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Guide to Choosing Fragrances

Fragrance families

Fragrances are classified into different groups or families. Some of these classifications are quite complicated but one of the more straightforward groupings consists of “floral”, “oriental”, “woody” and “fresh”. These are further divided into scent components described as floral, soft floral, floral oriental, soft oriental, oriental, woody oriental, woods, mossy woods, dry woods, aromatic, citrus, water, green and fruity. While perfumes can combine “notes” from different sub-groupings, there is a fifth group referred to as “fougère”, which usually combines elements from the other four groups and is popular in fragrances for men.

All of that can be very confusing for anyone who hasn’t dedicated a large amount of time to studying scents and perfume. The best approach is to start with two or three perfumes you like and find out what aromatic elements are included in their composition. (It will often say this on the packaging or you can look up the brand website for more information). Do remember that fragrances will differ from wearer to wearer, so while you may love the scent of your friend’s favourite perfume on her, it may not smell quite the same when you or someone else wears it.

Hopefully you will find that certain scent families are represented in all the perfumes you prefer and, once you have established which these are, you can consider purchasing other fragrances that also incorporate these scent groups. The same can be done if you are buying a fragrance for someone else and know their favourite scent but, for whatever reason, don’t want to buy that perfume for them. Some people are very loyal to a particular scent, however, so do consider carefully. Other people are happy to have a range of perfumes to choose from and will select one to suit their mood and the occasion.

Although many women like heavy, rich scents that are exotic and sensual, a light, floral fragrance will make more mature women feel (and smell) younger. Likewise, a fresh, sporty fragrance for men has a younger feel than strong, woody scents.

The difference between eau de toilette and eau de parfum

It may sometimes seem that one retailer is offering a fragrance at a much lower price than another and it’s then important to check that you are comparing the same product and the same size bottle. While they may both be the same scent, the more expensive one may be “eau de parfum”, which contains a higher concentration of scent than “eau de toilette”. This means you can use less eau de parfum and have longer-lasting scent than with an eau de toilette. Eau de toilette is fine, as it is usually more affordable and still has the same scent but you may find the scent fades more quickly.

One way to help your chosen fragrance last longer when wearing it is to “layer” the scent with a variety of products from the same range. Many perfumes have matching body lotion, talc, shower gel, hand cream, etc. and while none of them will last as long as eau de parfum, you can create a more lingering effect by using a combination of these products.

Sometimes your clothes and accessories will keep your scent around you. Coats, scarves, gloves and anything else that you may wear multiple times without laundering in between can take on the scent of your regular perfume. A seatbelt may even smell like your perfume if you usually apply it right before you get into the car. This lingering scent is usually helpful in prolonging your fragrance but do be aware of it if you tend to wear a lot of different perfumes.

We hope you've found this guide useful.

Be sure to check out our other beauty guide for more information.