Applying perfume correctly is easy, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It’s also an area where you can develop your own personal scented-style because we’ve discovered, through our many interviews with fragrance wearers, that everyone applies their perfume slightly differently.
Once you’ve found a fragrance you love, we would advise you to wear it with enthusiasm and commit to being scented. Other people will love that you smell good and don’t be surprised if you’re chased down the street by someone desperate to know what you are wearing.
From dabbing your ankles to spraying the inside of your jacket, there are many innovative ways to apply and have fun with your fragrance. So here we’ve listed a few of the techniques and tips we’ve learned along the way to help you create your own scent rituals. Enjoy!
Spraying the back of your neck
We learned this technique from master perfumer Alberto Morillas, who explained that instead of spraying the front of your neck, you should spray the back and include your hair, so when you turn your head you will get a waft of the scent. If you spray the front of your neck the nose becomes used to the smell and tunes out, so you won’t detect it on yourself. In our illustration above, we’re spraying Stash SJP, a lovely cedarwood-patchouli-amber scent by Sarah Jessica Parker, which is excellent value for money for the quality.
Suitable for: everyone, it’s probably the best way to scent yourself if you like to smell your own fragrance.
Downsides: Watch out for dark coloured perfumes when you are wearing a pale or white shirt, sometimes those dark juices can stain.
Spraying your Wrists.
Pretty much the go-to method for everyone when they start off wearing perfume, spraying your wrists is a great way to scent yourself. A light spritz from the bottle, held around 15cms away from your skin is the way to do it. And spray both wrists, but never rub the wrists together as this warms up the top note molecules in the perfume and makes them ‘wear out’ more quickly.
Suitable for: people who use their hands when communicating, as they can scent the air around them as they ‘talk’.
Downsides: If you wash your hands a lot, you’re going to wash the fragrance off too. If this is the case, try spraying the skin on your arm, towards your elbow.
Spraying your torso
We often think of fragrance as an invisible garment, something you spray on yourself as a layer between your skin and your clothes. Whether it’s just your chest area or an all-over dosing, it’s an intimate way to hold your fragrance close to you all day. The scent will penetrate through your shirt or dress, but in a subtle manner, and will be beautifully blurred with the smell of your own skin (although watch that staining issue we mentioned above).
When you remove your clothes the scent will re-envelope you gently in an ‘Ah, there you are’ way. Remember scent molecules cling to the oil on your skin, so fragrance will last longer on a well moisturized body, and by using the same scented body lotion as your perfume you’ll further deepen and extend the aroma.
Suitable for: summer, when the scent can filter through lighter fabric and those who want a subtle way to scent their aura.
Downsides: you will end up with very fragrant clothing.
Dabbing your pulse points (and other areas).
Traditionally, pulse points at the wrists, behind the ears, over the heart and on the crease of elbows and knees have been the place to dab your perfume, since these warmer areas of the body will help the scent evolve more quickly. Using either a ‘wand’ – the application stick that sits immersed in the scent, or your fingers, there’s something very intimate and sensuous about this ritual, as it needs a little more thought and time than a spray. Scent can also be targeted to very specific areas of the body. One of our favourite perfumers, Lyn Harris loves this ritual and her glass bottles all have wands. Above, we’re dabbing Le Gant, Night Veils by Byredo, a gloriously leathery extrait that requires just a small dab to smell delicious all day.
The more intense Parfum or extrait form of scent is best applied like this, as it is often more concentrated and just a small amount is needed. Perfume oil is also stroked on and remember, if you’re using natural oils they don’t last as long on the skin and will need reapplying more frequently.
Suitable for: discreet and sensual application, where you don’t want to fog up an office or train carriage with your usage. Precious and expensive perfumes will last longer if you dab rather than spray.
Downsides: takes a little more time as you might dip and dab a number of times to achieve coverage and there’s a small chance you may contaminate the perfume in the bottle with a grubby wand, so make sure you apply to clean skin.
Splashing on cologne
Cologne is the lightest form of scent, with only small amounts of fragrance oil held in the alcohol, often around 5%. Colognes are used to lightly scent the body after a shower or shave and often use uplifting citrus and menthol notes to create a wonderful sparky burst of perfume which, because of the light concentration, wont last much longer than an hour or two. Cologne can be carefully poured into the palms and then splashed generously on the torso or neck area.
Suitable for: use with the lighter concentrations of eau de cologne and eau fraiche only, but on a hot summer’s day, this is a gorgeous way to reinvigorate you from a sluggish stupor.
Downsides: can be messy and the perfume from the cologne wont last long on the skin.
Scenting your ankles.
The French perfumer Anais Biguine explained how she loves to scent her ankles so when she walks the fragrance drifts up around her body and when she’s bending and stretching in yoga, she gets to smell her scent at unexpected times. Spraying your ankles and legs is a good technique for stronger perfumes, when you might want to place them a bit further away from your nose to soften the impact.
Suitable for: Summer scenting, and for creating variety.
Downsides: no good if you spend your life in thick tights or long trousers and socks.
Scenting your clothes.
Finally, if you are unsure about wearing fragrance on your skin, then consider scenting your clothes. A spritz of scent on the inside of a jacket or on the lining of a pair of leather gloves will ensure a waft of deliciousness as you take them on and off. A scented scarf can lift you from the gloom of commuting on public transport and cashmere sweaters hold fragrance in a manner that softens and diffuses the scent and adds an additional layer of reassurance and comfort. Spraying the inside of your handbag or briefcase can be a delight, and anyone who doesn’t spray the inside of a hat is missing a trick. Our charming scarf-wearer above is spraying L’Occitane’s L’Homme Cedrat, a herby-fresh cologne with a warm woody dry-down (the part of the scent that you smell for the longest) that sits well on fabric.
Suitable for: Anyone who doesn’t like to wear scent on their skin or who is concerned about allergies or reactions. Also good for swapping scent quickly- simply change your clothes!
Downsides: You do need to wash your clothes regularly to keep things fresh.
Spraying your hair
From hair supremo Adam Reid –we discovered that your hair holds the scent of perfume for a long time, so just spray lightly over your head. Eau de Toilette strength is great for this, as it is lighter than Eau De Parfum, but really either work just fine. There are also specially formulated hair scents by brands such as Byredo, and scented oils, such as those made by Amanda Saurin and used on her own long hair, that work really well.
Suitable for: anyone with long or thick hair or where you need scent to have good longevity.
Downsides: fragile or over treated hair might dry out from the alcohol in the spray, but if you’re using a good conditioner you should be fine.
All images by the super-talented Jean-Philippe Calver.