HOW TO APPLY PERFUME & HOW TO MAKE PERFUME LAST LONGER
Where, how and when you apply your scent can dramatically affect how long it lasts
Once they’ve bought a perfume, most people are happy to just spray or dab it on and go, without much consideration for how their application might affect the overall results. The general assumption is that the stronger the scent in the bottle, or the more you spray onto your body, the longer it’ll last, and that’s pretty much it.
In reality, experts agree that there are a number of other factors that will affect the longevity of a fragrance on the skin, and a big one is the application. So it’s definitely worth considering where, how, and even when you apply a perfume, if you want to get the best results.
WHERE TO APPLY PERFUME
There are a few places on the body that are generally popular application spots for various reasons. It’s widely acknowledged that your pulse points work well, for instance, because the skin is always warm so it offers good scent projection.
Some of the spots that are most commonly recommended include:
Wrists / inner elbow – One of those always-warm spot on your body, the wrist and elbow are also easy to reach and apply. They offer an easy spot for you to enjoy the scent for yourself any time with a sniff, without necessarily having to always be enveloped in it, as with the neck or chest. They’ll also give off scent as you move your hands in conversation or in greeting.
Neck / behind ear – Also warm, the neck area can offer good sillage, leaving a light trail of your fragrance ‘identity’ as you walk by someone. It’s also, a part of the body that people will likely get close to as they greet you or interact with you. For scents that sit closer to the skin, this can be a nice subtle place to apply fragrance that you only want to share with someone you are on intimate terms with.
Chest – This area works well if you have a stronger scent and you want to ensure that you’re not overpowering people. Since the chest is where you’ll smell it the strongest yourself, it’s more likely you’ll be able to gauge whether it’s enough or too much. Alternately, the chest can be a more intimate place to apply perfume, perfect if you want people to come nearer to smell what you are wearing.
Experts also suggest that other parts of the body may be as effective, if not more so, when the aim is to make scent last:
Behind the knees / lower body – Elena Vosnaki, a perfume writer for Fragrantica.com, offers this gem: “Perfume rises, so… behind the knees, backs of the legs and the belly button area are all excellent vehicles for scent.” Bonus: behind the knees can be useful if you work in an office and want to enjoy your perfume but not overpower others nearby, because when you sit down it keeps the scent from diffusing very far.
Hair – Another great, and under-championed, part of the body for holding scent is the hair. Especially if you have longer hair, spraying perfume on the ends will generate a lovely aura that can last all day, giving off scent when you move. If you have dry or damaged hair, you might want to spray onto a brush first and then run it through your tresses, to avoid further damage from the alcohol in the perfume.
Clothing – Adding a little scent to your wardrobe can improve staying power. But there can be downsides to this strategy, so use it wisely. As Angela Sander notes on NowSmellthis, “fragrance on cloth doesn’t wear as warm nor personal as it does on skin.” Additionally, strong scents may not wash out easily, so you may be stuck with it longer than you wanted.
A good solution to both of these problems, Angela suggests, is to spray fragrance on a scarf. Scarves sit close to the skin and your body’s warmth, and can be easily changed from day to day, unlike for instance a favourite coat. You can also try scenting a ribbon ‘bracelet’ for similar effect, or a bit of cotton fabric that can be tucked into your bra or breast pocket.
HOW TO APPLY PERFUME
Heaping on lots of perfume may seem logical, but it’s not the answer. Yes, you’ll start off with a seriously strong punch, but this isn’t necessarily great; even the most beautiful symphony can be irritating if you blast it too loudly! A given perfume will always dry down at basically the same rate, so you may as well be spraying those extra spritzes down the toilet.
That said, of course not every perfume has the same strength. When you buy a new scent, always start with 2-3 pumps on your arms or wrist and get to know how that particular scent dissipates and evolves, so that you know how much you generally want to apply going forward.
The real trick, however, is layering. This doesn’t, by the way, mean putting on lots of different scented products in the hopes that they’ll somehow fortify each other. Stick with one fragrance, or a couple that complement each other well, and apply in different forms. For example you might start with a scented soap, slather on a body lotion, and finish with an eau de parfum.
You don’t necessarily have to shell out on all the different products in a fragrance line to reap the benefits of layering. The key is to give the perfume molecules something to bind to other than just your skin – especially if your skin, or the climate where you live, is dry. Simply starting with an unscented body cream or lotion as a base can go a long way to boosting your perfume’s lasting power.
Angela Sanders at NowSmellThis swears by a three-layer strategy, applying first a base of unscented body cream, then eau de toilette, and finally a parfum, to achieve “the double prize of endurance plus depth of fragrance.” Even just a touch of unscented moisturizer or lip balm applied to your pulse points can offer a bit extra ‘grip’ for scent to cling to.
Oh, and take note: once you’ve sprayed perfume onto your skin, whatever you do, don’t rub it in. You may have seen your mother doing this with her wrists, but it’s actually not a good idea. Perfumes are designed to let your body heat do the work, and the extra warmth and friction from rubbing can tamper with the slow unfurling of the scent.
WHEN TO APPLY PERFUME
Even the timing of your application can make a difference to the persistence of your scent. Don’t wait until you’re about to step out the door to throw on perfume like an afterthought. The best time to slather, spray or dab it on is actually right after a bath or shower, when your skin is still damp and can soak up the fragrance for a slow release through the day.
Once you’ve scented your skin and gotten dressed, then you can always give it an extra boost before you leave the house, with the age-old trick of misting some perfume in the air and walking through it. The perfume will lightly settle on your hair and clothes, creating an extra veil of scent, but doesn’t overpower you or stain anything you’re wearing.
Some scents, like clean citrusy ones, are just not going to last all day no matter how you apply them. If you’ve fallen in love with one of these fickle fragrances, it’s not the end of the world. Consider decanting some perfume into a small atomizer that you can carry with you, and re-apply throughout the day.
If you choose to go this route, make sure to look for an opaque container with a tight-fitting cover, as this will minimize light and air affecting the scent inside. Patty White, owner of the Perfume Posse blog, has written up a terrific post on how to decant your perfumes into smaller bottles.