The Fragrance Rules to Memorize, According to Perfumers

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More than arguably any other step in your beauty routine, there’s something about applying perfume that makes you feel equal parts sensual and luxurious. After all, there’s a reason why all Marilyn Monroe wore to bed was Chanel No. 5, and why the chase of a “signature scent” is a life-altering pursuit. Coco Chanel herself actually may have put it best: “No elegance is possible without perfume. It is the unseen, unforgettable, ultimate accessory.”

Whether you’re one of those people who, like me, can’t leave the house without walking through a cloud of fragrance—more specifically, a cloud of Glossier You ($60), ICYWW—or if you just dab a roller ball on your wrist in honor of special occasions, your scent has the potential to speak volumes about you. As perfumer Maurice Roucel once said, “Your fragrance is your message, your scented slogan.” (Can you tell I went down a black hole of perfume quotes while researching this story?)

But while fragrance can be one of the most personal beauty choices you can make, there are a few things worth knowing about the "right" way to wear it. To find out, I tapped some of the top pros in the industry to share their tips on how to wear perfume. Keep scrolling for their sound advice.

Think about the scents themselves

All scents are (obviously) not created equally, which means that the way you apply them actually depends on the scents themselves. "Fragrances that are from the aldehydes, marines or citrus olfactive families work particularly well on clothing or bed linens, and woodsy, musks or aromatics tend to scent well on skin and natural pores," says Greg Black, President of Clean Beauty Collective. And, according to Amo Ferragamo Flowerful ($108) Perfumer Marie Salamagne, "fresher scents or cologne may be applied on the neck or in the hair."

Keep in mind that formulation matters

You've likely seen the phrases "eau de toilette," "eau de parfum," "parfum," and "perfume oil" scripted on your fragrance bottles, each of which indicates a different level of scent concentration. In addition to determining how strongly something smells, these monikers also apparently dictate how you should apply. "Eau de toilettes are lighter formulas than eau de parfums, so they may require multiple spritzes pending your preference," explains Salamagne, noting that an EDP may need one spritz and EDT multiple, depending on how potent you'd like to smell. "Perfume oils will perform best when they’re applied to the pulse points—your wrists, inside of the elbows, base of the neck, behind the ears."

Spritz after you shower

In addition to there being a right way to put on perfume, there's also a right time. "It’s best to apply perfumes oils right after showering, as warm, damp skin will absorb the oil best. You can layer it with your EDP or EDT to highlight specific facets," says Salamagne. And she advises doing the same with your other formulations, too. "As the EDT compositions are much lighter, I recommend spraying on after the shower so your skin can absorb the scent better," she says. "EDP fragrance, with a much higher scent concentrate, will always have a more potent, long-lasting wear."

Consider your skin

Your skin-care products aren't the only things in your beauty routine should be careful with if you've got sensitive skin. "If you have sensitive skin, we always recommend spraying fragrance clothes. It will hold the fragrance wear much longer and leaves your closet smelling amazing," says Carina Chaz founder, creative director and CEO of fragrance brand DedCool. To spritz on skin safely, she suggests looking for fragrances that are non-toxic (like DedCool!).

Ask yourself who you're scenting for

When I got a tattoo on my wrist last year, the artist asked if I wanted the letters facing outward, so that other people could read it, or toward me, so that I could read it for myself. While this may seem like a random non sequitur, the same principle actually applies to how you put on your perfume. "When you apply it on the skin, you enjoy it more for yourself," explains Salamagne. "When applied on your clothes or hair, your surroundings can smell its sillage more easily."

Where you are actually matters

This one threw me for a loop, but the environment and culture of where you are can also play a factor in your fragrance game. "The fragrance gesture depends often on the culture and the regions of the world,” says Salamagne. "For example, in hot and humid regions, it is more common to spritz several times during the day, on the hands and on the neck as a refreshing gesture. In other regions, people tend to spray fragrance on the wrists and rub them afterwards. If you want to feel more sensual, you can spray a spritz behind the ears.”

Ultimately, though, it's up to you

With all of that in mind, when it really comes down to it, the way you wear fragrance is really your call. "The way you apply perfume is very personal and subjective. You have to feel good when you wear it—it all depends on what your preference is and how you’d like to enjoy it,” says Salamagne.

Get ready to hear a lot this year about "functional fragrances," aka fragrances that do a whole lot more than just make you smell good. And here are some of our favorite springtime scents, just in time for warm weather. 

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