How to Layer the Perfumes You Already Own

How to Layer the Perfumes You Already Own
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Ever since an acquaintance I met at a work event disclosed that her perfume I loved so much wasn’t one, but two fragrances combined (cruelly, she wouldn’t tell me which), I’ve been on a mission to nail the art of layering scents. Because while every perfume naturally smells a little different on each of us—thanks, chemistry—combining two different ones can create something that’s quite literally all yours. For someone who has tried to monogram just about everything she owns, the ability to customize my scent (without forking out to have an actual customized scent created by a pro) is a beauty game-changer.

In saying that, the idea of mixing perfumes felt intimidating for a long time—shouldn’t an expert be doing this?—and I spent a lot of time researching on Google before I started experimenting with my own stash at home. While I discovered a few winners—Chanel Chance and Lacoste Pour Elle combine like a treat if you like wearing light and floral scents–not every experiment ended well. (In case you were thinking of it, don’t try mixing Jo Malone Lime Basil & Mandarin Cologne with Escada Agua del Sol, unless you fancy smelling like a candy store. Just don’t.)

Hoping to unearth a better strategy than my hit-and-miss attempt at layering, I asked Steven Claisse—senior perfumer at Japanese fragrance and flavor company Takasago and the man behind the new Clean Reserve perfumes in Sephora—to help get me started.

At first, Claisse assured me that layering perfumes is really all about your own preference, so I shouldn’t overthink it too much: “Layering fragrances is a personal and customizable experience. Layering allows you to discover, experiment, and create your own signature scent that is unique to you.” As a basic rule, he suggests “pairing a brighter top-note fragrance with heavier back notes.”

For a richer fragrance, he recommends wearing a heavier scent such as vanilla, woods, or musks and to create a lighter rendition by layering fresh, fruity, or water notes on top. Oh, and it doesn’t make a difference which scent you layer first: “If they are put on at the same time, the dominant notes will always stand out.” That means fruity, citrus, and heady florals typically take over softer, musky, woody notes. Another handy tip: If you want to make the smell stronger or last longer, Claisse suggests applying a body lotion first, and then the notes on top.

There are really only a couple of combinations you should completely steer clear of, and the worst offender is green florals and orientals with gourmand fragrances. “They tend to clash,” Claisse said, adding, “They are overly juxtaposed and will likely produce a scent that is very discorded.”

If mixing and matching the perfumes you already have at home sounds like a way better option than forking out for a new spring scent—that probably everyone else will be wearing too‚ keep clicking to try the three note combinations Claisse recommend layering. You could splurge on a couple of combinations in the slideshow, or research what notes dominate in your current bathroom cabinet stash, and start experimenting. The oriental and floral pairings are my favorite, but you do you.

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"No oriental would be complete without a full complement of floralcy. While the oriental piece defines the fragrance it is the floralcy that serves as that provides the depth and breathe of the fragrance. A great combination is Clean Reserve Amber Saffron and Clean Reserve Velvet Flora."

Oriental: Shanghai Lily 50ml, $220; at Tom Ford

Photo: Tom Ford

Oriental: Clean Reserve Amber Saffron, $90; at Sephora

Photo: Sephora

Oriental: Coco Mademoiselle Parfum Grand Extrait 7.6oz, $180; at Chanel

Photo: Chanel

Oriental: Tom Ford Noir pour Femme Eau de Parfum 1.7 oz, $103; at Nordstrom

Photo: Nordstrom

Floral: Clean Reserve Velvet Flora, $90; at Sephora

Photo: Sephora

Floral: Commodity Magnolia Eau de Parfum 3.4oz, $99; at Sephora

Photo: Sephora

Floral: Roads Lights Parfum 50ml, $155; at Barney's New York

Photo: Barney's New York

Floral: Frederic Malle Carnal Flower 50ml, $255; at Barney's New York

Photo: Barney's New York

Floral: Jasmin 17 Perfume 3.4 oz, $260; at Le Labo

Photo: Le Labo

"The classic citrus/woody fragrance that comes to mind would be D&G Light Blue, where the Sicilian lemon works in harmony with the cedarwood complex. Citrus and woods are quite common in the men’s fine fragrance arena."

Woody: Wood Sage & Sea Salt Cologne 100ml, $125; at Jo Malone

Photo: Jo Malone

Woody: Philosykos Eau de Parfum, $150; at Diptyque

Photo: Diptyque

Woody: Vilhelm Parfumerie Smoke Show Eau De Parfum 100ml, $245; at Barney's New York

Photo: Barney's New York

Woody: Marc Jacobs Decadence Eau de Parfum 1.7 oz, $95; at Macy's

Photo: Macy's

Woody: Elizabeth and James Nirvana Black 1 oz Spray, $60; at Sephora

Photo: Sephora

Woody and citrus: D&G Light Blue 1.6oz, $74; at Sephora

Photo: Sephora

Citrus: Lime Basil & Mandarin Cologne 100ml, $125; at Jo Malone

Citrus: Ô de Lancome Eau de Toilette Spray 2.5 fl.oz., $66; at Lancome

Photo: Lancome

Citrus: Little Italy Eau de Parfum 100ml, $265; at Bond No. 9

Photo: Bond No. 9

Citrus: Cristalle Eau Verte 3.4 fl. oz., $105; at Chanel

Photo: Chanel

Citrus: Pamplemousse Rhubarbe Eau de Toilette, $62; at L'Occitane

Photo: L'Occitane

"The fruity notes are an opening introduction to the floral accord. They give lift and work in tangent with any floral."

Floral: Chance Eau Vive Eau de Toilette, $78; at Chanel

Photo: Chanel

Floral: Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb Eau de Parfum 1.7 oz, $115; at Macy's

Photo: Macy's

Floral: Pour Elle L12.12. 3oz, $76; at Lacoste

Photo: Lacoste

Floral: Hermes Jour D'Hermes Gardenia Eau De Parfum Natural Spray (Limited Edition) 2.87 oz, $109.80; at Perfumes.com

Photo: Perfumes.com

Floral: Rose 31 Perfume 3.4 oz, $260; at Le Labo

Photo: Le Labo

Fruity: Marc Jacobs Apple Splash Eau de Toilette 10 oz, $98; at Amazon

Photo: Amazon

Fruity: English Pear and Freesia Cologne 100ml, $125; at Jo Malone

Photo: Jo Malone

Fruity: Escada Agua Del Sol Eau de Toilette 1.7oz, $60; at Ulta Beauty

Photo: Ulta Beauty

Fruity: DKNY Be Delicious, $68; at Sephora

Photo: Sephora

Fruity: Nina Ricci Elixir Women 1 oz Eau de Parfum Spray, $23.75; at Jet

Photo: Jet

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