How to Pick the Perfect Perfume

Coco Chanel once said, “A woman who doesn’t wear perfume has no future.” This might seem melodramatic, but the icon unveils one very serious truth: scent is powerful. It has the ability instantly to transport, to remind, and to excite. In a sense, perfume is a calling card that establishes an identity that lasts long after the bottle is finished. Here’s our guide to picking the perfect perfume for you—one that’s an extension of your personality, and reflective of your tastes.

Go Bare

When shopping for your new scent, it’s important to come with a blank canvas. Avoid using any scented body washes, lotions, or perfumes prior to shopping, so you can smell the scents on your skin without distraction.

Speak the Language

If you’re not well versed in scent-speak, here’s a quick breakdown of the different options.

Eau de Cologne: Eau de Cologne is three to five percent perfume oil in a mixture of alcohol and water. It tends to be lighter and refreshing, typically with a citrus oil component.

Eau de Toilette: Eau de Toilette contains a slightly higher percentage of perfume oil, and is mixed with alcohol instead of water, making it more fragrant.

Eau de Parfum: With a higher percentage of perfume oil (roughly 15 to 18 percent), mixed with alcohol, Eau de Parfum is heavier than Eau de Cologne and Eau de Toilette, but lighter than Perfume. 

Perfume: With 15 to 30 percent perfume oil mixed with alcohol, perfume contains the highest percentage of oil, making it the most concentrated and potent. Perfume often comes in the smallest bottles, with the largest price tag.

Consider the Season

Just as summer smells of fresh cut grass and grapefruit, and winter smells of cinnamon and evergreen, your scent may vary season to season. Scents last longer in warmer months than they do in cooler months because skin is usually more hydrated, and moisture will hold the fragrance. Opt for lighter scents in warmer months, and heavier ones during the winter.

Identify Notes

Like a glass of wine or a well-styled outfit, scents boast a variety of layered notes. For instance, one perfume may give you an initial whiff of citrus, followed by a spicy undertone. To find your perfect perfume, identify the type of scent you connect with the most. Is it a rose bouquet? A fruity whiff of pomegranate? The sweet undertone of vanilla? Identifying a category will help you narrow down your choices and consider options that suit you. To guide you, here are some of our favorite scents, broken down into the four major categories of scents.