Tip Sheet

How to properly test a fragrance

Visit a department store fragrance counter and you’ll undoubtedly spot the biggest perfume sin. Women and men will pick up a tester bottle, pop off the cap and then sniff the atomizer. In an instant they decide whether they like it or not. It happens hundreds of times each day. The main problem with this technique is that when you smell the cap, all you are sensing is the top note. You’re smelling the citrus or the bergamot or fruity notes. You aren’t getting any of the heart or base notes. And more importantly, you aren’t discovering how the scent blends with your own body chemistry. Here’s a quick guide on how to test a scent like a pro.


Start with a scent blotter

These are the white cardboard strips you find beside tester bottles on a fragrance counter. The paper is porous enough to absorb the perfume and give you an accurate reading of how the fragrance smells.

Spray a cloud of perfume in a downward motion

Two or three quick sprays in a row is how the pros do it. Then pass the scent strip through the cloud focusing on the pointed end of the strip.

Bring the scent strip to your nose

Without touching your nose, wave the scent strip under your nose. Close your eyes and inhale.  If you love the fragrance, the next step is to see how it smells on your skin.

Spritz your wrist

Spray the scent on your wrist and then let it drop to your side. Wait 20 seconds for the scent to settle on your skin. When it has dried slightly, bring your wrist to your nose and inhale.

Do something else for 30 minutes

Here is the secret to finding your perfect signature scent. Wait a full 30 minutes before you smell the scent on your wrist again. Go shopping. Run an errand. Grab a Starbucks. After half an hour, smell your wrist once more. This will give you a true reading of how the perfume works with your body chemistry. The same fragrance can smell very different on three people. If you still love it, buy it. It’s the one for you.


Fragrance shopping tips:

  • Limit the number of scents you test to three at one time. The brain can’t discern between more than three.
  • Shop for perfume in the morning. That is when our sense of smell is at its peak.
  • If you have a signature scent you love, ask a fragrance expert for other fragrances with similar ingredients and personality. Think of it like fashion. You likely have brands and silhouettes that you like more than others. Scent is the same. You’ll be happier with familiar notes.
  • Keep the box the perfume comes in. The best way to store your new purchase is to return it to its box and then store it upside down. This keeps the seal at the neck from drying out. Keep it in a cool, dark place and it will last for a good 12 months.
  • When you are ready to buy your new scent, ask if there are any gift sets or gift with purchase offers. Often you can get a body lotion or shower gel in addition to your eau de toilette for the price of the scent alone.