Scent of a woman

This may be a bad time to be thinking of presents – just after the overdose of stressful Christmas shopping. But you’re still going to have to buy your loved one a Valentine’s gift. So P&G Prestige Fragrance Expert, William Andrews, helps you send the right message in a bottle. Getting it wrong can have dire consequences.

A perfume chosen with care shows that you have a personal, emotional understanding of the recipient; it can be a highly thoughtful and complimentary gift. However, it is easy to get the wrong type of fragrance and, therefore, send the wrong kind of message to the recipient. Here are some tips to choose the right perfume as a present:

1. Know who you are buying for

A well-loved perfume becomes a scented ambassador, ‘greeting’ others in their unconscious mind before they even reach the first handshake, embrace, or spoken greeting with the wearer. This means that you have to know the wearer well, being able to picture them as you test different fragrances. Another important element to match with the recipient is the fragrance brand – different fashion houses, celebrities, or niche producers have very different colours, styles and attitudes. You should thoughtfully match the chosen brand with the recipient, because they are going to have to live with the brand and bottle you choose for them!

2. Know their habits

It helps to know as much as possible about their fragrance-wearing habits: Which concentration do they like? How much do they typically apply? When do they mainly wear it – day or evening? An added bonus is knowing which fragrance they currently like to wear – this enables you to identify the olfactive family they prefer and, therefore, buy a similar fragrance in the same olfactive family, or group, which has a higher chance of being liked (for olfactory group, search the fragrance name on

3. Think about the ‘fit’ to wearer

The process of selecting a fragrance must be taken as carefully as if you were buying a piece of clothing for them: not only must the character of the scent ‘fit’ with the style and character of the wearer, but its overall power and odour character should fit their personality. Discreet, quieter people tend not to suit powerful, distinctive fragrances – the fragrances end up wearing them! Worry less about individual ingredients in thefragrance and think more about the overall impactand character of the scent and how that would fit the recipient.

4. Perfume changes over time

Perfume changes over time – the fresher, fruity top notes are like a friendly introduction to the fragrance, but these quickly evaporate (20 to 30 minutes) to reveal the true character of the scent, which is more what the wearer will experience from day to day. This is called the ‘drydown’ phase and you should ideally smell a fragrance after 20 to 30 minutes on paper blotter to better understand how it changes over time.

4. Quality?

We are often drawn to ‘high-quality’ products and it is important to understand that most of the well-known, high-end fragrances on the market are all made using high-quality ingredients. This is due to the strict regulatory guidelines for human health, which the perfume industry has to follow. A lighter eau de cologne or after-shave lotion type fragrance tends to be cheaper only because it has a lower concentration of perfume oil, not because it is lower quality.

5. Choosing

When you finally get to the store and are actively choosing which fragrance to buy, you should do the following:

• In store, locate a brand, fashion house, or celebrity that matches the mood and style of the person you are buying for. There may be a few brands that fit well. The different brands will project very different characters, based on their colours, style and imagery.

• Start smelling the fragrances within that brand and think of the person you are buying for – this is not a fragrance for you, so it may be the opposite of what you would normally like to wear. As mentioned earlier, if you already know the fragrance and olfactive group the recipient likes, then mention this to the beauty consultants at the counter because they can guide you more accurately to preferred fragrances.

• When smelling, try out five to six maximum on paper-blotting strips, provided by the store, or beauty advisors. Make sure you know which fragrance is which (you can write on the blotters if necessary). Initially, smell them after 10 seconds, after the ethanol solvent has evaporated. Then walk around the store and smell them 20 minutes later – this will give you an idea of what the fragrance character becomes over time and, therefore, what you will mostly live with. It is probably best not to spray onto your skin – this is not a fragrance for you, after all – as the recipient’s skin odour, which contributes to the final scent, is likely to be very different from your own. This is the reason why a friend’s perfume often does not smell right on you – skin odour and chemistry is at odds with yours.

6. Gift with love

There is a chance that the fragrance may not be liked by the recipient, even though you’ve given it your best shot. Don’t take this personally: odour preferences of individuals are highly subjective and humans are highly complex from a psychological perspective. However, if you are successful and the perfume is well received, it will become a friend for life to the wearer and that is a very special gift indeed.


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