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How Do You Choose a Good Perfume? A Fragrance Expert Offers Tips

Enhance your fragrance IQ.


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If you’re looking for a last-minute gift idea or want to treat yourself to something special this holiday season, look no further than fragrance: you could help a loved one find their new signature scent — or find your own! But a trip to the perfume counter can be overwhelming. The world of fragrance is vast, and finding the right option within your budget might be a challenge. Fortunately, Linda Clark, a resident aromatherapist at Scent Selective, is here to answer four key questions about how to choose a worthwhile perfume; plus, we reveal our recommended fragrance for this scent-sational time of year.

What are the different types of perfume?

“When it comes to fragrances, there is no one-size-fits-all,” Clark explains. “Perfumes come in a variety of types, each with their own unique characteristics and design. Knowing what kind of perfume you are looking for can help narrow down your choices and make the selection process easier. 

“The first type of perfume is Eau de Parfum (EDP). Generally, this has the highest concentration of oils — which results in a strong and long-lasting scent. This type of fragrance typically holds up for around six hours before needing to be reapplied. The second type is Eau de Toilette (EDT). This form has less concentrated oils than EDP, but still provides a noticeable scent. EDTs usually last up to four hours before needing to be touched up again. Lastly, there is Eau de Cologne (EDC). This is the lightest and weakest of the perfumes. EDC has the fewest oils and therefore provides the least amount of scent. You can expect this type to last for two or three hours before needing a reapplication.”

All of these fragrances will differ in price due to their concentrated oil content. A higher percentage of concentrated oils will increase the price of a perfume, because it’s more potent. EDT and EDC are therefore less expensive than EDP — which is perhaps why some people might prefer to buy them.

What should I look for when buying perfume?

“When it comes to purchasing perfume, there are a few key points to consider,” Clark says. “First, you should always do your research before buying any scent; investigate the notes of the perfume, as most people have different preferences when it comes to what they like. Common perfume notes include rose, jasmine, and bergamot. If you know someone who wears the same fragrance every day, don’t be afraid to ask them for their opinion on how long it lasts or how strong its sillage (or lingering scent) is.

“If possible, try out sample scents at stores before committing to a full-size bottle. This allows you to get an idea of whether or not you will enjoy wearing it over time and if its longevity suits your needs. As previously stated, some fragrances may last for only a few hours, whereas others can last up to eight hours or more.” Many stores offer small strips of paper that you can spray the fragrance onto and smell; spraying on a blotter helps you to get an accurate first impression of the scent. If you try the scent on your bare skin, make sure it has no other scented products (like body lotion) and take off any metal jewelry or watches, which can also influence the way a perfume smells.

What makes a perfume high-quality?

“When it comes to selecting a high-quality perfume, there are several factors that should be considered,” Clark claims. “A quality scent should have an aroma that lasts for hours after first use. The best perfumes will also contain ingredients that are natural and of the highest grade. Look for premium essential oils like jasmine, rosewood, bergamot, and patchouli, as well as natural fixatives such as ambergris or amber resin.

“It’s also important to look at the concentration level of the perfume — again, the higher the concentration, the more intense and longer-lasting your scent will be. Eau de toilette typically has eight to 12 percent fragrance content, while Eau de parfum is usually 15 to 20 percent. Higher concentrations such as Extrait de parfum typically range from 20 to 30 percent, meaning they last longer and offer more depth to your chosen fragrance.”

How do I know if perfume is strong?

“Perfume is a great enhancement to any outfit,” Clark points out. “Whether you are trying to make a statement at a holiday party or just want to smell your best, understanding the strength of your fragrance will be helpful. But, how do you know if the perfume you’re wearing is strong?

“The first step in determining whether or not a fragrance is strong is assessing its sillage, also known as its “trail.” If someone walks into a room after you’ve already left and still gets a whiff of the scent you’re wearing, then it’s considered to have good sillage.” While it’s good to leave a lasting impression, be sure to not overdo your fragrance, as it may overwhelm anyone who gets near you (standing next to someone in an elevator who’s wearing far too much cologne is decidedly unpleasant!). “The second thing to look for when evaluating scent strength is longevity, which refers to how long the fragrance lasts on your skin before fading away; as previously stated, Eau de Parfum (EDP) fragrances have the highest concentration of oils and the longest-lasting scent.”

Related: How To Make Perfume Last Longer: Perfumers Reveal Their Surprising Secrets

Our Fragrance Buy for This Holiday Season

Buying a full-sized bottle of perfume is nice, but gifting multiple scents is even better — your gift recipient will have endless options to mix and match. One perfume set we love is The Harmonist’s Discovery Set (Buy from, $78), since it offers 10 dynamic unisex fragrances; nine parfums and one Eau de Parfum. These fragrances seem to have been built with self-care in mind: A product description for scents like Guiding Water and Royal Earth calls them, “Subtle and flowing … sensitive, deep fragrances that nurture the wearer,” while scents like Velvet Fire and Golden Wood are described as, “Bright and vibrant … intense, assured fragrances that energize the wearer.”

Each fragrance comes in a sample-sized bottle and is formulated to blend effortlessly with the other scents. This allows the person wearing it to find the perfect balance of smells. The discovery set is sure to take any friend or family member on an unforgettable fragrance journey — so if you need a last-minute present idea, try giving the gift of smelling great.

Discovery Set by The Harmonist
Courtesy of The Harmonist
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