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how to find your signature scent

Five Steps to Finding Your Next Signature Scent

Finding The One isn’t easy, so it helps to have a little expert advice to guide the process…
By: Verity Clark

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By: Verity Clark

Five Steps to Finding Your Next Signature Scent

Finding The One isn’t easy, so it helps to have a little expert advice to guide the process…

By: Verity Clark

Scent is intrinsically linked to memory. Catch the subtlest hint of a fragrance you recognise and it will immediately conjure up a certain face or a specific place. Clarins Eau Dynamisante? I’m right back at my parents' kitchen table as my mum kisses me goodbye before an evening out. Dior Homme? The face of a man I’d rather forget. And that’s the power of a signature scent. “It’s a scent that captures and encapsulates who you are as a person,” explains Susan Wai Hnin, co-founder of Gabar fragrances. “It is a scent that people immediately associate with you.” No pressure to get it right, then.

That’s where we (and some of our most trusted perfumer friends) come in, we’ll guide you through the maelstrom of the fragrance shelves and help you whittle down your scent selection until you find your perfect match. Happy hunting!

Read More: Learn the art of matching perfumes to occasions

1. Find Your Fragrance Family

A good place to start when it comes to choosing a signature scent is to “first figure out which category of scent you most prefer,” suggests Wai Hnin. But even this can seem a bit daunting because let’s face it the world of fragrance is a bit of a minefield. Firstly, there are literally thousands to choose from. Secondly, fragrance has a whole language of its own. Gourmand who? Chypre what? Don’t be put off though; it’s more simple than it first seems.

“Fragrance families are broken down into four categories,” Wai Hnin tells Liberty. “Floral, woody, oriental and fresh. Within each of these ‘families’ are “distinctive characteristics and notes associated with it.” If something smells citrusy, green or like the sea then you can be pretty sure it’s a member of the fresh family. If you’re detecting spicy or warm sensual notes like sandalwood, amber or vanilla then you’re probably hanging out with the oriental family. Le Labo’s most popular scent Santal 33 Eau de Parfum, £157 for 50ml sits here, as does Musc Ravageur, £215 for 100ml by Frédéric Malle.

Try out a few different scents from each category and let your nose, mind and body guide you. “It’s about finding the ones that you really resonate with and that work well with your natural body chemistry,” explains Wai Hnin.

Read More: How to buy perfume online and get it right

2. Live With It

Perfume smells different on everyone; our unique skin chemistry means that something you think smells delicious on your friend could go undetected on you. So you can’t just rely on buying the same scent as someone else, or even spritzing it on sample paper. “It’s important to test out the scent on your skin and wear it throughout the day to see how it wears and interacts with your body chemistry,” says Wai Hnin. This shouldn’t be a rushed exercise.

Read More: How to make your perfume last longer

3. Start Small

Perfume is an investment so before you purchase a full size bottle of something you’re not sure you actually love, get used to it with sample vials (many of our counters offer these*) or travel size bottles. Wear each scent for a week or so, see how it sits on you and decide whether it’s something you can see yourself wearing regularly, and most importantly see how it makes you feel. Sample sets are a brilliant, and economic, way of trying out multiple fragrances before settling on one that feels most ‘you’.

Read More: Looking for The Next Big Thing in Fragrance? Start with this list of the most popular perfumes

4. Take It Easy

If you’re heading to the store to make a signature scent purchase, don’t spritz yourself with anything before you arrive. And, once you’re in our iconic Fragrance Hall, be selective, and try to limit yourself to smelling only a handful of scents. Otherwise you’ll find yourself suffering from nose blindness and you won’t be able to distinguish one scent from another.

Read More: In good taste: the rise of perfumes that smell like ice cream

5. Never Limit Yourself

“I like to think about my scents as a signature capsule wardrobe,” says Wai Hnin, who has a few key scents in her arsenal that she swaps between depending on her mood and the occasion. Just because you loved something in your twenties does not mean you need to stay loyal to it for life. “As with many things in life, taste in scents change throughout the course of your life,” explains Wai Hnin, so you may gravitate towards floral scents in your youth but be drawn to woody fragrances later on. Most importantly, you should have fun with the process. The only thing that really matters? Is that you land on a scent you truly love.

Read More: What's your scent sign? Lady Liberty's zodiac perfume guide tells all

*T&Cs apply.

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