Almost a year after the launch of The Perfume Society (www.perfumesociety.org), my co-founder Lorna and I are used to answering all sorts of questions about shopping for, wearing and buying fragrance. And this month, I thought I’d share with VH readers the questions we’re most often asked…
I love my friend’s perfume. Why doesn’t it smell as good on me?
Everyone’s body chemistry is different, influenced by hormones, skin type, what you eat, medications you may take and more. Even adding a new vitamin or supplement to your well being regime (if you have one!) can change how a fragrance smells on your skin. Several factors can alter a perfume: it might become more sour, or more sweet. What is known is that deeper, richer notes – woods and ambery ingredients, for instance – won’t change as much from person to person as fresher, more volatile ingredients like citrus or lily. The bottom line is: never buy a fragrance because you like it on a friend. More than that, never buy a fragrance without trying it on your own skin – full stop.
What can I do when I’ve applied too much perfume?
One answer is to grab a lemon: the juice’s acidity (more powerful than other citrus fruit) helps to cut the fragrance’s oil. Wash with soap and water, then take off what’s left with a cotton pad soaked in lemon juice.
Can I wear more than one fragrance at a time?
We actually believe this is going to be a massive trend. In the Middle East, women (and men) actually wear as many as seven different fragrances at a time, to create an entirely ‘unique’ and personal fragrance. This is pretty much heresy as far as the creators of perfumes are concerned – but certainly, in a region where people’s clothing is very standardised – black gowns for women, white or beige for men – it’s an effective form of self-expression. Jo Malone one of the few fragrance houses which actively encourages ‘fragrance combining’, but we think its popularity is going to spread. What we do find works best, ourselves, is to combine two or fragrances from within the family: pair a couple of Orientals, or a duo of fresh scents. It’s fun, if you don’t like the results you can wash them off (see above) – and you might come up with a combo that you love, love, love. But go lightly: you want a dab of this and a dab of that, rather than twice or three times the usual ‘dose’ you apply, if you don’t want to overpower.
When I’m perfume-shopping, my nose gets ‘tired’. What can I do to refresh it?
Perfume stores and some counters supply coffee beans to ‘refresh’ the nose, but to be honest – nice as coffee is to smell – we’re not sure they’re as effective as they’re rumoured to be: coffee’s just another strong scent to confuse your nose. It’s better, we’ve found, to sniff your own skin (somewhere you haven’t applied perfume) – the crook of the elbow is perfect – as it’s a neutral, familiar scent. Be aware, though, that almost everyone’s nose gets tired after smelling four or five different scents.
My favourite fragrance has been discontinued. Can I still find it?
Welcome to Heartbreak Hotel. We hate it when this happens. There’s always the possibility that you really will never find another bottle, but there’s a lot you can do before that scenario has you reaching for your Kleenex. First of all, Google it. Don’t just look at the shelves of your local department store and figure: that’s it, over. Quite often, a fragrance that’s been delisted by the major stores finds its way onto the internet via what’s known as ‘the grey market’. (The grey market refers to goods that legitimately imported from abroad, carry a recognisasble trademark or brand name, and are sold at significant discounts outside of the manufacturer’s normal channels of distribution.) Generally, we always recommend buying from department stores or well-known online retailers with links to actual stores: there are no guarantees of quality with the grey market. But desperate times call for desperate measures – and if there’s really no other way to find your discontinued perfume, worth a shot. And we do encourage you to try ‘FR.eD’, The Perfume Society’s online ‘fragrance editor’ (www.perfumesociety.org/fred), who can make very clever suggestions for new scents to try, based on knowledge about your ‘lost love’.
Can I wear my perfume in the sun?
Nononononoooooo! Really, please don’t. With the exception of fragrances which advertise that they’re ‘safe’ for sun exposure (some of the leading beauty brands occasionally bring these out), there are good reasons not to wear your perfume in the sun. Certain widely-used fragrance ingredients – generally citrus-derived – contain psoralens, components which over-stimulate the pigment-producing cells, producing localised brown patches (which have the official medical name Berloque dermatitis), like a streak of brown pigment like a raindrop running down a window pane. (And the alcohol itself is drying.) The solution? If you want to enjoy a summer fragrance in the sun, try spritzing it on your clothing rather than your skin. (Check first, of course, that it doesn’t discolour the fabric: you can try it on a tissue.) Wear a ribbon around a wrist or your neck, drenched in scent, à la Marie Antoinette and her mob. Drench some cotton wool in fragrance and tuck it in your bra. (Or your swimsuit, if you’re not planning to get wet.) And of course, enjoy liberally after dark. (Just be certain to cleanse away the fragrance next morning with a wet flannel, before you go anywhere near the sun.)