Notorious NYCK
Earth Shattering Beauty, Style and Health News from a Neurotic New Yorker

Scentual Discrimination

by Notorious NYCK November 7

In my quest for finding my perfect signature scent, see Frustrated Fragrance Fanatic,one incredibly discouraging phenomenon keeps thwarting me: The old, “Why does that fragrance smell so gorgeous on my friend/mom/woman-on-the-escalator but so terrible on me?” conundrum. So I did a little digging and the reasons actually abound. Fragrances, apparently, are super-sensitive creatures that can be completely transformed by everything from our skin types to our Starbucks runs. Here, some of the factors that may be altering our aura:

  • Our skin texture:  Some research has shown that fragrances last longer and smell closest to their intended scent on women with rough skin. Scientists theorize this is because uneven skin offers more open, flat areas between dry patches, enabling fragrance molecules to evaporate more readily.
  • Our skin type: Fragrance thrives in moist environments, and so will become more intense and last longer on people with oily skin. Dry skin lacks the necessary oils to “hold” fragrance and can even distort the scent. To help fragrance go the distance, massage in a matching or unscented body lotion before spritzing.
  • Our diets: Eating an abundance of spicy or high fat foods has been shown to amplify fragrance.
  • Our body temperature: A scent will smell more intense but dissipate more quickly on people with higher body temperatures as heat helps to diffuse fragrance. The same goes for people who live in hotter climates. Scents will smell more subtle but last longer on people with lower body temperatures and/or live in colder climates, as cold subdues fragrance molecules yet keeps them more stationary.
  • Our beauty regimens: Deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, powder, moisturizer and shower gels all contribute to our overall air and will affect the aroma of any additional fragrance we wear.
  • The pills we pop: Other research indicates that certain medications, such as thyroid, birth control, and antibiotics can alter our body chemistry, therefore, the way a perfume performs.
  •  How much coffee we drink: Coffee contains sulfur compounds that, like spices, can emanate from us when we sweat. BTW, it’s these sulfur compounds that also create that sexy coffee breath.

Another bump in the road in my aromatic quest is that my husband’s and my tastes differ drastically. His lean toward the heady floral jasmine-based blends I find cloying, and mine lean toward the light, citrusy potions he finds sharp and all-pervasive. In fact, he calls them, “Pledge.” But these personal preferences may actually be based on the way we both perceive fragrances, rather than how they actually smell.  Research shows that fragrance perception varies vastly based on:

  • Our sex: According to many studies, women have a sharper sense of smell than men.
  • Our age: Younger people are more likely to find fragrances more powerful than older peeps, since our sense of smell (and taste) declines with age. Will the indignities never stop?
  • Our menstrual cycle: Our odor perception is sharpest during ovulation—perhaps, scientists theorize, to help “sniff out” the most genetically suitable mate.
  • Whether we smoke or drink: Both can dull our sense of smell.
  • The time of day: Our aroma awareness is the most acute in the morning, before we’ve eaten anything.

Making Scents of It All
Bearing all of these variables in mind, it is stunning to me that anyone can can actually succeed in finding a scent they love for a season or two, much less a lifetime. And I’m not just trying to make myself feel better--OK, maybe I am, just a little. But there are some pro tips and tricks that I’m sure  make the process easier. I’ve never followed them myself, but it may be time to start putting some method into my madness. So if you should choose to accept the mission of finding a new fragrance, it may be wise to:

  • Put it on paper: After sniffing a few bottles, narrow down your choices to a select few and spritz each one on a paper blotter that the fragrance counter supplies. After 10 minutes, sniff it again and see if it still speaks to you. If it does..
  • Hit a pulse point: Spritz a tiny amount on the inside of a wrist or the crook of an elbow. The blood vessels in these “pulse points” are closest to the skin giving off heat to act like mini fragrance pumps helping to disperse the aroma into the air.
  • Wait: Leave the counter and wander around the store for a good 15 minutes. It takes at least that long for a scent’s airy “top” notes to dissipate and for its gutsier “heart” to kick in—the part of the scent that will linger for an hour or two. Typically this part of the fragrance is close enough to the “dry down”—what sticks around beyond that—so you’ll have a decent idea of the entire fragrance.
  • Be selective: No matter how many fragrances seem enticing, spread out your fragrance sampling to a couple of different trips to the store so you don’t get overwhelmed and overloaded. If sniff-with-abandon you must, many counters have coffee beans in candy dishes that you can inhale in between selections; they act as an olfactory cleanser, in much the same way sorbet refreshes your palette in between meal courses.
  • Live with it: Truly the most fail-proof way of finding a scent you love is to take home a few samples and wear each one separately every day for a week. It’s less thrilling than the adrenaline rush one gets from making an immediate conquest, but far safer.

And if you have any favorites, be sure to let me know. I am still scentless in Seattle—I mean New York.  Ciao for now my friends. Stay happy and healthy.


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