Just like the process of discovering your personal uniform, finding (and sticking to) a signature scent can be downright intimidating. Unless you’re 100 percent sure you’ve met your match, the idea of wearing skinny jeans every day is just as daunting as giving off a whiff of vanilla musk 24/7. So how do you figure out what works for you? Luckily, it’s not all about heading over to the beauty counter and spritzing on every single bottle on display. That will just end in a headache.
Read on to arm yourself with expert tips—and tricks—for finding your signature scent.
Figure Out Your Favorite Food (and Season)
“Eighty percent of your sense of taste is driven by your sense of smell— that is why when you have a cold, food doesn’t taste like anything!” explains Rachel ten Brink, CMO and co-founder of Scentbird. Turns out, Brink says that the flavors you’re into may play into what you’ll like in a scent. “Your fragrance preferences are also strongly tied to the memories you attach to certain scents. Seasons evoke strong scent memories. For example, if you love summer, your memories may be tied to the smell of the ocean or suntan lotion, while spring is tied to walks in a forest, green, and floral scents.”
If you’re forever a summer girl and can’t get enough of cool, crisp, beach scents, it’ll be easy to see the connection.
Switch It Up Occasionally
Changing what you wear throughout the year doesn’t mean you’ve lost your signature scent. It might actually be best to give that rose-scented diffuser a rest. “In my opinion, it’s best to change up your fragrances throughout the seasons because weather effects fragrance,” explains Mushmoom Khan, CEO of Estevia Parfum. “Your body chemistry changes from time to time, causing different notes to effect the body in different ways. In the summer, the fragrance notes dissipate from the skin quicker due to the heat so a lighter, fresh fragrance is better rather than a strong one that will overpower,” she says.
When winter comes around, Khan mentions that your perfume may actually take longer to reveal its notes. “The notes unfold gradually, therefore you can wear a strong scent or blend, which will slowly release its true aroma.”
Concentration Is Key
Read over that little “eau de” mention on your perfume bottles—how strong your fragrance smells differs on its fine print.“There is a difference of concentration and dosage between an eau de toilette and an eau de parfum,” explains Brigitte Wormser, VP of Creation & Development Marketing for Atkinsons. “The eau de parfum is more concentrated of the two. The olfactive structure is also modified in the eau de toilette, [traditionally] giving it a bit more freshness and lightness.”
That might be why you aren’t holding onto that scent in your eau de toilette as long throughout the day.
MORE: 10 of the Dreamiest Summer Fragrances
“Personality is closely associated with fragrance choices,” says ten Brink. “Just as your lipstick color can be a way to express who you are (fiery red, mysterious mauve, feminine pink), fragrance is a great way to showcase your personality and style.”
But our expert says you don’t have to play it so straightforward. If you’re very shy, she suggests trying to go for a sexier scent that is stronger as a way to speechlessly announce you’ve entered the room. “Similarly, if you’re super social and an extrovert, a soft, subtle fragrance may nicely balance your personality.”
Let It Mellow Out (And Sleep on It)
“Eau de toilette fragrances develop quicker whereas eau de parfum takes time,” shares Khan. “The top, heart, and base notes take time to reveal and are what make the blend beautiful.”
To make sure you’re getting the true scent, you’re going to want to put it directly on your skin. Khan says that every scent could actually have a different chemistry depending on your skin type. Another good rule of thumb? If you’re headed to the department store trying to pick up a new product, only sample about three different scents. “Even when I’m creating a fragrances I stick to two. I sample one on my right inner wrist and the other on my left inner wrist as I leave the office. Then I leave it on and keep smelling it until I sleep to see how it changes over time and which one I like better.”
Scents Smell Different on Everyone
“Think of a fragrance as the Mona Lisa,” explains Steven Claisse, Senior Perfumer at Takasago and Perfumer of various CLEAN Fragrances. “Two people can look at the same picture and one sees a wry smile while the other sees a disapproving frown—it’s all perception. How you smell something is very different then how someone else smells something. You may be sensitive to green notes that may be in a floral scent and thus pick up on those green nuances in that fragrance. Your friend, on the other hand, may smell the same fragrance and pick up more on the heady floral then the subtle green aspects that you key in on. Fragrance is truly subjective.”
Of course, this all means not to take it personally if your BFF isn’t into your Chanel No. 5. You should pick the best fragrance that speaks to, well, you.
Wake Up (and Don’t Smell The Coffee)
“The morning is the best time to try fragrance because the nose is fresher,” explains Wormser.
So what about that coffee bean myth? Put the latte aside.
“Coffee beans attempt to re-set your nose by trying to give it something different to smell, but truthfully, they don’t work,” shares ten Brink. “The best thing to do is to walk away and smell a neutral environment for a few minutes and then go back before making a decision on a scent. If you are in a heavily scented area [like a department store] and can’t get outside, you can also exhale deeply into your shirt to clear your nose of the scents that accumulated.”
Hit the Right Note
Don’t be shocked if you’re not into the same scent you were when you were 15. Back then, you may have had a thing for super sweet shower sprays. Today? Not so much.
“A single note is the same smell all day long, whereas a blend changes throughout the day and is more complex,” explains Khan. “At 20, you might desire florals, while as you mature, you may opt for something deeper and muskier…your fragrance should reflect who you are, not the other way around. Choose whatever fits your fancy!”