Know yourself: fragrance

Friday, 9 March 2012

Know yourself FragranceI’ll never forget the first time I smelt Amarige on my brother’s girlfriend – it was a beguiling, exotic fragrance that wafted gently around her persona: distinctive, yet subtle enough to have me taking deeper breaths just to pick up a little bit more of the scent. But when I tried the perfume on myself I was bitterly disappointed – on me it was sickly sweet and overpowering, with none of the mystique I had found so enchanting. These days, not much has changed – I still stay away from richer, heavier scents that turn unbearably strong on my skin, opting instead for lighter, lemony or floral fragrances that don’t tend to make people nauseas in enclosed spaces.

If you’ve ever had a similar experience, you might have wondered just what it is that makes fragrances smell so different on different people, or even on a single individual at various times or stages of their life. The answer is complex and involves an array of independent factors, but in short, it’s down to skin chemistry. Every person’s skin is unique, with varying degrees of oiliness, moisture content, thickness, texture and acidity, all of which can affect the way perfumes smell on a particular individual. Added to this we all have a ‘natural scent profile’, which scientists believe is largely related to genetics. All kinds of things can influence the natural body scent profile – and in turn, how fragrances smell on the skin. In the same way that stress causes increased heart rate and clammy hands, it can also alter our scent, while diet, hormonal changes due to pregnancy or ageing, and even certain medications are other variables at play.

External factors can also affect how fragrances manifest. In hotter weather, the ‘notes’ of a scent leave the skin faster, while cooler temperatures cause perfume molecules to lift more slowly, toning down their effect, explains fragrance expert Michael Edwards. “That’s why you can wear a more potent fragrance in cold weather.”

Get to know how strongly seasonal fluctuations influence your perfume, which fragrance families complement your natural scent and which turn too sharp or sweet on your pulse points. For more guidance, pick up a copy of Edwards’ The Fragrance Wheel, which will help you to identify which scents are likely to work for you. The fragrance you choose is an expression of your individuality, of who you are and what you love – so choose carefully.


Always test a fragrance on your own skin before you make a purchase.
Try on one perfume at a time to avoid confusing the attributes of various fragrances.
Wait ten minutes for a fragrance to interact with your unique skin chemistry and ‘settle’ before you make a decision.

Written by

After spending most of the last decade working as a journalist and editor in Thailand and travelling the East, Cindy returned to the Mother City in September 2010. She has written for a wide spectrum of online and offline publications in both South Africa and SE Asia and is passionate about reading, writing, food, globe-trotting and cats.

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  1. Blazezn

    Good stuff! Currently using Commes Des Garcon 2 Man and lovin it!

    7 years ago •

  1. Zu

    Love the tips! Coz i ended up having difficulty on which perfume to buy when i tried and test everything at ones!
    And in most cases, i chose the perfume whenever i got samples from magazines and tryng friends perfume hahaha

    7 years ago •

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