How to choose a perfume

Selecting a perfume is an involved process and it is pertinent that you do spend some time to find what suits you.

Perfume families

Fragrance wheel

Fragrance wheel

Source: Wikipedia

Perfumes belong to a family which is defined by similar characteristics or notes.

There are 5 families:

1.)    Oriental

These are derived from Eastern countries.  They contain notes of incense, amber, resin and spices. The modern notes consist of edibles like vanilla, chocolate, maple syrup, coffee. These are typically mysterious.

a.)    Soft Oriental

b.)    Oriental

c.)     Woody Oriental

2.)    Floral

a.)    Floral

They are based on bouquet flowers like rose, jasmine, lily, carnation, lavender, violets and freesia. These are most widely used in female scents and are sweet and recognizable.

b.)    Soft floral

c.)     Floral Orienta

3.)    Woody

a.)    Dry woods

b.)    Mossy woods

c.)     Woody Oriental


They are woody fragrances centering on oakmoss though other woody notes like ciste-labdanun, patchouli and bergamot accords may be there as well. These are earthy.

4.)    Fresh

a.)    Citrus

Citrus fruits like orange, lemons are present in this note. These are light.

b.)    Green

c.)     Water

5.)    Fougere

Fougere perfumes contain oakmoss, lavender and coumarin notes, for soft effects. Citrus, vanilla, spices, woods, florals, and herbs can also be part of the ingredients.

It is best to identify a few different perfumes from each family. This will help you to wear perfumes based on season, occasion and mood.

Some common trends are:

  • Floral and sweet for daytime
  • Oriental/spicy for a date or dinner
  • Stronger scents for winter
  • Lighter fragrances for summer

Top, Middle and Base Notes

A perfume’s top notes are the first impression that you get applying a scent. It consists of small molecules which evaporate quickly between 5 minutes to half an hour. Citrus is a top note. They are also known as head notes

The middle notes are the fragrances that emerge after dissipation of top notes. They are subdued at first and these typically define the perfume’s character. Lavender and rose are middle notes. They are also known as heart notes.

Base notes appear after the middle notes depart. They also define the character of the perfume. Their primary aim is to hold the top and middle notes and strengthen them. They can linger for as long as 24 hours and may not appear until half an hour.

As you start discovering perfumes you will find which notes you like and that blend with your body.

Perfume Strengths

A perfume strength is defined based on the percentage of perfume oil dissolved in alcohol. Higher the percentage implies stronger the perfume.

Parfum – One of the strongest and is having 15 to 25% perfume oil. They also are the most expensive. It also lasts longest on the skin.

Eau de Parfum – 8 to 15%. It is cheaper than parfum.

Eau de Toilette – 4 to 10%. It is good in summers when you do not want to wear a heavy perfume.

Eau de Cologne –  2 to 5%. This evaporates quickly and is good for aftershaves or men’s perfumes.

Eau de Fraiche – Less than 3%

Pure oils are also available but they are very expensive.

Choosing the best perfume

A perfume will smell different on your skin and card. First spray the scent on the card and smell it again after 5 to 10 minutes. If you like it then try it on the skin.

If your skin is dry the perfume dissipates fast and on oily skin the perfume lasts longer.

The sense of smell is better later in the day and hence shop for a perfume as the day has worn off.

Don’t try too many perfumes at once, ideally limit it to 3.

Have a budget in mind; this does help in decision making.

It is pertinent to keep in mind when the perfume will be used? Based on occasions, seasons and mood the perfumes change.

Wearing a perfume

Apply perfume at pulse points at center of neck and behind the ears.

Perfume applied after a bath lasts longer as the pores of skin are open.

Use creams and toiletries that complement your perfume.