What’s easier than wearing perfume? After all, you apply a little spritz here and there, and you’re done! Right? Not quite. The experts tell us that wearing fragrance well requires a little more thought.
Skin type, application, placement and environment all have a part to play in the effectiveness and lifespan of your favourite scent and while that bottle of Chanel No. 5 may look like a chic prop on your bathroom shelf, the daily bombardment of steam from the shower and light through the window may be curbing its freshness (and, in turn, yours).
Never fear. A few tweaks will set you back on course, and to help you, we’ve identified five common mistakes most women make when buying and applying perfume – and how to fix them in a flash.
1. Don’t rub – just spray
Most of us have been guilty of this – spraying our favourite fragrance on to our wrists and then pressing or rubbing them together. “Very bad,” says award-winning perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, the nose behind such sophisticated classics as Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male and Christian Dior’s Eau Noire.
Why? “The friction created by rubbing heats up the skin, which produces natural enzymes that change the course of the scent,” he says. Most impacted are the top and middle notes, preventing the fragrance’s base notes from unfolding. “With a floral, for example, [heat] warms up everything, ultimately [causing it] to lose its crispness,” he explains.
To preserve the integrity of your fragrance (and also ensure it lasts longer on your skin), “spritz both wrists lightly, let the liquid sink in, and then do absolutely nothing at all,” says Kurkdjian.
2. Think about storage
Similar to a fine wine, perfume is almost like a living organism – it’s extremely sensitive to environmental changes. “Perfume doesn’t like going from cold to hot,” Kurkdjian says, adding that such shifts in temperature “set off unexpected chemical reactions within the natural ingredients, and therefore age the perfume faster.”
Leaving a citrus scent in a steamy bathroom, for instance, “affects the freshness” and can make a raw material, like patchouli, smell a little ‘off’. “Ultraviolet rays too will alter a perfume’s colour – turning amber tones into green,” he warns.
Surprisingly, the best place to store fragrance is the box it originally came in, and at room temperature (or 70 degrees Fahrenheit). If you want to go above and beyond, consider treating it like a great cellar wine, “I know people who store one or two bottles of their signature scents in the refrigerator,” he says.
3. Think small
Precious and expensive as it is, perfume should be consumed at a reasonably brisk pace. Keeping a half-used bottle on your shelf allows oxygen (the “natural enemy of perfume,” says Kurkdjian) to slowly break down the scent’s molecules, altering its composition and ‘killing off’ the notes you loved about it in the first place.
“Of course, if you mist on your signature scent daily, a large 6.8 ml bottle likely won’t go to waste,” he says, but in all other instances Kurkdjian prefers smaller bottles (in the range of 2.4 to 1.2 ml) because they can remain fresh for up to three months.
And if the perfume you really love only comes in a large bottle? “Assuming it has a screw cap or stopper, you can always decant the liquid into smaller vials or tuck your half-empty fragrances in the fridge to maintain their bloom,” he says.
4. Natural isn’t always best
“People love the idea of all-natural [perfumes], but they don’t always exist,” says Kurkdjian, recalling perhaps the most popular note, musk, which was formerly derived from animals but now in its synthetic form brings with it a new clean, smooth and sweet quality.
Other notes, such as peony, freesia, and lily of the valley, cannot be obtained by natural extraction simply because they don’t release any aroma whatsoever forcing them to instead be re-created with a blend of synthetic molecules.
And while some of the best perfumers have used a blend of natural and synthetic molecules since the late 19th century, nowadays, chemical creations are tightly controlled and tested for safety by health organisations, including the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM) in the U.S.
For that reason, Kurkdjian maintains that a blend of essential oils, absolutes, and man-made ingredients ensure the highest-quality scent.
5. Be careful where you apply it
Where you apply your perfume is key and a few common-sense rules will carry a fragrance a long way. “Don’t cover it up with your clothing,” Kurkdjian says, “target areas exposed to the air: the pulse points of the neck and the wrists or inner elbows, if you’re wearing a sleeveless blouse.”
Kurkdjian suggests using a companion body lotion with your fragrance or an unscented moisturiser to prevent any scent interference. “Perfume doesn’t last long on dry skin,” he says, “the only exception, however, is if you’re in an intensely hot climate – then it’s best not to apply the scent directly to your body. “As you sweat, the natural oils of the skin [can] destroy your perfume faster,” he says, while offering the alternative of lightly misting your hair, scarf, or sarong. “Because they move with the air, it helps with the diffusion of the scent.”
Talk about leaving a lasting impression.