Perfume is powerful. Let’s get that right out in the open. Whether you consider yourself the girl next door, a femme fatale, sporty and athletic, or a ballsy broad, your scent is your calling card. When I select a scent for the day, I want to be able to walk around, have the scent waft from me, and instantly deliver that not-so-subtle message I am sending. I absolutely select my scents according to my outfit and mood. If I am feeling feisty, I reach for something loaded with musk and spice. Jasmine, rose, and ylang ylang are my choices when I am waxing sensual. Vanilla mixed with coconut, cinnamon, and clove may make me smell like a bakery, but who doesn’t enjoy that every now and then?
My own fragrance selections through the years have progressed and changed, and as I think about it, is a true reflection of how I’ve grown and transformed as a person. Being in my 30’s, I am definitely confident in who I am and my scents reflect that. I have over 30 bottles of perfume in my collection, and the count is growing. For me, perfume is not comparable to frosting on a mile high cake, it’s just as imperative as the flour or sugar. You cannot make a cake without those ingredients, and I cannot have a complete ensemble without that scent.
Growing up in the ’80’s, my first introduction to the world of fragrances came from what I call “teenybopper” scents. Everywhere you looked, advertisements were geared toward the fresh faced youth: Love’s Baby Soft, Wind Song (I just can’t seem to forget you/Your Wind Song stays on my mind), Exclamation, and Impulse body spray. If you wanted to smell like Giorgio Beverly Hills, but didn’t want to drop all that dough, you reached for the Designer Imposters. Even back then, there was an endless fascination with discovering your personal scent. Chanel No. 5 is, by far, one of the most iconic fragrances and almost every woman’s go-to when she graduates to the grownup smells. I actually sniffed a bottle of Love’s Baby Soft at a store a while ago, and its’ powdery soft smell made me feel like a kid again: carefree, youthful, innocent.
As a teenager, I gravitated towards the sweet florals and, once again, the popular scents of the time: Jessica McClintock, Sunflowers, Eternity. All of these are the type of scents adolescents tend to experiment with. There wasn’t much exploration or personal discovery. Raging hormones and body changes provided the simple rationale as to what perfumes you picked: make sure you don’t smell bad.
As I got older, my strong personality came out full force, and I realized that I don’t do subtle fragrances. The heavier scents, particularly the Orientals and Gourmands, speak to me as commanding and powerful: several Chanel perfumes, Design, Opium, Poison, Hypnotic Poison, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Aquolina Pink Sugar were the aromas of my earlier adulthood, and those categories remain my favorite. It’s not that my personality got “darker”, but I gravitate toward the more mysterious, sultry, and provocative fragrances. The kind that stop traffic.
Within the last 5 or 6 years, I switched exclusively to oil-based perfumes, due their strength and lasting power on my skin. I was hooked instantly. Discovering and creating new concoctions became my hobby, my pleasure. This, in turn, led to me to Aromatherapy. Since they have a quite a bit in common, I decided to take courses in both fields to learn the ropes. Not only did I learn about the artistry of perfumery, but I am well versed on the materia medica of essential oils! I have an impressive collection of essential and fragrance oils that I use for my creations, which has made my mother dub me “Dr. Frankenstein”. I’ve made a few clunkers in my time, but a couple of them have become staples.
It has been quite a journey finding myself through fragrance, and I cannot talk about it enough! I hope that you’ve enjoyed this spirited journey into nostalgia. If I live to be a vivacious old lady with a dyed dark brown beehive shellacked with an entire can of hairspray, bright pink lipstick around my lips, and eye shadow smudged enough to make me look like a raccoon, rest assured that I’m going to smell damn good! Before I bid you farewell, keep this in mind. If you gain nothing else from my story, even after years and years of anointing myself with countless perfumes, here are a few pointers that have kept me smelling like a rose (or a cookie).
Tried and True Tips from a Fragrance Fanatic
Avoid Olfactory Overload
When layering, the biggest gaffe I think one can make is using the exact same scent if you’re using both lotion and perfume. A dear friend of mine worked at a popular retail store briefly, and being the good salesperson she was, bought some of their body care, becoming a walking odorous advertisement. Body lotion, body spray, and (possibly) shower gel created a scented smorgasbord that certainly made her stand out! Unfortunately, instead of being flattering to her skin chemistry, the sickeningly sweet smells of the product double teamed and overpowered her. So, if you’re moisturizing and you need to pick out a corresponding scent, what should you pick? That brings us to your next tip…
Harmonize and Contrast!
As you plan out your perfume and lotion combo, it’s a good idea to find a common denominator in both scents. I usually have 3 to 4 bottles of lotion on my bureau at all times, mixing and matching with my perfume choices daily. Definitely try to stay within the same or a complimentary scent family for maximum effect. If I decide to wear a perfume that is predominantly rose, I will either wear a lotion that has rose in it or a complementary scent such as sandalwood or vanilla. Aromatherapy and Perfumery books have a plethora of information on scent categories and families, with California based perfumer Mandy Aftel’s Essence & Alchemy a perfect reference point. Find out what works together and what clashes! Don’t be afraid to go totally off base!
Vanilla is Sooo Not Vanilla…
As I have noticed through the years, you cannot go wrong with vanilla! It’s one of the most popular base notes, since it not only goes well with anything, it lasts a long time! Almost every body care outfit and perfumery out in the market today has something vanilla based, since it’s regarded as a comforting and pleasing smell- not to mention it’s sexy as hell.
Break Out the Bottle Several Times a Day
Don’t be afraid to reapply your scent, as needed! Alcohol- based perfumes naturally fade faster than oil-based, which is more concentrated and binds differently to your skin. A word to the wise, if an alcohol based scent has faded from your skin within 1 to 2 hours of your putting it on, it’s a safe bet that it doesn’t work with your body chemistry. Estée Lauder Pleasures is a prime example of a scent my skin rejected. I liked that beautiful and super feminine floral, but I would have to take a bath in it to get in to stick to me.
Perfumes Are Like Vampires, They Don’t Like Sunlight!
You may be tempted to have a bunch of bottles displayed on your dresser, but trust me, resist it, and keep them in the dark! Sunlight changes the chemical makeup of both alcohol and oil based perfumes, so if you absolutely must keep them out, it’s best to store them in their boxes! I have the majority of my perfumes in a pretty jewelry box and the blends I am currently working on in a big storage box. That way, the scent smells the way it should.