Nessbow’s guide to perfume

Perfume is a tricky product. It has the power to evoke memories and elicit emotions, however it is dreadfully difficult to select the right perfume, and sometimes even the application process is fraught with potential danger. Here is my guide to choosing the right perfume for you, a list of my favorite perfumes and a guide to perfect perfume application.



Choosing the perfect perfume.

Before you even set out and begin spraying yourself with a million different types of perfume, you should sit down and have a think about what you want. I believe that a perfume is best selected not for a particular occasion or because it has a pretty bottle. I believe that the perfumes that we enjoy wearing the most are the ones that are best suited to our personality, and which smell delicious to our own noses.


The very first step to buying the perfect perfume is to sit down and have a think about what scents you are attracted to. Think carefully and make a list of all the gorgeous smells that you find enticing and wonderful. It can be anything at all, as long as you find the scent utterly delectable. For example, I have always loved the scent of Earl Grey tea, and it turns out that two of my favorite perfumes, and an aftershave that my boyfriend wears that drives me barmy all contain bergamot, the same flower that gives Earl Grey tea its scent. Other examples of smells that I love are roses and violets, peppermint, mango, freesia, vanilla, musk and bergamot. All of these scents are rather sweet, floral and fruity, which is probably why my perfume shelf is filled with sweet, fruity scents with a dash of florals mixed in. If you have a good list of the scents that attract you, you can take this with you when you go perfume shopping. Many perfumes have an extensive range of ingredients, and if you show your list to the sales assistant, they might be able to help you select a perfume that has some of your favorite scents mixed in. The other reason that you should make a list of the scents that attract you is that it can help you identify the ‘family’ of scents that best suits you. For example, if your list includes items such as cardamom pods, sandalwood incense and chai tea, you are likely to prefer spicy, musky scents. If you love roses, honeysuckle and violets, you should keep your eyes (and nostrils) peeled for a floral scent.


The second thing that you should do before you even set foot in the department store is take note of any perfumes that your friends wear that you like. It might seem weird at first, asking your friends what they are wearing, but most people will feel flattered and answer coyly. It’s probably best not to do this to strangers though, as they may take it the wrong way. Keeping a list of perfumes that you like is a good idea, because it will give you a list of products to try, and will give you an even better idea of the types of scents that you are drawn to.


Once you are ready to start shopping, you should be prepared to do so slowly. You can’t expect to find your perfect perfume in a day, and you should never try to. When shopping for perfume, you should try on only once scent per day. You should get to the store early, give yourself a spray, and then wear the perfume for the rest of the day. There are several reasons for this:

– firstly, wearing the scent for the entire day will let you know if it is too strong. If you have a thumping migraine after an hour of wearing it, you know that it’s not for you.

– Wearing the product for an extended period of time will give you an idea of how long the scent will last for.

– Perfumes are comprised of three ‘notes’. The top note is the most obvious scents, which you will smell for the first ten minutes or so after you spray yourself. The middle note is the scent that you will get for the first two or three hours of wearing the perfume. The base note is the residual scent after about three hours of wear. Perfumes mingle with your natural scent and the oils on your skin and so they smell different on different people. Perfumes also smell different after different amounts of time, so wearing the perfume for several hours will let you know whether it still smells so sweet five hours after application.

– Your nose will get overwhelmed if you try to experiment with too many scents at a time. To give yourself the best chance to evaluate each perfume, only try one at a time.


A note about coffee beans: You might have noticed that a lot of perfume stores have a little bowl of coffee beans on the counter. The reason for this is that you are supposed to take one after you have tried one perfume and either crush it on your skin or hold it to your nose to remove the scent of the perfume so that you can try on another perfume without overwhelming your nose. I thought I had better address this. The coffee beans don’t actually help with getting the smell of one perfume out of your nose so that you can try on another perfume. This is largely because of the anatomy and function of the nose. At the top of the sinuses, there is a mucus membrane called the Olfactory Epithelium. This layer traps remnants of smells and holds them there so that your brain can decipher them. It takes quite some time for these remnants to be dissolved by the mucus membrane. This is why when you smell something revolting on the street, you can sometimes feel as though you can still smell it a block away, even though you have passed the source of the stench. It’s the same with perfume. The notes of the perfume get trapped in your olfactory epithelium and cling there for quite some time. Sniffing the coffee bean doesn’t eradicate this scent trace, it merely overlays it with a new, stronger scent. This means that the next perfume that you try will be contaminated with the residual scent of the coffee, and so you won’t be able to distinguish the true scent of the perfume. This is why it is best to only try on one perfume at a time, because your nose will become confused by too many scents and you might wind up disappointed with your choice of perfume.


It will take a little time to find a perfume that you love, but it will be worth it in the end.


What is the difference between EDP and EDT? Which is better?

EDP stands for Eau du Parfum, and is the most concentrated form of the scent. They are usually much more expensive, but they have more staying power and you will need to use less product to achieve the same effect.


EDT stands for Eau Du Toilette, which is a diluted, lighter form of the perfume. These are often cheaper, but they don’t last as long.


I personally believe in buying EDPs. They are more costly, but I find that they are better value as a single bottle of EDP will last a lot longer than an EDT.


Do I have to buy the designer versions of perfumes? Can’t I just buy a knock-off or imitation?

I don’t have a problem with imitation perfumes, but I do feel that I need to include a word of warning here. It may be tempting to try on a designer perfume and then run to the nearest chemist to buy a cheap imitation. I don’t recommend doing this unless you try the imitation on a separate day. This is because knock-off versions often smell different to the designer perfume that they are impersonating. The ingredients that will be used are likely to be of a lower quality and the scent is less likely to last as long. Also, it is sometimes the case that imitations smell nothing like the original. By all means, use imitation perfumes, but beware that you are essentially buying an entirely different product to the original. You can’t expect it to perform in the same way.


My favorite perfumes.

I thought that I would compile a little list of some of the perfumes that I wear most often, to give you a list that you can use as a starting point for your own perfume quest.


CK1 by Calvin Klein: This is a really fresh, light scent that I wear all the time. It has a really classic, oceanic scent laced with bergamot.


Tommy Girl by Tommy Hilfiger: Ross bought me this for Christmas a few years ago. It is quite fruity, and has a distinct hint of apple.


Daisy by Marc Jacobs: I scored this perfume from my mother, who had bought it for herself and didn’t like it (she clearly didn’t shop around enough). It is a soft floral scent, which is very pretty and feminine.


April Violets by Yardley: this perfume is cheap and chic and can be purchased at most pharmacies. It is a floral water rather than a proper perfume, so the scent is lighter and doesn’t last for as long. It has a true violet scent, and I love to wear it with my vintage ensembles.


L.A.M.B by Gwen Stefani: I bought this purely because I love Gwen, but it is a gorgeous perfume. It has hints of vanilla, gardenia and lotus and is just lovely.


Happy by Clinique: I got this for my birthday last year and I am nearly a quarter of the way through the bottle already. It is a citrusy, fruity scents with orange and mandarin overlays that will have you smiling in no time flat.


Vanilla Oil by the Body Shop: this is a pure, sweet vanilla scent that is perfect for those with sensitive noses.


4711: this is another vintage favorite. You can buy this at most pharmacies very cheaply. I love this fresh, oceanic scent because it is the perfume that my nana always wears. It’s a wonderful addition to feminine, vintage outfits.


Beyond Paradise by Estee Lauder: this perfume is like summer in a bottle. It smells like a tropical island, and is gorgeously sexy.


White Linen by Estee Lauder: this perfume has a clean, classic scent and is crisp on the nostrils.


Chanel no. 5: While I don’t actually own a bottle of Chanel myself, I love the way this perfume smells. Marilyn Monroe famously wore this scent every day, and it is sweetly classic and seductive, with a slightly powdery, floral scent.


Perfume application.

While we are talking about perfume, I thought that I would throw in a few tips that I have collected over the years for applying perfume.

– Some people suggest spraying a cloud of perfume into the air and then walking through it. I don’t like this method, because it is a waste of product, as most of it winds up floating away on the air rather than on your skin, and the scent will wind up on your clothes and hair, which you don’t want.

– Don’t spray perfume onto your clothes. The alcohol in the perfume can break down fabric fibers and ruin your clothes. It is also prone to leave stains.

– Apply perfume to your pulse points. You can find your pulse points at your ankles, your wrists, behind your knees, your neck and between your breasts. Don’t apply perfume to each and every pulse point or you will stink to high heaven. Just pick one or two and apply there. Your pulse will carry the scent.

– If you find that the perfume you have purchased is a little strong for you, avoid applying it on your neck or chest. Spray a little on your ankles instead. The smell will gently waft up, giving you a gorgeous overall scent without inducing a migraine.

– Don’t apply your perfume to your wrists and then vigorously rub them together. Perfume isn’t meant to be mashed into the skin and this will damage the scent. Simply spray a little on your wrists and either dab the excess on to your neck or wave your wrists in the air to dry them.

– Don’t be tempted to reapply your perfume throughout the day. A single application will usually be enough. It might seem that the scent has diminished, but it’s likely to be that you have been smelling it all day. Reapplication of perfume throughout the day is a recipe for one stinky lady.

– Invest in an atomizer. A lot of perfumes come in spray bottles, but those that don’t can be decanted into a little atomizer. I find that the scent is distributed better if it is sprayed on rather than dabbed, and it tends to last for longer.

– If you find perfume a little strong, you could try a body lotion in the same scent. They are usually much lighter. Rather than applying them all over your body, just rub a little onto your décolletage for a gorgeous scent that won’t overwhelm you.

Categories: Beauty.Advice


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