If you have at least one bottle of perfume in your closet, which you haven't used in the last year, you need to read this.
If you have a phobia going to the department store looking for a new juice, you need to read this.
If you ever walked out of that same department store with a bottle of juice, lighted bank account and uneasy feeling in your stomach, you definitely need to read this.
Take it from the expert: I've spent thousands of dollar on perfume over the years and I have bottles in my closet, which give me the shivers every time I smell them. I shake my head in disbelief and wonder what had possessed me to buy them in the first place.
Learning what type of perfume you like is a process of self-discovery.
This doesn't make me sound like much of an expert but along the way I've learned a couple of things, which have made me better at buying fragrances that I actually enjoy. Below I've summarized what I've learned from my mistakes. I'm sharing these tips with you so that you don't fall into the same traps as me.
1. Know What You Want
Don't ever think of going to the store without knowing what you want. Like the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland said, if you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there. The same is true with fragrances - if you don't know what you want, any fragrance will do.
Knowing what you want is a bit complicated. Think of it at two levels:
- Knowing what type of scents you enjoy;
- Knowing what you are looking for and when and where you plan to use the fragrance.
Learning what type of perfume you like is a process of self-discovery. It involves wearing many different fragrances and finding the common features you like in them.
By trying different scents, I know that I like leather-based perfumes but I don't like powdery ones. Through experience, I've learned that perfumes heavy on the spice are appealing to me but, ultimately, I don't wear them often because they don't fit my personality.
Think of your favourite scents. What do they have in common? Try to summarize the features you like in a sentence or two. This is important because you will have to communicate your preferences to the sales representative at the store.
The second part of knowing what you want is knowing what purpose the particular fragrance will have and how you plan to use it. For example, you could be looking for a wood-based scent you want to wear when going out at night. Knowing this in advance will help you focus on fragrances that meet this criterion. It will also give some direction to the sales representative to show your options in this range.
Some people get very specific and look for fragrances for a particular event - a wedding, birthday party, etc. I know of a couple of perfume reviewers who went through an extensive process with their followers on YouTube to select the right juice for their wedding. I don't suggest being that specific but it is a good idea to walk into the store with a clear vision of how, when and where you are going to wear this fragrance.
2. Don't Believe the Hype
Most sales representatives in most mid-tier department stores have different goals than you. They want to sell you something with as little effort as possible and for as much money as possible. You, on the other hand, wish to buy something that you will love and enjoy wearing for many months to come.
Now you see where things can get a little bit strange. You ask for a citrus-based scent with a hint of a marine note and you get Montblanc Legend - an oriental spicy fragrance. You counter the sales rep by saying that this is not really a citrus fragrance and
The other way this conversation can go is that the sales rep will show you the best-seller and tell you something like:
"This has been a number one perfume for 10 years straight and makes the boys/girls swoon over you."
The proper response to the best-seller argument is a big fat SO WHAT? You are buying the perfume for you, not to help the company bolster the number one ranking of its fragrance.
Put simply, whether the fragrance sells well or whether other people like it doesn't matter at all. What counts is whether you like it. If you don't like it, it is not because there is something wrong with you. It is because you don't like it (probably because your taste is so much more refined than that of the average Joe ;)).
When I say this, people usually tell me "well, yes, but the others around you have to like it too."
No, they don't. You can't please everyone you encounter, nor is it your job. In most cases people complain not because they don't like your fragrance but because it is too overpowering (read: you've put too much).
When it comes to building hype, the sales reps are amateurs in comparison with the perfume companies. They spend millions of dollars a year to create a story about something as abstract as a scent.
Because perfume is something highly impractical, just like many other forms of art, marketers have to create a magic around it. This magic is based mostly on lies, which we as consumers half-believe. If you wear Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue, you will be like the guy in the commercial, swimming on a raft off of a Mediterranean island with a hot girl. Valentino Uomo will turn you into a playful seducer who is a younger version of Jeb Gambardella from La Grande Bellezza.
No perfume will do anything like this for you. It will, however, make you smell good and help you create memories to last a lifetime. This last part, though, is entirely up to you.
The important thing to remember about hype when it comes to buying perfume is that it is most likely not true. If it is, it usually doesn't matter. Don't let hype and marketing sway you in your decision to buy something you don't like.
3. Don't Fall in the Reciprocation Trap
The reciprocation trap is a bitch and it works like a charm. You give someone something or you do something for them and they feel obligated to reciprocate to your kind gesture.
A homeless traveler demonstrated to me the power of reciprocation in the most elegant way. Wearing pseudo-Buddhist clothes and beads around his neck, he stopped me on the street and handed me a book.
"Here, this is a gift for you."
I took the book he pushed in my hands and looked at him surprised. It seemed like a real brand new book of average thickness.
"I am from the community of the Blooming Flower and we are giving away these books teaching people about meditation and divine love," he explained.
A gift is a gift. Even though the topic didn't interest me, I couldn't stop myself from being flattered.As soon as I thanked him, he delivered the kick:
"We rely on the generosity of kind people like you to spread our message of love. We humbly ask you for a small donation. Most people give us $20."
Guess how much I gave him. $20!
This is how reciprocation works. Intentionally or not, sales reps can use this technique against you. They can be overly attentive, give you free gifts, and flatter you. Don't let it influence your choice of fragrance or whether you buy anything from them at all.
I realize I may sound a little jaded. There are really nice people working the perfume counters that may genuinely want to help you find something you like. Even if this is the case, you have no obligation to purchase anything from them. Not buying anything will not make you seem rude or ungrateful for their efforts. It means that, at the time, you couldn't find what you were looking for.
Before we move on, here's a short side note. The pushy and unscrupulous sales reps usually reside in the low and mid-tier department stores. You can occasionally run into them in some high-end stores but it is not common. I haven't come across any of them in independent boutique shops. Usually, the sales people I encounter there are the owners or know personally the owner, so they take much more care in forming a long-term relationship with their customers.
4. Take it for a Test Drive
Buying perfume is like buying a car. You have to take it for a test drive.
It is very hard to judge the quality and character of a fragrance by smelling it at the perfume counter. When you have perfumes coming from every direction, it's hard to tell whether what you are smelling is 100% the perfume on the strip.
Here is a 3 step process to accurately test the juice you are thinking of buying.
- Spray it on the paper strip. This will allow you to get an overall sense of what the perfume smells like. If you don't like it
onthe paper, chances are you won't like it on your skin.
- Spray it on your skin. If you like how the juice smells on the paper strip, then put some on your skin. In theory, it is best to spray some on your pulse points, as this is where the skin is the hottest and the fragrance will develop to the fullest. When I test a fragrance, however, I usually spray it on the back of my hand. It is easier to keep sniffing it this way instead of contorting your arms every two minutes.
- Get a sample and wear it for a full day in the conditions you expect to wear the fragrance. If, for example, you are looking to wear it on the beach, while playing volleyball, then wear it on the beach while playing volleyball. If it is a perfume you plan to wear casually throughout the day, then test it on an average day.It is important to try a fragrance in the conditions you plan to wear it because its performance may vary. Some scents work great in hot weather while others do best in the winter. There is no way to know for sure until you test it.
When you give a fragrance a full-day wear you also test its technical indicators, such as longevity, projection, development, etc.
Many designer fragrances nowadays are designed to be top-heavy. In everyday language, this means that the majority of the budget for developing the juice was spent on the opening notes.
Marketers know that most people buy a fragrance at the store based on their initial experience of the scent. This is why they purchase the best materials to build the opening of the fragrance and neglect the later stages of development.If you give a fragrance a full-day wear, however, you won't fall into this marketing trap and will buy something you enjoy throughout the day.
L'Humaniste by Frapin
Wearing your perfume sample for a day will also show you how long it lasts. There are some juices, which smell great but last only half an hour. L'Humaniste by Frapin is such a perfume. It feels great but it lasts only 20 minutes. Dolce & Gabbana The One is another example.
Now that you have thoroughly tested your juice, you will have a much better idea whether you like it or not. If you do, then go get it, if not, then scratch it off and move on to the next one.
I can't say I always follow these steps when I buy a fragrance. Sometimes, my excitement gets the best of me and I end up getting something I don't like later. When I do follow the tips described here, I always end up with something I like for the months to come.
What do you think? How do you go about shopping for fragrances? Do you have a process you follow? Share your thoughts in the comments below.