Scent mixing, perfume layering, fragrance cocktailing. Whatever you may call it, the art of mixing two or more scents is an under-the-radar technique that people have been using for ages. Not sure where to start? We spoke with the experts and asked their advice on layering perfumes to create a truly unique scent. Because no one wants to catch a whiff of their “signature” scent on someone else.
Meet the Expert
Here’s everything you need to know about layering perfumes.
What is Perfume Layering?
Depending on who you ask, perfume layering is either a retail strategy or a way to invite the perfume wearer to create something unique. According to Long, if it's the latter, it requires some thought beyond randomly picking up scents to wear on top of one another. "Layering can also mean using various body products from the same range to increase the longevity of a single perfume," she says.
The Benefits of Perfume Layering
“Custom scents capture the personality of an individual,” Rahme says. “It allows [them] to whip up their own scent blends whenever the mood suits them.” In other words, you get the freedom of custom-blending a truly signature scent to reflect your personality or how you’re feeling. Think of it as a mood ring for your nose.
How to Properly Layer Perfumes
Layering scents doesn’t necessarily mean spraying two perfumes directly on top of each other—it can start as early as when you apply a scented lotion after your shower. Or, you can spray one scent on your wrists and another on your neck. Play around with different combinations and don’t be afraid to experiment. As a general rule of thumb, heavier scents should be sprayed first so they don’t overpower their lighter counterparts.
According to Long, there are a few ways you can approach layering. "The easiest is to find a fairly unfussy fragrance that is already built around musk or typical base notes like vanilla, then add something with more complexity on top. Then you’ll have a high chance of a pleasing remix," she says. Another option is to use a single-note perfume under or over an existing scent. "For example, if you have a favorite citrus fragrance but you feel it doesn’t last, you could put a sandalwood or cedarwood or something similar underneath," says Long.
The age of the perfume does not matter when layering. A newer fragrance can be layered with a more vintage scent with little consequence.
What Scents Go Well Together?
To understand how to best combine your scents, you first need to understand the different layers in individual fragrances. “The top note is what you smell right away when you spray it [and usually consists of] the sparkling and vivacious fresh notes,” Rahme says. “The middle note is the heart of the fragrance and is usually warmer and softer. And finally, the bottom note is what develops last and what stays with you for hours—long after the top notes have disappeared.”
"My advice is to experiment and you might find a fun surprise! Example classic combinations are vanilla, resins and bergamot, rose and patchouli, or herbs with citrus," says Long.
Keep these notes in mind when you start to combine your scents. If you’ve never layered fragrances before, try to combine two fragrances that have a common note—jasmine, for instance—and go from there. Or, if you’re adventurous, try combining two or more opposite fragrances—a spice and vanilla for instance. “There is no right or wrong,” Rahme says. “Creating a perfume is part of science, but it really is an art—the art of translating an emotion into a feeling.” Her ideal combination? She suggests pairing Bond No. 9's Central Park West ($400)—a warm, springtime fragrance with Narcissus, tangy ylang-ylang, and hints of jasmine—with Bond No. 9’s Central Park South ($400)—a vivid, heady scent with common notes of jasmine and ylang-ylang, but also sandalwood, cedar bark, and musk.
Long suggests using a solid perfume as an under layer and a liquid perfume over, to enhance longevity.
What Scents Should You Avoid Layering?
Rahme’s mindset towards fragrance layering is very open-minded—she thinks an individual should choose as many layers and as many techniques as necessary to express exactly what their vision is. If you’re really nervous about causing any “what is that smell?” moments, keep this in mind: avoid combining two scents that are too dark and heady—they can be overwhelming when used together. Long agrees.
"Typically, you do not wish to oversaturate when layering, and what I mean by that is that if you have two highly complex perfumes and you put them together, there’s a likelihood that they share some components, and the result will be jarring," she says.
Long recommends blending a maximum of three scents when layering. "You can blend two if both have some complexity, three if you have chosen single note fragrances," she says. "Single note fragrances come in two varieties— the ones that are a single note (single ingredient Molecule 01) and ones that are themed around a single note (such as rose) but are fully-fledged perfumes around that inspiration."
The Final Takeaway
Rahme says to allow as much time as it takes for your scent to “speak the language” you envisioned. In other words, be patient and have fun experimenting!