Perfume can be one of the most playful and intoxicating aspects of your beauty routine, as scent unleashes sensual memories and can define your signature sense of style. Yet, there's an art to applying perfume that's rooted in chemistry and based on tried and true techniques. Ahead, perfumers and fragrance experts share tips on how to apply perfume correctly, and some things to avoid to preserve the integrity of your scent.
Do: Apply Directly to the Skin
Your skin provides the perfect canvas for your favorite scent. "In order for perfume to truly unravel itself in the most divine way, it needs a proper medium to anchor itself," says Matthew Milèo, a chemist, former in-house fragrance expert for Chanel, and founder of the luxe oud-based skincare line, Milèo New York. "The lipophilic (oil loving) properties of skin make it the perfect medium for the oils of perfume to attach to," says Matthew Mileo. Additionally, "the warmth of the skin starts the unraveling process and the scent is free to fully express itself."
For an even more powerful scent-to-skin adhesion, try layering perfume over body lotion or oil. "Fragrance binds to the oils in your skin, so applying it after your body lotion or oil creates a better surface for the scent molecules to bind to," explains Melina Polly, CEO and Co-Founder of Henry Rose. "Fragrance lasts longest when your skin is hydrated, making the best time to spritz right after your shower or bath."
However, it is worth noting perfume is not recommended for those with sensitive or eczema-prone skin as fragrance is a common allergen.
Don't: Apply to Hair
"Don't use an eau de toilette in your hair," says Senior Creative Director at Bvlgari Parfums, "An alcohol based formula tends to dry and damage the hair." However, if you're set on spritzing your tresses, after all who wouldn't want their hair to smell intoxicating, be sure you're using a non-alcohol-based scent.
"Since our Catbird perfumes are water based I love spritzing a bit in my hair," says Rony Vardi, Founder and Co-Creative Director of Catbird, the Brooklyn-based jewelry line that launched its own scent last fall.
Do: Dab On Pulse Points
When applying perfume correctly, you want to hit all the right spots. "It’s important to select the areas of the body that are naturally warm and moist, like the insides of the elbows, back of the knees, chest, and the sides of the neck," says Milèo. "These areas allow the perfume to be truly enjoyed. If not, the top notes tend to fly away too quickly, and you can be left with a heady scent, or a scent that can smell stiff and lifeless."
Greta Fitz, Founder of Ascention, encourages people to use a gentle application technique. "Try dabbing your fragrance on pulse points. Your body heat will activate it throughout the day as a natural diffuser."
Don't: Rub Into Skin
Resist the temptation to rub perfume into your skin. "Fragrance application can be delicate," says Carina Chaz, who grew up in a lab, and founded her unisex scent line, DedCool in 2016. "Fragrance should sit on skin in order to mix with your natural oils. When wrists are rubbed together, top notes will fade and evaporate."
When you rub your fragrance, adds Fitz, "You're then missing out on the overall experience since you're rubbing away, or drying out a lot of the scent."
Do: Walk Through a Fragrance Cloud (But There's a Catch)
"Some users may love walking into a sprayed cloud before putting on clothes. This allows oneself to feel really immersed in the fragrance," says Pallez. This can be a romantic experience for the wearer, and can make your morning routine more enjoyable. However, make sure your scent is nontoxic.
"You never want to inhale fragrance as traditional fragrance is a pollutant. If you do want to walk into a fragrance cloud," advises Chaz, "make sure that you’re using a biodegradable fragrance."
Don't: Be Afraid to Layer Scents
Layering scents is an art unto itself. "We can layer with a complimentary scent to refresh the scent without overpowering," says Fitz. "Single note fragrances are the best for refreshing our olfactive pallet to our favorite fragrance, like a powdery musk. Avoid layering a big fragrance with another big fragrance as that is just too much and it can cause headaches for you and those in your environment. If you love big fragrances, but want a new take on them, layer them with single note woody or musky fragrances to wrap the fragrance with earthy undertones. I would stay away from anything strong fruity because fruits can be overpowering or volatile based on what they are layered with."
Do: Apply to Clothing
Lots of people love to apply fragrance to clothing. "During the winter I like to mist my coat every once in a while to combat that winter mustiness," says Leigh Plessner, Co-Creative Director of Catbird. If this sounds like you, just be mindful of the clothing's composition.
"Rule of thumb, if you can wash the fabric, then spritz away," says Fitz, adding that you should avoid materials like silk, that can be easily stained by perfume oils. "Make sure you wave the fabric in the mist for even coverage."
Also, note that you might not experience the full accord of the perfume if you spritz clothing. Milèo says, "Because of the nature of the fabric, it only catches some parts of the perfume and not the entire accord — which is why fragrances can smell more powdery on clothes." So, feel free to mist clothing with your signature scent, with full knowledge that it's a different olfactory experience than when you correctly apply perfume to your skin.