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How to find a perfume that is right for you

Choosing fragranceFinding a perfume that is just right for you can feel like an overwhelming task. Given the thousands of fragrances on the market, it may seem easier just to stick with what you've always known. If that were the case for me, I'd still be wearing the 1986 version of Liz Claiborne perfume -- the one in the red triangle-shaped bottle.

Overall, yes, it can be overwhelming to find the right fragrance. The perfume you wear is a personal choice; it's not like the clothes you borrow from your best friend. The fragrance your best friend wears might not work with your particular body chemistry.

Besides, fragrance is a very personal choice. People will remember you for it. They will compliment you on it. They will ask what you're wearing. You'll wear it on first dates or for your wedding.

If you arm yourself with proper knowledge, then shopping for the right fragrance won't be such a daunting task.

Let's get started.

Fragrances are categorized according to notes, accords or other characteristics that define their overall similarities. More often than not, we tend to lean toward a particular fragrance family -- whether we know it or not.


Fresh - Fragrances categorized as fresh often include "green" notes, like fresh-cut grass, the smell of spring in the air, light citruses and airy notes. If you have an outdoorsy personality, a fragrance with fresh notes might be best for you.

Floral - Probably the most popular of all fragrance categories, floral scents encompass a wide range of blooms, from a single rose petal to a medley of floral bouquets. Floral scents may include notes of jasmine, carnation, gardenia, orange blossom, rose, lily of the valley, tuberose ... you name it. Floral scents can be powdery or sweet, depending on their combinations. If you enjoy the scent of a particular flower, maybe you should try fragrances that include notes of that flower.

Oriental - Just like its name suggests, the Oriental fragrance group is comprised of notes that are rich, bold and overall exotic. Notes like amber and vanilla are oftentimes present in the oriental group. Oriental fragrances lean toward the "heavier" side and are more sensual fragrances, ideal for nighttime wear or romantic occasions.

Woods (or Chypre) - this fragrance group consists of your aromatic wood and moss notes -- sandalwood, cedarwood, oak. Patchouli is sometimes present, as is vetiver and pine. Many masculine fragrances fall into this category, given the richness of woody scents.

Read more about fragrance families here.


Outdoorsy or sporty - If you live by a who-needs-makeup philosophy and your idea of weekend fun is camping in the great outdoors, you may prefer a fresh, citrus fragrance. Citrus fragrances are invigorating and light, unlike orientals which tend to command a room. Your personality type doesn't want the fragrance to stand out, rather complement your personality. You may lean toward unisex and green, herbacious fragrances as well.

Examples: Guerlain Eau de Guerlain, Chanel Cristalle, Eau de Cartier, Jo Malone Grapefruit, Dior Eau Savage, Yves Saint Laurent Y

Elegant - Maybe your weekends are lined up with black-tie dinner parties, and fragrance is much more than an afterthought. Oriental fragrances may be the best option for you. Rich and oppulent, these fragrances stand out and linger for hours. You may prefer a floral oriental (orange flower, vanilla) or a woody oriental (sandalwood, patchouli and spice).

Examples: Kenzo Flower, Guerlain L'Instant de Guerlain, Armani Code Pour Femme, Dolce & Gabbana the One, Yves Saint Laurent Opium, Shalimar by Guerlain, Calvin Klein Obsession

Girl-Next-Door - You have that certain Jennifer Aniston appeal; a little shy, a little sexy, but overall the girl he (or she) takes home to Mom. Fresh, clean scents are ideal as are woody florals. The latter might seem slightly more masculine, but woody notes can really bring out a shy girl's sex appeal.

: Christian Dior's J'adore, Estee Lauder Pure White Linen, Victoria Secret's Very Sexy, Tom Ford Black Orchid, Calvin Klein Secret Obsession

All-American Guy - You're athletic, handsome and playful. Your fragrance must be able to stand up to the challenge, but not overwhelm the room. Fresh, water scents are great options, as are light woods.

Examples: Bvlgari Aqua, Lacoste Challenge, Davidoff Cool Water, Touch for Men by Burberry, L'Eau d'Issey Pour Homme, Clean Men by Dlish

Sophisticated, Modern Man - You keep up with the latest clothing trends and prefer your fitted trousers to Euro-shoes to jeans anyday. A touch of classic goes a long way. Fresh, crisp fragrances are perfect for you. Throw in some sweet florals and you've got a winner.

Examples: Acqua Di Gio Pour Homme by Giorgio Armani, Sean John Unforgivable, HM by Hanae Mori, Banana Republic Republic of Men


Head to the fragrance area at any major department store and you're sure to be overwhelmed. Sometimes the aroma of co-mingling fragrances is enough to give you a headache. How in the world are you supposed to find the right fragrance in this sea of scent?

1. Talk to the fragrance expert behind the counter. Know what type of scent, using the information above, you are looking for. The counter person will help you get started in the right direction.

2. Don't cover yourself with spritzes. Fragrances cycle through three stages of notes before they finally settle into their long-lasting aroma. That, combined with your skin's chemistry, means the fragrance will smell differently as time goes on. Spraying yourself with numerous samples won't accomplish anything. Limit your sampling to two fragrances, if you're applying the samples to your skin.
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