbled in aromatherapy or do you regularly light incense or spritz an atomizer before you begin a yoga practice or get down to work?