How to Choose a Perfume That’s Right for You

Perfumes define your style and mood. Here are some tips to bear in mind before choosing one

Perfumes are as much a part of your fashion style as the accessories you choose. Just like your fashion choices, the fragrance you choose says a lot about your personality. Designer fragrances are like designer handbags, with different styles for the day and night, summer and winter. Your perfume can say a lot about your mood. It can take some time to find your “signature scent”, but let’s face it, shopping for the best perfume is lots of fun.

Let me give a few tips that will help you do more than just follow your nose.

Mind-body connection

The mind-body connection is most evident in our sense of smell. A good fragrance has the potential to energize you with its rich or subtle flavors. It has the power to define your personality and effectively convey your message to the world. For instance, the perfume you chose can often set the mood or atmosphere of a place — be it your office, home or a night out in town. If you’re in a corporate set-up, it would be wise to choose a perfume that has a crisp, light and pleasant fragrance. If you’re attending a wedding or an important event, based on your feelings, your perfume can be rich and spicy, sweet and fresh or even have a touch of mystery and allure.

The differences between a man and women are never more pronounced than when perfumes are concerned. Women opt for delicate floral scents, while men go for more pungent and outdoorsy ones — emphasizing nature in all its ruggedness.

The spicy aroma of musk for instance, will definitely feature in a male perfume, as will the fresh, light earthy scent of pine-cones. The fruity fragrance of jasmine, the sweet, heady sophistication of pure rose — these have been scents that define a woman.

There are several steps that you would need to keep in mind in order to lead you to your dream fragrance, one that will in time become synonymous with your sense of self.

Understanding Your Personality and Defining Your Mood

The first step to selecting a perfume is to understand yourself better. We all have changing moods but what kind of a person are you for the predominant part of everyday? Those who tend to veer towards serious action go in for sweet/spicy heavy perfumes. These people are more formal, tend to dress up for all occasions, are perhaps more conservative in their approach and attitude to life.

The happy-go-lucky kinds of people tend to experiment more with fragrances. Their scents are more adventurous – light, citrus and fruity. For more clues to your personality and to the scent that would suit you best, do explore smells that entice you from daily life. It could be the rich aroma of cooking or baking, a bunch of your favorite flowers, flavored tea, percolating coffee, even vanilla beans and the scent of the first rains. There are commercial scents available that could closely mimic these smells – creating your own trademark fragrance.

Making Sense of the Different Types of Scents

All scents are made of essential oils. The concentration of these essential oils defines the power of the perfume. Based on how strong a perfume is, it can be classified into these broad categories:


Perfumes come in different colors and are usually clear or semi-transparent. Perfumes usually have 15-30 per cent concentration of the core essential oils. This is usually the highest concentration and therefore, the strongest fragrance available. This means when applied in less quantity the fragrance lasts longer, typically for up to six hours, depending on skin type.

Eau de parfume [EDP]

Eau de parfume is a configuration that is lighter than regular perfume, with an 8-15 per cent concentration. It is less expensive and milder than the regular perfume, but can still last from 3- 5 hours. This makes it ideal for power meetings and important occasions, especially those who aren’t quite familiar with using perfumes.

Eau de toilette [EDT]

This is a more delicate fragrance. With a 4-8 per cent concentration of the essence, it is most suited to everyday use. It is normally less expensive than EDP and lasts from 2-4 hours.

Eau de cologne [EDC]

This is often referred to simply as cologne. It has the greatest dilution of fragrances, with a 3-5 per cent concentration of perfume essence, lasting up to two hours. If you’re allergic to most perfumes or have extremely sensitive skin that tends to break out into rashes with the harsh chemicals used in most perfumes, then this type is the ideal mild solution to your needs. Remember to re-apply as necessary, as the scent is extremely mild and fades quickly.

Rules to application

A golden rule of perfumery that many tend to overlook or ignore is that all fragrances should be subtle. Even if it’s the best perfume you’ve ever sniffed, go easy on the amount you apply. If you pour too much, you’ll be likely to reek of perfume and even cause headaches. The thumb rule is to dab perfume on the insides of the wrists, the neck and behind your ears. Perfumes can be applied safely onto the skin, especially since the essential oils in the concoction are already diluted and blended with the other ingredients. Don’t use more than 2-3 drops in a single area. Some people prefer to spray perfume onto clothes. While cottons absorb perfume well, most silks stain badly. Be cautious before spraying perfume on expensive clothing.

Masking fragrance: Perfumes, antiperspirants or deodorants?

The first kind of perfume was incense. It was discovered by the Mesopotamian civilization, over 4000 years ago. In those days, the sole purpose of most of these crude perfumes was to mask the bad smell, rather than to create a unique or special aura. Today, the role of perfumes has far exceeded this primary function. However, even today a wide range of antiperspirants and deodorants are available in the market; solely for the purpose of masking body odor.

Astringent salts of aluminum, zinc or zirconium are used in antiperspirants to seal up pores and reduce the sweat output of the body. These compounds have been known to cause irritation and can aggravate allergies and skin inflammation. Opt for these only if you sweat excessively. If you have more sensitive skin, deodorants are a better choice than antiperspirants. Deodorants don’t stop the skin from sweating [one of the natural means by which the body expels waste], but they do tend to clog the pores. Left on the tender underarm skin for many hours, both products [deodorants and antiperspirants] have the potential to trigger adverse reactions, more so than ordinary perfumes that evaporate quickly and tend to be a more thinner and less viscous.

However, these are essential if your lifestyle or career is highly physical. Do ensure that the products you buy are established brands. Apply a thin layer in the underarm area only. Opt for liquid deodorants applied with rollers [that come attached to the top of each bottle], rather than creamy or gel based ones.

Perfumes have played an important role in civilization and even today, the power of fragrance continues to cast its spell over mankind. Using it wisely and well is of course, our prerogative.

Kamala Thiagarajan
Kamala Thiagarajan is a Madurai-based journalist. Her writing interests encompass a host of genres including travel, health, entertainment and lifestyle. She is a full-time freelance journalist who works from her home in Madurai, South India. With 20 years of experience in journalism, she has over four hundred articles in print in leading magazines across the globe.


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