Wearing fragrance: A how-to of sorts

I was spinning my wheels over the holidays. I have been playing with samples, reading reviews... I even picked up the new book about Chanel No. 5 and was given two books by NY Times Scent Critic Chandler Burr. I'm immersed in perfume, almost literally!

I said I'd start reviewing scents, but I suppose I lied. Sorry! I think there are a few more things to talk about first. For example, how does one test a fragrance? And what is the best way to wear scent? Are you expected to make decisions off of a scented strip of paper in a magazine, from a blotter in a store or from a whiff of the bottle at a counter? Is there such thing as sampling protocol? How about protocol for wearing fragrances? The mind boggles...

I think I'll start with wearing scent, then cover sampling. Sound good? As always, this is a learning process for me, so discussion is welcome and encouraged!

how to apply fragrance
Sounds kind of silly, doesn't it? One simply puts it on, right? Well, sure, but there are always different ways to do things and some work better than others!

Pulse points
Probably most of us have been told to wear our fragrances on our pulse points. Why is that? And what the hell are pulse points, anyway?! The answer to the second question can be answered by watching tv dramas. Think of that body awkwardly lying in the corner of the room on your favorite crime show. When our hero rushes in, what does she do? After clearing the room and looking meaningfully at the camera, she rushes to the body and checks the victim's wrist or throat for that flicker -or lack thereof - that let's her know if the victim is dead.

Pulse points.

Those I just mentioned are the most commonly scented, the throat and wrist, but there are others. Essentially, pulse points are areas where the skin in thin enough to be able to feel the rhythm of the blood as it whishes through the arteries. These areas tend to be a bit warm. That warmth is why we dab perfume there- the heat helps the oils in the scent "open up and bloom" (that's perfumista talk for "get smelly").

There are pulse points in the groin (where the legs attach to the torso) (this does not mean your genitalia, which is a bad place for perfumes due to the fact that you could get all itchy and gross). There are also pulse points on the backs of the knees and in the inner elbow, and in the armpit (but please don't check my pulse there 'cause ew!). Oh, apparently there are also pulse points on the insides of the ankles, too.

Many people also dab or spritz perfume elsewhere. Popular spots:
  • Behind the ears
    Some is bound to get on the hair, which brings us to...
  • In the hair
    Hair seems to hold scent really well, and adds a little boost to sillage (the scent trail that follows in your wake). It's also fun to toss long hair and get a woosh of scent! Since alcohol is the base of many perfumes, this may be a technique to avoid, as it could be too harsh (for example my color-treated hair needs coddling, not added stressors). The oils in hair could also change the way a scent smells, so beware. And last but not least, what if you're dealing with a scrubber?! If you need to get that stank off, a shampoo is a hassle that may not be convenient.
    Note: brands do make "hair perfumes". Cool.
    Another Note: I have been known to wear scent in my hair, 'cause I don't spritz on enough to damage anything.
  • On the clothes
    Please test in an inconspi inconspicul hidden place to make sure a) the scent doesn't fall flat or behave in an unbecoming manner or b) stain.
  • Breasts/chest
    I quite like this idea. One, the scent wafts up nicely towards the nose. Two, the clothes trap some of the scent in (like a Dutch Oven), which makes me think it will stick around longer (completely non-scientific theory). And C, it's warm there, usually, unless you dress like a 'ho (or pimp, for the gentlemen).
  • Backs of arms
    I'm not sure why, but I like this and it's my new preferred application location. Theories on why scent is so nice here are welcome!

method of application
How do you do it? Sometimes that's dictated by the packaging (spray or "splash").
  • Spray. One spritz or more, directly on the skin.
  • Spray. In the air, then walk through it.
  • Dab. Directly where you want it.
  • Layer. Use body oil, lotion, powder and perfume from the same line to really boost the scent's power (theoretically).

Discussion of above: I prefer to spray or dab directly. Spraying into the air is supposed to prevent the fragrance from being "too strong" or to encourage "even coverage". Well, I want to be able to smell the stuff I spent boucoup bucks on and carefully chose as my scent for the occassion. Besides, call me a Control Freak, but I want to know where the scent is going (like, not on the floor or my back or my hair or the cat lounging nearby). I don't layer, either, because I wear different scents during the day sometimes. I like to switch to a cozy scent after dinner and let it help me unwind. Anyway, I don't always like the way scents present in body butter or bath oil form, since they may smell different from the edt/edp/etc.

A note about "dabbing": some people believe that a scent is only experienced properly if sprayed. I don't know if that's true or not; I'm kind of experimenting. More on that at a later date, perhaps. There may be some truth to the theory that dabbing is less ideal, though, if one considers that the bottle top or rim could transfer dead skin and oils back into the jus (jus =perfume liquid, but the French word sounds prettier!). I don't worry about that too much, but many people do. I think if I sold my soul for a vintage scent, I might reconsider my nonchalance.

Which ways do you apply your scents?

reapplication: do or don't?
I read somewhere (and lost my notes- if you have the source, please let me know!) that by reapplying a scent an hour or so after the initial application, you're messing with the progression of the scent. That made so much sense to me!

A fragrance is usually meant to evolve from top notes to heart notes and then to base notes. The lighter or crisper or brighter initial moments give way to the stronger, bolder (maybe), broader middle. In turn, the heart gracefully backs away, giving the base notes a chance to deepen, settle, and broaden even further. If I reapply a scent too soon, I'm interrupting this cascade and disturb its flow. The result could be less waltz, more Elaine from Seinfeld.

My theory: if I find myself wanting to keep reapplying frequently, I must consider whether or not the scent is for me. Do I really only enjoy the opening or some particular notes or facets? Do I really want a stronger version (maybe the edp instead of the edt)? Maybe this is a good time to consider layering, seeking a bit more oomph.

As a personal note, sometimes I do reapply the same scent later in the day, but I wait until the first application is well into dry-down and is nearly faded. This seems to work well for me. What are your thoughts on reapplication?

rubbing your wrists (ankles? whatever!) together
Do you or don't you? Full confession: I do, lightly. Some people are against it. "It crushes the molecules!" I have no idea if I'm capable of crushing a molecule or not (somehow, I doubt it).

There may be some truth in the advice to avoid rubbing or spreading, though, if doing so does something to breakdown or displace the balance of oils in a perfume. I don't rub at it like a genie's lamp, I lightly brush my forearms together to distribute the product a bit, partially because I don't want perfume trickling down my wrist onto my fingers but also because I like it further up my arm so it doesn't get washed off or doused in hand sanitizer.

A thread I started on Basenotes brought up the possibility that spreading the puddle (for lack of a fancy word) will hurry the development and/or weaken certain stages. I'm going to try to break this habit and see if it changes anything.

Your thoughts on this are encouraged!

And that's basically how to wear fragrance.
Except for any bits I've forgotten to mention. ;)  Please, please, please feel free (nay, encouraged) to contribute!


Next up: how to test fragrance!

No comments:

Post a Comment

I am so glad you chose to comment! I appreciate it. :)

Sorry for the stupid verification things I had to add to the Comment Section, but I am being bombarded with spam.