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Perfume Testing - A Quick Guide

Sep 14, 2008
If you're a perfume lover like me, chances are that a trip to your local high street perfume shop is like letting a child loose in a sweet shop. I just can't resist the urge touch every bottle and spritz perfume on every available patch of skin, even my husband's if he's unlucky enough to be with me at the time. As much fun as this can be, if you're actually looking for that next signature scent for yourself then this is not exactly the best way to go about testing perfume and here's why.

You see the human nose is a funny old thing. The more you bombard it with different smells, the more difficult it becomes to differentiate between those smells, something which is obviously pretty important when choosing a fragrance. The general rule seems to be that you shouldn't test more than three fragrances at a time. I personally would go so far as to say you shouldn't actually test more than two on your skin at any one time.

But before you even try a perfume on your skin you should try blotter tests first - you know, the little strips of paper that you see in your perfume shop. Blotter testing allows you to get an initial impression of a fragrance. Some fragrances you may immediately dislike and so there's no real point in testing those on your skin. Others you may not dislike but you may be a little uncertain about them. Don't ignore those completely - remember that fragrances change when they come into contact with your particular skin chemistry and they also change the longer you wear them. And like most things, when testing, take your time with these blotter tests. Smell one or two perfumes and then give your nose a minute or two to settle before trying more.

Once you have a selection of blotters that you like, try to choose the two or three that stood out the most for you. Now you're ready for some actual skin testing. In an ideal world, your friendly perfume sales assistant will be able to provide you with sample vials of your selected fragrances so that you can take these home and test them at your leisure as personally, I feel that the best way to really test a fragrance is to wear it for several hours without mixing it with any other fragrances. More often than not however there won't be any samples in which case you will have to spritz or dab some in the shop. I would suggest applying a little of each perfume to the inside of each wrist or 'pulse point'.

The key here is to give it time. As I've mentioned previously, fragrances change when they react to your body chemistry and the longer they are exposed to air, releasing first the top notes then, after ten or twenty minutes the heart or middle notes (the dominant character of the fragrance which determines the fragrance family i.e. woody, spicy, oriental) followed by the base. This is when you start to get a better sense of what this fragrance is really like and what it would be like to wear throughout the day. You'll be amazed at how different some fragrances can seem from top notes to base. In fact I can't count the number of times I've smelt a particular perfume and been disappointed by its initial impressions only to love it as it has settled and the various notes have blended into a complete fragrance. As you will no doubt have realised by now, this is why you can really test and fully appreciate a perfume by a quick little smell in a perfume shop.

Hopefully out of this process you will have found yourself a wonderful new signature perfume which you know you're going to love once it's settled and can wear confidently throughout the day. If not, well there are so many fragrances to choose from, that's all the more reason to keep going back and trying it again with something new. After all, that's part of the fun of perfume isn't it?

PS - A little tip, whenever you see perfumes advertised on TV or in magazines, if there is a website address, take a moment to visit the site. Very often you can sign up to receive free samples in the post. That way you get to test the latest perfumes without even having to go to your local perfume shop.
About the Author
Debbie is a Fragrance Foundation Certified Sales Specialist and owns DM Fragrances, a small online perfume shop selling a wide range of designer womens perfume and aftershave.
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