Perfume for Beginners

Written by    Last updated: May 5, 2011

Welcome to the world of perfume. Here’s an introduction to what you need to know about fragrance and finding the perfect scent.

Chanel Chance perfume

 Image courtesy of Shaw Shots

The power of perfume

The part of our brain that controls smell is related to that which deals with strong emotions and memories. Have you ever noticed how a smell can suddenly bring back vivid flashes of past events and emotions? By the same token, it’s easy to get sentimental when a loved one changes their signature scent. We choose scents that personify those characteristics we most want to embody ourselves – our fragrance becomes a part of us.

What is perfume?

Perfume is made up of odoriferous materials of a synthetic and/or natural origin. The oil of these materials is extracted and combined with alcohol to make fragrances. Traditional perfume-making techniques, involving the extraction of essential oils from plants, are saved for only the finest of fragrances.

Different types of perfume

Perfume, eau de parfum, eau de toilette/cologne are all alcoholic solutions of fragrance oils. They differ in the percentage of oil contained. Here’s a quick guide:


Also called parfum, this is the most potent and the most expensive product in the perfume family. It has the highest concentration of oil. It seems expensive, but you don’t need to use much of it for the scent to linger.

Eau de Parfum

A very close second to perfume, with about half the concentration of perfume, but still very potent and lasting.

Eau de Toilette/Cologne

These are weaker solutions of fragrance oil, but are popular because of convenient spray bottles. Even though the bottle may be bigger, the oil is less concentrated.

Here are some helpful hints when buying and wearing your fragrance

• Always try before you buy. You don’t want to spend money on something you might have an allergic reaction to!

• Sniff the scent on your skin. It will smell different on a tester than it will when mixed with your body chemistry. Be sure to give the scent a few minutes to develop – the heat of your body will affect how it smells on you.

• Let your partner smell it. You don’t want to end up with something that he doesn’t like (or that reminds him of an ex…).

• For real staying power, layer your fragrance. Combining a bath wash, moisturiser and perfume will ensure you smell sweet for longer.

• Apply the scent to pulse points such as wrists, behind ears, cleavage, and behind your knees. These spots generate a lot of heat and will release the scent over time.

• Put your fragrance on before you get dressed to avoid staining.

• Don’t overdo it. Your scent should be noticed only by people who get very close to you – not something that announces your arrival.

Fun fragrance facts

• The alcohol in perfume makes the fragrance emanate from your skin. Without it, you would be the only person who knew you were wearing any fragrance at all.

• Musk comes from the male musk deer found in the central Asian uplands of Tibet.

• Fragrance has three ‘notes’: the top note, which you recognise first, then the middle note, and the base note which lingers the longest on your skin.

• A bottle of Chanel No.5 is sold every 30 seconds…

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