Perfumes 101

Buying perfume or cologne can be a daunting task. With so many types of fragrance, perfume brands and scents available it can get overwhelming very quickly. Understanding the fragrance notes you find most appealing gives you a good head start in shopping for a new perfume, cologne or aftershave.

Fragrances should complement the personality and style of a person, or – if looking at home fragrance – the personality and style of the surroundings. To test how a particular perfume or cologne smells on you, it should be sprayed on the wrist and allowed to mingle with your own natural scent for a few minutes. The amount of oil in a perfume determines whether it is classed as an eau de parfum, an eau de toilette or an eau de cologne, and as such, how long the scent will stay with you.

Need help in choosing the right type of fragrance, with the right notes for you, feel free to ask the assistants at fragrance counter.

Nothing. They are all words used to describe the wonderful world of smell, and the scented liquids (or balms) we apply to our bodies.  Fragrance is in more common usage in the US, and throughout the perfume industry itself.  Perfume comes from the Latin ‘per fumum’ which literally means through smoke.  It originates from ancient times when people burned woods, resins and flowers as offerings to their gods.

Your own body chemistry affects how different notes react on your skin. Anything that affects the “natural” smell of your skin, such as stress, hormonal changes, your current diet or medications, might change how a perfume smells on you.

  • A  When an ingredient is classified as a potential allergen – by IFRA, the International Fragrance Association – two things may happen:  it can be banned altogether, or its use limited by percentage, to minimise the risk of a susceptible perfume-wearer reacting.
  • When this happens, perfumes may be ‘tweaked’ by the manufacturer.  In some cases, a process called ‘fractionation’ – which allows ingredient manufacturers to remove the allergenic molecule of a fragrance note, while leaving the rest intact – can allow the continued use of that ingredient.
  • Case in point:  oak moss – invaluable in the creation of the chypre family of perfumes – has become restricted.  Thierry Wasser, Guerlain’s in-house ‘nose’, explained to us that he now uses a ‘fractionated’ oak moss.  ‘However, when you fractionate an ingredient, it leaves a “hole”:  there is something missing,’ added Thierry.  His solution to filling the sensory ‘hole’ in oak moss was to add a touch of – believe it or not – celery.  It’s impossible to discern, to the rest of us – but it gave the rounded quality to that so-essential note that Thierry needed to return the classic Guerlain creation Mitsouko to its former, long-lasting glory.
  • Occasionally, however, a perfume may change because the company which makes it is bought by another, and the formulation changed.
  • A  In a perfect world, one, when you’ve narrowed down your choices – to really get to know the smell as it develops.  Ideally, no more than two at a time – one on each wrist.  We don’t believe perfume-shopping should be rushed, but we all live busy lives so at a push, you can try one more, on the inside of an elbow;  the elbows also happen to be good pulse-points.
  • Never try more than three fragrances at any one time, on your body, or you’ll confuse your senses.  And because it’s hard to remember what you applied where, we really do suggest jotting down the details of which perfume you applied to which pulse-point.  (It’s almost impossible to remember later, even if you think you’ll be able to…)
  • Ideally, really live with a fragrance before you part with your cash.  That might mean getting a sample, if it’s available in store (or exploring the Perfume Discovery Boxes you can read about here).  It might mean spraying your skin, in a store.  (We like to spray a darker-coloured scarf or pashmina, too, and sniff it later.)  When you’ve fallen in love, then go back and make your purchase.

Scents created with the celebrity name on it. Sometimes the celebrities are involved and sometimes not – they are still scents!  It’s a fact:  celebrity scents are created by the same ‘noses’ as the non-celebrity scents.  And some are truly beautiful;  we certainly don’t believe in snobbery about perfume, and if you love Britney Spears or J-Lo – as millions do – then you are in fine company.

  • If you are really and truly allergic, then we suggest you do not wear perfume. If you experience a rash, redness or itching, coughing or problems with breathing, and you’ve established a link to a perfume (or all perfume), you may have to avoid it altogether, or find a different way to enjoy fragrance.  (TIP:  People who have an allergic skin reaction to perfume might like to spray the inside hem of their clothing, on the underside of a lapel, or spray a cotton wool pad and tuck it into a pocket.)
  • If you wish to continue to wear perfume, and your skin reacts to it, you may be able to get a referral to a dermatologist who can run patch tests to establish which common allergen/s in perfume affect you.
  • Today, regulations require manufacturers to list known allergens – linalool, geraniol, methoxycinammate etc. – on the outer box. This does not mean you will be allergic to them – the vast majority of people aren’t – but you might be.  This listing does at least allow people to avoid ingredients they know they react to.  (Although it’s not hugely helpful because most perfumes do seem to contain many of the known allergens:  they are very common ingredients.)

Perfume can last four to six hours (or even longer), depending on the ingredients – and how dry your skin is.  (Perfumes dissipate much faster on dry skins, or when the air is particularly dry.) From the moment you apply: the top notes, or ‘head’ notes last around 5-15  minutes before they disappear. The middle notes last from two  to four hours, and make up most of the fragrance. The base notes (very   occasionally referred to as ‘fond’)  usually last from four to six hours.

  • Diet has an impact: spicy foods can impact on the natural smell of your body, and meat-eaters are said to smell different to vegetarians.
  • Environment also plays a part – both hot and cold climates affect the length of time a perfume lasts and its intensity.
  • Age is another factor: the older you get, usually the drier the skin.  (And for the years around menopause, hormonal shifts may mean a fragrance you have worn for years smells completely different.)
  • Medication and certain health problems can also distort your perfume, on the skin.
  • And as for smoking…? Smokers often report that their perfume has ‘changed’, when in fact, it’s the smoking impacting on their actual sense of smell…

The nose becomes desensitized and quickly gets used to the notes of your perfume.  You may not be able to smell it at all after 30-40 minutes, although your friends and colleagues may still be able to.

The price of a perfume is a reflection of the cost of the precious raw materials, and the length of time it has taken to create and develop the perfume.  The skill of the perfumer – who must train for seven years, before qualifying – also has to be factored in, somewhere.  The design costs for the bottle – and the bottle itself – are also contributing factors.  Perfume is an art, and a craft – and we believe it is priceless.  We would rather save for a beautiful new perfume than another pair of shoes, ourselves…!

All other things being equal, perfumes evaporate more rapidly from dry skin, so the best way to make fragrance last longer is to use a relatively heavy body lotion or cream. Some people like to buy the “matching” cream for their fragrance, but you can also use an unscented cream, or try petroleum jelly or jojoba oil. You might also try a light mist to your hair, which is said to hold scent longer than skin.

These terms refer to the strength of the fragrance, or more specifically, to how much high grade alcohol and/or water has been added to the fragrance oils. Parfum (generally the most concentrated form you can buy) has 15-25% perfume oil dissolved in alcohol. Any mixture with a lower proportion of oil to alcohol is an eau (water).

  • Eau Fraiche (Usually 3% or less perfume oil)
  • Eau de Cologne (2 – 5% perfume oil)
  • Eau de Toilette (4 – 10% perfume oil)
  • Eau de Parfum (8 – 15% perfume oil)
  • Soie de Parfum (15 – 18% perfume oil)
  • PARFUM or Perfume (15 – 25% — also sometimes referred to as extract or extrait)
  • Perfume oil (15-30% perfume oil in an oil rather than alcohol base)
  • Top notes provide the first scent impression of a fragrance once it has been applied to the skin. They are usually lighter, more volatile aromas that evaporate readily. Their scent usually lingers for between 5 and 30 minutes.
  • Middle notes, sometimes referred to as “heart notes”, make up the body of the blend. They may be evident from the start, but will usually take 10-30 minutes to fully develop on the skin. They are the notes that classify the fragrance family (floral, oriental, chypre, etc, see below).
  • Base Notes are those with the greatest molecular weight. They last the longest, and are also important as fixatives, that is, they help slow down the evaporation rates of the lighter notes, giving the fragrance holding power. Common base notes include oakmoss, patchouli, woods, musk and vanilla.
  • A fragrance which does not have traditional top, middle and base notes is usually described as “linear”.
  • Essential oils are volatile, fragrant liquids extracted from plant leaves, bark, wood, stems, flowers, seeds, buds, roots, resins and petals, usually through steam distillation. In other words, they are raw materials that can be used to create perfumes. They are highly concentrated and apart from a few exceptions, should not be used directly on the skin, although they can be diluted in a carrier oil, such as jojoba, for such use.
  • Perfume oils are fragrance components, natural or synthetic, in an oily base rather than an alcohol base, and can be used directly on the skin.

Our Inventory

Please use the inventory below to check if we have what you fancy. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. We will gladly assist you. To reserve item, click on it and fill in the form.

CK Reveal Man
Elie Saab
Guerlain Idylle
Im Pleates Please
Issey Miyake
Eau Sauvage
Forbidden Euphoria
Hypnotic Poison
Play for her
Burberry My Burberry My
Burberry My Black Burberry My Black
BVL Omnia Amethyste
Bvlgari Goldea Rose
Bvlgari Jasmin Noir
Bvlgari Divina
Bvlgari Mon Jasmin Noir
Bvlgari Omnia Colar
CH Sublime CH Sublime
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