The art of layering fragrance is sometimes presented as a skill you must not attempt until you’ve fine-tuned your nose to the level of a master perfumer. Or perhaps even suggested as something you should never do. Worry not. We’re here to guide you through with some easy tips and tricks to ensure a fragrant harmony every time you spritz…
Did you know that in the Middle East, people layer up to SEVEN fragrances at a time? Sometimes more! Never be afraid to play with perfume. (The wonderful thing about fragrance is there is no right or wrong: if you like something, then it’s right. If you don’t, you can wash it off. It’s not a tattoo after all.)
The best way to begin layering
Start with a scent you like a lot but wish could last even longer / add more character to. Write the name of that fragrance into our clever Find a Fragrance database, and it will give you a description of the notes (individual raw materials and perfumer’s accords) that make up the composition.
Now, pick a favourite note and think which other scents you have with those notes (see if you’ve already got some of those the genius algorithm suggests, or add them to your Must Sniff List, next time you’re shopping!)
We very rarely seem to leave the house without at least a couple of scents on each arm (hey, it gets hard to choose) and after a day of sniffing and spraying various latest launches, there are occasions we have multiple fragrances vying for attention. Now, this is not the ideal way to wear them, of course – a perfume needs time space to bloom to perfection on your skin – but there are many times and differing reasons you may feel the need to stack up the scents, and here is how you should go about it:
How to layer if you want your fragrance to last longer
Moisturise, moisturise, moisturise! Particularly in warmer climates. Nothing makes fragrance disappear more quickly than dry skin. Try using a matching body lotion or oil to your fragrance (many have matching products like shower gels as well – the more layers of the scent the better!) Aroma molecules evaporate far slower on well-hydrated skin.
Try also spraying the scent into your hair, too, so it wafts around you all day. Hair doesn’t heat up as much as skin, and will absorb the smell more deeply. Do a patch test, first, to ensure the fragrance doesn’t discolour your hair (spray on a tissue to be sure).
How to layer if your fragrance is too sweet
Look for dominant citrus notes like bergamot, neroli, mandarin, lemon, lime or ‘green’ notes such as galbanum, tomato or violet leaf, green tea, marine/aquatic accords (synthetic recreations of sea-like, watery smells) and aldehydes (often described as being like Champagne bubbles).
How to layer & soften a scent
Vanilla and tonka bean can ’round’ a perfume, making it swoon on your skin (and addictive to smell), as can touches of synthetic notes described as ‘caramel’ or ‘dulce de leche’, ripe fruits, chocolate or even candy floss. For a smoother, woodier sheen to a scent, add a sandalwood-rich or cashmere/powdery scent on top. These notes feel cocooning, adding a layer of soft comfort to spikier ingredients.
Try to add less than you think you need, as adding more is always easier than taking away, and a little of these can go a long way!
[See many more suggestions for how to change-up a fragrance you’re not getting on with, here.]
How to layer if you need to change from day to evening
Consider boosting the base notes of the scent you’re wearing – these tend to be the last to linger on your skin, being made of heavier molecules, and are likely to include ingredients such as patchouli, labdanum, olibanum, vetiver, woods or musk. Or pick out a spicy note for extra sizzle! Once you’ve welcomed the darker side of your scent and allowed it to shine with extra power, your scent trail will be stronger, longer lasting and will add a little wiggle to your walk, as it were.
Also think about investing in a stronger version of your scent – an eau de parfum, if you use the eau de toilette; or a pure parfum if you can invest in it (or ask Santa!) Read about the differing scent strengths and how differently they react and project or ‘throw’ your scent, here.
What order to layer in?
Scented shower / bath gel
Matching body lotion / oil / balm (or a pick out one of the notes of your chosen scent to echo that in the body product)
Eau de Cologne
Eau de toilette
Eau de parfum
Perfume oil / attar
Fragranced hair mist (or simply spritz your scent into your hair, on to clothes (having patch-tested!)
Don’t forget, the Experimental Perfume Club fragrances have been specifically designed to mix at home and layer to your heart’s content!
Another excellent way to test and hone your new found scent layering skills is by getting a Discovery Box to try all sorts of combinations – how many hundreds (or thousands?) of combos you could create by learning to layer, within each box we don’t pretend to know. But one thing we can say for sure: you’ll have a whole lot of fragrant fun!
Written by Suzy Nightingale