Yes, I know. It does sounds a little bit nonsensical – writing a guide on how to wear perfume. Isn’t it one of the few things for which you don’t need a guide? I mean seriously, how hard is it – you just grab the bottle and spray yourself, or you spray in the air and walk through the mist…or spray on your palms and then slap your face a la Home Alone style.
Okay, let’s be honest – no one cares how you apply perfume. Seriously, who gives a shit whether you pat it on your wrists or spray it on your neck. As long as the result is the same – you smelling good – no one care about the method and technique about it.
Yes, no one cares until:
- one decides that they have had enough emptying out a subway because they got trigger-happy with their Shalimar;
- one is tired sniffing themselves in vain to get a whiff of the half bottle of L’Humaniste they sprayed on half an hour ago;
- one wants to smell good without second-guessing themselves if they put on too much or too little or at the right places.
Yes, I get it, this guide to how to wear perfume is for the obsessive ones. I don’t think many people will read it and follow it religiously every morning when getting ready for the day. I hope, however, that it will give you some ideas how to wear perfume and feel confident your smell is not overpowering or too subtle for your good.
Enough talking about it, let’s get into it.
What are Longevity and Projection?
Before we get to the meat of how to apply perfume, we need to address a couple of technical characteristics of fragrances that determine how we apply perfume. I’m talking about longevity and projection. Here’s how each one affects how you apply fragrance:
The longevity of a fragrance refers to how long it lasts on your skin. Some perfumes stick to you like glue and last for days, while others are fickle like a cell phone reception by a discount provider (yes, Wind Mobile, I’m talking about you).
Light perfumes – the ones that smell mostly of citrus or white flowers – don’t last very long. The molecules that smell of citrus and white flowers are small, and they evaporate quickly when exposed to air. Therefore, you can douse yourself with Dior Homme Cologne without worrying whether you’ve put too much on.
It’s fair to say, however, that to improve longevity, many perfumers add fixatives to their light/citrussy creations. These fixatives are often synthetic molecules like hediones and white musk, which improve the endurance but don’t turn up the volume.
The heavy perfumes – dark florals, spicy orientals, woody-based fragrances – tend to last a lot longer. They use aroma-chemicals with much larger molecules, which take longer to evaporate when exposed to air. Therefore, Angel by Thierry Mugler can last for days. Spray it on your shirt and it will smell for weeks.
You don’t need to spray a lot to get a great longevity from a heavy perfume. In fact, if you do apply a lot, you’ll turn up the volume of the fragrance and will likely choke up all living creatures in your proximity.
The projection of a fragrance is how far from the wearer you can smell it. Some perfumes have a monstrous projection and announce your arrival miles ahead. Others, stay much closer to the skin and only people very close to your can smell them.
The problem of over-spraying is a problem of projection. If you put on a perfume that projects very far, and you put a lot of it, many people will be able to smell it from far away.
Announcing your presence in a mile radius is a matter of personal preference, but it becomes a bigger problem for those close to you. If I am ten feet away, and I can get a faint whiff of your scent, I will probably enjoy it. If, however, I am right next to you, I’ll be completely overtaken by your perfume. Think of it as sitting around the camping fire – you enjoy the warmth when you are two or three feet away but definitely, won’t enjoy the burn if you stick your hand in it.
Put simply, if you don’t want to overwhelm people with your perfume, be mindful of its projection.
Fragrances that are heavy and long-lasting also tend to project very far for a very long time. Fragrances that are light and short-lasting may project very far in the beginning but after this first blast, they calm down and become skin scents.
This last point brings me to the next question: when is the best time to apply perfume?
When is the Best time to Apply Perfume?
The best time to apply your fragrance is right after you shower and put on a body lotion. The hot water and steam from your shower open up the pores of your skin, which, combined with the moisture from your lotion, retains your fragrance a lot better.
Once you’ve sprayed on your perfume, wait for about 20-30 minutes before you leave your home. Usually, the top notes of the fragrance are the ones that project the most. Allowing some time for the scent to settle on your skin will reduce its projection once you go out.
Since some fragrances don’t last very long, some people reapply them throughout the day. The best place to reapply your perfume is in the washroom or outside. This way, you’ll smell good without overwhelming everyone else around with the initial blast of the top notes.
Before you put on more perfume, however, think about this: is the fragrance really gone or is it that just you cannot smell it any longer? When we wear the same perfume day after day, our noses get used to it and stop detecting its smell. Obviously, this doesn’t mean that the perfume is not there. It means we have become anosmic to it.
If the first time you wore a scent you noticed that you could smell it throughout the day, the fact that you can’t smell it after your 100th wear, means that you’ve gotten used to it. The perfume performs just as well. In this case, reapplying won’t solve your problem. Instead, it will create another one – your scent will become too strong for the people around you. Unlike you, they are not exposed to it all the time and can be easily by overwhelmed.So, what do you do then? Be a dandy and spray the fragrance on a handkerchief and sniff that. Yes, it does sound silly, but it will give you your fix without pissing off everyone around you.
Different Silly Ways to Apply Perfume and What is the Best One
I’ve watched tons of YouTube videos and read numerous articles about how to put on perfume. If you are looking for a good laugh, do the same. Some advice is valuable and legit, and some of it is just plain silly. Let’s start with the silly.
Spray the cologne on your hands and tap your neck and cheeks.
I guess the origins of this come from the way men used to apply aftershave – you put some on your hands and rub into your cheeks.
That’s the only way to apply alcohol-based aftershave, so no issues there. Using the same idea to apply a fragrance, however, doesn’t work so well. Here’s why.
Imagine, I want to wear Tobacco Vanille – a delicious spicy-oriental with a radioactive projection. I spray two or three times in my palms, and I slap them on my cheeks and neck. This is the result:
- Since I rub my freshly scented hands against my neck and cheeks, I break down some of the molecules of the fragrance – a big no-no as it alters the smell.
- My neck and cheeks get very little of the fragrance, but my palms are soaked in it. Not a great thing to do because…
- Whoever I shake hands with ends up smelling like me – not something they are necessarily looking forward to.
So, forget the whole hand spraying and slapping technique – it works for aftershave but not for perfume.
Spray perfume in the air and walk through the mist.
The idea here is that you get an even distribution of the fragrance on your clothes and hair, which gives you a fragrant aura.
Good in theory, bad in practice. Here’s why:
- I don’t want my clothes to smell of the perfume. When sprayed on fabric, perfume smells differently than when put on the skin.
- Let’s say I do this exercise wearing my $5,000 Tom Ford suit (not that I have one). Does that mean that I have to give it for dry cleaning every time I decide to put on perfume? What happens if I want to change the scent?
- It actually doesn’t work – I’ve tried this technique several times, and I don’t smell of anything – my bedroom does. Not a great use of juice, especially if it is $300.
Spray perfume all over yourself including pulse points.
Spraying fragrance all over is advice Tom Ford gave for an article in a popular magazine. I sincerely hope he doesn’t follow his own advice with any of his ultra-potent Private Blend fragrances.
There is nothing wrong with spraying perfume all over as long as you don’t overdo it. It is hard to follow this advice with some of the more concentrated perfumes. Take Black Agano by Nasomatto. It’s a gorgeous extrait de parfum that comes only in a 30 ml bottle because no sane human being would ever dream of wearing more than two sprays at a time. One spray is more than enough to keep you and those close to you happily in dreamland for the next 12 hours.
Applying one spray of Black Afgano all over your body is an impossible thing to do. You have to pick where to spray. Your neck? Your chest? The inner of your knee? Yes, people put perfume there.
[pullquote align=”normal”]Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that putting more of a weak fragrance will make it last longer. [/pullquote]
Generally speaking, the best place to spray perfume is on your pulse points. These are the spots on your body where the blood flow is the strongest, and you can feel your pulse (your wrists, neck, inside of your knees). Since these places are the equivalent of blood highways, they are warm and pulsating. Putting perfume there would make it bloom and develop better than spraying it on other spots of your body.
For a long time, I used to spray perfume on my wrist, but I noticed that it would rub off on the sleeves of my shirts and jackets. The result was clothes with fragrant sleeves even after I’d washed them.
To remedy the situation, I started putting two sprays on both sides of my neck, just above my collar bone. This way I’d hit the pulse points and limit the spread of any fragrance oil residue just to my undershirt. If I don’t wear an undershirt, I will wait for the perfume to absorb before putting a shirt on.
Another good spot to put on perfume is in your hair, especially if your fragrance is weak and needs some help to stick around. Spraying on your clothes also works okay. However, I find the smell different than what it would smell if you were to apply it on your skin.
So there you have it:
[pullquote align=”normal”]The best places to put on perfume are your neck, wrists, chest, and hair. [/pullquote]
Feel free to experiment with other body parts and do whatever works for you.
How Many Sprays
It depends – mostly on projection and somewhat on where you are going.
You already know what projection is and how it works. How many sprays you put on would depend on the projection of your perfume. If it has a beastly projection like Incense Rose or Tobacco Vanille one or two sprays is more than enough. If it is weaker like Sugi by Comme de Garcons, you can put on more.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that putting more of a weak fragrance will make it last longer. It won’t – it will just have a higher intensity in the same number of hours.
How much perfume you wear also depends on where you are going and what is appropriate for the occasion. If you work in a cubicle farm, one or two sprays of a medium projection fragrance are just enough. You don’t want people to know when you came back from lunch by the smelly trail you leave behind. You don’t want this especially if you tend to sneak in extra long lunches.
If you are going to be outdoors, putting on more of your favourite juice would work great. In any occasion, however, you want to keep your fragrance detectable only by the person a talking distance away from you. The keyword here is detectable. This means that the person you are talking to can smell whiffs of it without having to rub their nose and sneeze.
The only way to know how a fragrance would perform on you and how far it projects is to experiment. Start with one or two sprays and judge your and other people’s reaction. If after 20 minutes you still can smell the fragrance going strong, maybe you’ve put on too much. If you can’t smell it at all, you probably need a boost. Ideally, you are aiming for getting small whiffs of your scent as you move around.
The Tricky Part about Smelling Ourselves
Not being a perfume whore like me has its benefits and costs. Besides deciding quickly what perfume you are going to wear, another benefit of having one or two fragrances is that you know very well how they perform. By now you have probably worked out that three sprays on the chest are just the right amount to wear to the office. Put on the fourth one and you’ll start getting slanted looks from your boss’s sexy vixen of a secretary.
The downside is that you may become anosmic to your perfume. Wearing the same fragrance day in and day out makes your nose insensitive to it, and you can’t smell it after you’ve put it on.
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I experienced this phenomenon first hand when one summer I fell in love with Terre d’Hermes and wore it for six months straight. After the first month or so, I had gotten so used to the smell that I stopped detecting it an hour I had put it on. It was only the compliments from others that told me the juice is still there and doing very well.
Not being able to detect your perfume presents a serious temptation to put on some more to fix the problem. As I mentioned earlier, the problem may not be with the juice but with you. Every time you feel like your perfume is failing you in the longevity department, try to remember how long it lasted on you the first time you wore it. If you got a good longevity in your first wears, then it’s likely that it is still there, but you have just gotten used to it.
I congratulate you for reading this far. I just scrolled up and realized that this post has gotten quite long. As you finish reading these last line and go out to be amazing in your life, remember that there are not rigid rules to wearing perfume. Perfume is fun. Have fun with it and tweak its application until you find the perfect way to wear it.