A Guide to Perfume for the Non-Perfume Wearer

Rachel Krause

Photo: Getty Images

Those of us who love perfume really love perfume—we research it, we collect it, we don’t leave the house without it—but there’s no shame to being a beginner in the world of fragrances. We all have to start somewhere, right? If regular perfume-wearing has never been a part of your beauty lexicon, we’ve got a few tips to get you started on the right foot.

Identify your favorite scents.
What every day fragrances do you find yourself drawn to? Do you relish the smell of freshly bloomed flowers or cookies right out of the oven? Is there a perfume you’ve smelled on a friend that made you think, “I want to smell like that”? Identify the components of these scents and keep them in mind when you head out to look for a perfume. Those with a sweet tooth may find themselves attracted to gourmand fragrances, while those who love the outdoors might like fresh, grassy scents.

Sniff it out.
This is one beauty-related endeavor that requires a bit of travel: There’s no selecting a new scent without heading to the department or beauty specialty store to try perfumes out firsthand. It can be helpful to browse a selection online and narrow it down to a few fragrances you think you’d like, but don’t rule out outliers that you didn’t consider in the first place. A sales assistant can be extraordinarily helpful at this point to refer you to similar perfumes based on what you already like.

It’s critical to spray scent on your skin rather than just sniff it off paper—fragrances change and adapt to your body chemistry as you wear them, so something that smells great out of the bottle may smell completely different on you.

Start subtle.
If you haven’t worn perfume in the past, there’s a good chance you’re not going to go from relatively fragrance-free to the type of person who wants to walk around in a cloud of scent. Even something as subtle as a scented body lotion is a good place to start when it comes to dipping your toe into the perfume pool. We’re also partial to roll-on fragrances and essential oils, which keep scent close to the skin, so only those nearest to you can smell it. If you really don’t know where to start, try a “skin scent”—a warm, soft fragrance that seems to blend in and mingle with your skin’s natural aroma.

Read more: Natural Perfume 101: Everything You Need to Know