Choosing the right perfume can be a daunting task. With so many different varieties and scents, it’s easy to just throw up your hands and pick one without very much thought. However, doing your homework before you go shopping will help you narrow down your options. When you go shopping, stay on task and compare perfumes so you can make an informed decision that you won’t regret!
Decide on a price point. Perfume is a luxury item and its cost can vary hugely between products. Some perfumes are under 20 dollars while others cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Before you go shopping, decide how much money you want to spend on a perfume.
If the perfume is a gift, consider both your personal finances and your relationship with the recipient of the gift. If you are giving perfume to your wife, you may want to spend more than you would on perfume for an acquaintance you don’t know very well.
Choose a scent concentration. Perfumes have different names depending on their lasting power. Typically, the most expensive perfumes are the ones that last longest, while cheaper perfumes don’t have as much staying power. You can usually see the type or concentration of the perfume under its name on the front of the bottle.
Eau de cologne has the lowest fragrance concentration, lasting about two hours. It is 3-5% oil in a mixture of water and alcohol.
Eau de toilette is a slightly more concentrated type of perfume and will last three to four hours. It is a about 4-8% oil.
Eau de parfum has a higher oil concentration than eau de cologne and lasts around six hours. It is 15-18% oil mixed with alcohol.
The perfume with the highest concentration is simply called perfume or parfum. It has great staying power and will last all day. It is 15-30 oil mixed with alcohol.
Narrow down a scent family. Consider which scents you or the perfume recipient enjoy. Perfumes generally are separated into four scent categories, though many perfumes contain a subtle mix of scents. If you are buying perfume for someone else, see what kinds of perfumes they use. If you have no idea what kind of scents you like, don’t worry: you can figure out what scent family you prefer when you are trying perfumes in the store.
Floral/Sweet perfumes smell like freshly-cut flowers. Common scents used in floral perfumes are rose, lavender, carnation and orange blossom. Floral perfumes are the most popular perfumes for women because of their sweet, feminine scent that most enjoy.
Citrus/Fruity perfumes smell like fruits, particularly citrus fruits. Common tones are citrus fruits like orange, grapefruit and lime, but also other fruit like apricot, apple or peach. In general these scents are bright and refreshing.
Oriental/Spicy perfumes smell musky and complex. Many of them contain tones of spices like star anise, cinnamon and vanilla.
Woody/Chypre perfumes smell woody and earthy. Many contain scents like bergamot, oakmoss and patchouli.
Ask others what kind of perfume they use. Be conscious of the scents people around you are wearing, no matter if you’re at work, on the train or in class. If you catch a whiff of something you really like, ask the wearer what kind of perfume it is. You never know, you could find your new scent without even stepping into a store.
If you don’t like the scent of your friends’ perfumes, try to pinpoint what about them you don’t like. This is valuable information that will help you narrow down your options.
Spread out your shopping. Don’t try to pick the perfect scent in one shopping trip. The more scents you smell, the more your nose will get desensitized to the smell of the perfume, making it hard to try multiple perfumes. Because you’ll want to smell a range of scents to make your decision, try to space out your shopping trips over a few days.
Don’t wear scents when going shopping. When you are shopping for your perfume, don’t wear any scented skin products like body lotion, body sprays or even strongly-scented deodorant. These scents can distract from and interfere with the scent of the perfume.
Bring along a friend. Consider bringing along a friend to help you make your decision. Especially if the perfume is a gift, the input of another person who knows the recipient can be very useful. If you are picking out the perfume for yourself, consider whether inviting a friend would be helpful or if it would make your decision harder.
Research your stores. Pick out the stores that you are visiting carefully. Makes sure that the stores are reputable with a knowledgeable staff, and that they provide personalized customer service. Also make sure that the stores you go to are within your price range.
Department stores like Macy’s have great customer service, though their products tend to be expensive.
Small boutiques may be pricey and have less variety, depending on the size, but their products and customer service should be high quality.
Try to shop at a store where perfume is one of the major products sold. If you go to a clothing store that also sells a few perfumes, there won’t be many options and their staff may not be as knowledgeable as the staff at specialty stores.
Ask a salesperson for help. By now you should already have a good idea of what scent you are looking for. Approach an available salesperson and ask if they can help you find the right perfume. They will be happy to help and their knowledge about the products will make the search much easier.
You can say something like, “I was wondering if you could help me pick out a perfume for myself. I’m looking for a semi-long lasting perfume with a clean, citrus-y smell. My price range is $70-120.”
If you have no idea what you like, ask the salesperson to let you smell one of the most popular perfumes from all four scent categories.
If you are giving the perfume as a gift and have no idea what the recipient likes, ask the salesperson to show you the most popular perfumes, especially floral scents since these are the most universally liked scent category.
Only test six fragrances each trip. Don’t overload on fragrances. Limit yourself to trying six fragrances a trip at most. This will allow you to fully appreciate the complexities of each scent, and won’t overload your sense of smell. Because you have already narrowed down your options, you won’t have to waste your smells on perfumes that are wrong for you.
Sniff from the bottle first. When you are testing perfume, first take a whiff from the bottle. This will give you an indication of whether you like the perfume or not. If you end up not liking the smell at all, you will be glad that you didn’t spray it on yourself.
Don’t inhale too heavily, as it may make your sense of smell dull even quicker.
Spray perfume on blotter sheets. If you smell a perfume in the bottle and like the scent, spray a small amount of perfume onto a blotter sheet. Allow the scent to set on the sheet, about ten seconds, then smell it. If you still like the scent, label the sheet and put it into your purse or your bag. This way you can smell it later and remember which perfume it is.
Spray favorite perfumes on your skin. If you really like a perfume and think it could be the one, spray a small amount onto your wrist or the crook of your elbow. Give the scent about 10 seconds for the alcohol to dissolve, then gently inhale the perfume. The scent of a perfume changes slightly upon contact with your skin, so it’s important to test top contenders on your skin as well as from blotter sheets.
Don’t apply more than one perfume on each arm, or the scents will start to mix.
Refresh your nose. Between each scent, refresh your senses by smelling something neutral, like your skin or your shirt. The neutral scent will refresh your sense of smell so that the smell of the last perfume won’t linger and interfere with the next perfume you smell.
Ask for samples. If you try a perfume that you love, keep the blotter sheet you sprayed and also ask if it’s possible to get a sample of the perfume. Tell the salesperson that you are thinking of buying the perfume but want to sleep on the decision. Most major perfume carriers have samples of their products that they are happy to give away if they know that the customer is seriously interested.
Compare perfumes side by side. After you have visited all the perfume stores you planned to and have several choices, gather all the samples and blotting sheets. Use the same procedure as in the store to test each perfume. Keep narrowing down your options until you make your decision!
Consider purchasing a sampler set. If you can’t seem to settle on just one scent, buy a sampler set from a store like Sephora or Ulta. Sampler sets contain sample or travel-sized bottles of multiple perfumes.
You can test out each perfume over the course of a few weeks and eventually purchase a regular sized bottle of the one you like best. Some of the sets even come with a certificate for a full sized bottle.