Pick the Perfect Perfume

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Want to smell amazing? You could let that spray-happy lady at the fragrance counter have her way with you. Or you could just eavesdrop as these leading perfumers spill their fascinating trade secrets for picking and wearing scent. Totally your call.



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Strength-Train Your Nose
"Your sense of smell is like a muscle: The more you exercise it, the stronger it gets," says Flores-Roux. One of his favorite playgrounds is the supermarket." could spend hours sniffing fruits and vegetables," he says. Since our senses of smell and taste are so linked, wine tastings or cooking classes are also useful in helping you sniff out ingredients and notes.


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Be Patient
Perfume shouldn't be an impulse buy. Carve out an hour to test three fragrances—tops. Any more is overkill. Let the samples dry on your skin (about 15 seconds) before smelling; otherwise you'll just inhale alcohol. And don't shop for perfume if you're stressed or hungover. "You smell with your brain as much as your nose, and when you're stressed, you're more likely to choose the wrong perfume."


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Mark Your Territory
Flores-Roux cringes when he sees a woman applying perfume to her wrists when she's wearing a metal watch or jewelry. "Metal, when mixed with sweat, alters the chemistry of fragrance," he says. He suggests spraying the inside of your forearms. "The skin there is just as warm as your pulse points." And what about spraying scent into the air and walking into it? "Utter nonsense! You're getting 10 percent of it on your skin."


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Make it Last
Dry skin is no friend to fragrance. "The more hydrated the skin is, the more likely it will hold on to perfume," he says. And no need to wear the most expensive eau de parfum to go the distance. "The only way to discover which type of fragrance lasts the longest, whether it's an eau de parfum or an eau de toilette, is through your own trials."


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Ask Yourself Some Tough Questions
Women can be "seduced by big names and pretty packages," she says. "You have to do some soul-searching to find the scent that speaks to you: What kind of clothes feel like a second skin? What food makes you feel most whole?" Spritzing on a perfume should elicit the same emotional response you get from wearing your favorite clothes or eating your favorite foods. "Perfume needs to move you," she says.


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Go Beyond the Neck
"At first, you'll smell the perfume really strongly because it's right under your nose," she says. "But scent tends to rise, so if you just apply it to the neck, it will disappear—at least to your nose." Dab small amounts onto the back of your knees and under your armpits. That way, you'll smell the scent "in beautiful waves."


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Ignore Price
The fastest-growing fragrances are in the $100-plus category, but Grojsman says a higher price tag doesn't always mean higher quality. "If a fragrance smells very different on you and a friend, move on," she says. "It's a myth that perfume reacts with every person's skin in a distinct way. If the scent is lousy, it will break down. A quality one has consistency."


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Don't Nitpick Over Notes
"Fragrance isn't a food product where you need to see every ingredient," says Fremont. Too much info "can turn you off to a scent that you otherwise would have really enjoyed." Instead, look for textural descriptors, "such as 'luminous bouquet' or 'smooth woods,' that give you an overall sense of the scent," he says. As always, when in doubt, smell in person.


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Reapply with Caution
Just because you can no longer smell your fragrance doesn't mean everyone else can't. Trust that a scent will last at least five hours. If you crave hits of fragrance more often, spray a little into your hair in the morning. "Hair is porous, so it holds on to scent really well," says Fremont. "When your hair moves, you'll get more prominent whiffs than you do from your skin."


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Resist the Urge to Rub
Just a hunch: You spritz your wrists, then rub them together. Please don't. "You're crushing the sparkle of the fresh top notes and going straight to the heart and base," says Fremont. "It's like missing the start of the movie."


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